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lbp | First Wall Rebate
Jan 13 2009

LittleBigPlanet and Visions of a Pirate Utopia

I can’t help getting excited, still, at the prospects of LittleBigPlanet. There are prominent cultural themes that the game taps into very capably, and I think that Media Molecule have done an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the moment inside of a package that is commercially viable. There have been technical and conceptual issues, but LittleBigPlanet is one of the most ambitious and philosophically radical games of the recent past. Creative functionality in games like Guitar Hero aside, this is a game that allows the user to make, from start to finish, an identifiable video game.

I take issue with the handling of copyright infringement instances, but I understand that sacrifices must be made in order to create something this ambitious. I can only imagine the potential of a LittleBigPlanet hack, living on some sleepy alternative server, where creators don’t have to worry about their creations being (rightly or wrongly) identified and removed for copyright violation. But, even in its current state, I think that it deserves both creative and analytical attention.

LittleBigPlanet has in its favor the potential to reach an extraordinary number of people. As these current and future creators populate and fill the space that it provides, their PlayStation ID names become associated with the content that they produce and offer for public perusal. They might choose to create a unique object and offer it as a prize for completing a level. Another creator plays that level, uses the rewarded object in their own level, and suddenly the game is a high-profile platform for game design with something like Creative Commons usage rules.

It seems, unfortunately, that most creators are not as of yet offering their levels for public download and editing. I can only hope that as a sense of community develops, worries over improper usage and crediting will become secondary to the collective creative potential. LittleBigPlanet arrives at a time when creative culture seems to be heading in the direction of collaborative content, in a space that has historically fought to maintain authorial control in most cases, and offers a glimpse of the implications of these movements for game culture.