EA’s Code Wars: What’s Yours is Ours

UPDATE: EA have stated that they took down the Code Wars FAQ because it was “unclear,” and have “no intention to own participant code.” It’s a promising clarification; with the participants maintaining ownership, it might be a worthwhile event to attend. The original unmodified story can still be found below.

Game jams are quite the rage these days, and for good reason; they’re communal events where groups of designers start and finish a game under the restrictions of a jam-wide theme, a shoestring budget and a severe of time. It’s a solid way to spend time with like-minded individuals, and removed from the stresses of making a financially successful product, risky ideas like Surgeon Simulator 2013 and Nuclear Throne have turned into fully-fledged games that hit big on Steam.

Eager to chase the latest big trend in gaming (as they did with Kickstarter), EA have silently announced Code Wars, a “Hackathon” in 2014 set inside four of their internal studios across the globe. Once they’ve corralled everyone into groups of five, each team has an undisclosed amount of time to “create the best mobile game or app.” Though the grand prize of a free tour around an EA studio doesn’t seem that lucrative, the experience of the jam itself has always been the primary draw around events like this. Spending a week or so under a big-named publisher, working on a game you can call your own? Sounds solid to me!

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But let’s take a look at that fine print, shall we? Right under Limitations, it starts off with “Other than what is set forth below, we are not claiming any ownership rights to your entry.” What is set forth below that first line?

Limitations

Consent to give Sponsor a royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, create derivative works from, and display such submissions in whole or in part, on a worldwide basis, and to incorporate it into other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed, including for promotional or marketing purposes.

In other words, they are absolutely claiming ownership rights. You, the participant, are being used for unpaid labor, signing away the rights to the project you worked on for a pile of promotional junk EA had lying around and a quick jog around one of their buildings. It’s a disgusting abuse of your time and effort, and it goes against the very spirit of game jams. EA are hoping to scoop up the next Surgeon Simulator 2013 and rake it in while you’re left out in the cold.

Code Wars is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, another notch in the long line of attempts to devalue creative minds and the art they make. If you have friends who participate in jams or see it as an opportunity to “make it big” in the industry, please warn them away from this event. EA should be ashamed for trying to unfairly exploit the hard work of others, and if we let this slide, expect to see more bottom-feeders move in. Don’t let them spoil our jam.

Note: As soon as I took a screen capture of their legal FAQ and saved a local copy of the full site, EA scrubbed it from the servers; trying to follow the link now gives a 404 error. If I find a way to host it myself, I’ll do so and link it here.

Colin’s Edit: Kinda figured it out? But not really. The formatting is quite broken. But here ya go. EA Hackathon 2014 Rules and FAQ – EA If I figure out a way to make their fancy UI work as well, I’ll update this.