Legality of realistic video games


Is it legal to put real-life places (businesses, schools, parks, etc.) into a skateboarding video game (for the sake of realism)? I think there might be some copyright issues, but how does Google legally put up street view? Isn’t it the same thing to put the actual city into your game? I wouldn’t be claiming credit for their trademarks or architectural design, but I’d be claiming credit for my modeling & game creation skills. I would be modeling a game after reality. Is that okay?

Imagine if Google Maps couldn’t make a map after reality & they had to call WalMart DoorMart. Similarly, it’d be bad if realistic video games had to call Coca-Cola Nuka-Cola because it’d ruin the realism.


I am no lawyer, but IMO no one has the copyright to reality. I think there are a zillion of games based on existing locations, starting with flight simulators using existing airfields, golf simulators replicating existing golf courses and car racing games set in existing urban environments…

Then, what places to use may also necessitate ethical considerations even when regal constraints don’t exist. I would never place your skateboard simulator in a known graveyard or a first-person shooter in a school, even fictional.


I agree that there are ethical implications regarding the content of the game. Unfortunately, there a a lot of popular games that have terrible ethics. For example, Grand Theft Auto. Although, I don’t like playing violent video games, GTA has lots of real places. It even has famous skate spots, like the Santa Monica triple set.
I wonder how they were allowed to put real places into GTA, along with real trademarks…
While other games seem to modify trademarks, like Fallout…


Very likely the real brand names are product placement paid for by the manufacturers.


Probably. I feel like the copyright laws (if they apply to brands in games) might be getting in the way of big companies benefitting from game developers using their trademarks because it’s good advertisement. Not only that, legalizing the use of company trademarks in video games would be good for realism in video games.


Its paid for product placement in the example of Grand Theft Auto while Fallout is more about satire with it’s in game media.

You are fine to replicate places / buildings etc for your game, what you are not able to do it replicate products, business names, logos etc. For those you must ask permission.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to legalise the use of trademarks, then they would not be trademarks anymore if anybody could use them without asking. Many games are much larger than films now and they get a lot of income from product placement.

PS: There is a Mod for Grand Theft Auto that allows you to walk around and not have to take part in any violence, it’s called the ‘Real Life Mod’.


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