‘Fast follows’: When a copy isn’t enough of a copy

January 24, 2014

app copyingDue to a brief period of dependence on Temple Run, I have had to exorcise any and all games from my phone. As such, I can’t say I am very in touch with what is going on in the mobile phone gaming world.

Our friends over BuzzFeed, though, took a break from their very important work compiling lists of cat pictures to report on a concerning trend: It seems app stores are being overrun with “fast follows,” or knockoffs of popular games like Candy Crush and Clash of the Clans.

I’ve written about “fast fashion” before and it seems like, at a very general level, there are similar elements at work here. Are “fast follow” games unlawful copies of their popular, name-brand counterparts? Unless they infringe on some technology, and therefore a patent, I would hazard a guess in the negative. Just as it’s hard to prove that a particular dress is a ripoff of another, or that one love song impermissibly copies another, I would posit that it’s hard to prove that one game illegally mimics another. If two games are similar because they rely on the same elements – quasi-military strategy, a historical theme, role-playing – I would assume that is not enough to mean a “fast follow” game is a law-breaking copy, even if it is clearly a copycat.

Now, if you will excuse me, I think I have some research to do on Clash of the Clans. It’s not breaking my vow to not download games anymore because it’s work-related, right?