The launch video for Microsoft’s Xbox Series X console “borrows” from work by ANTIVJ (and a ground-breaking indie game, too).
It’s becoming all too commonplace: big interests see open season on creative work on the Internet. It’s a little ironic, in that the Internet also makes it uniquely common to expose anyone ripping off artists. Now it’s down to whether these giants respond.
The visualist collective ANTIVJ point us to this one. It’s a (superior) 2015 work called DRY LIGHTS, directed by Xavier Chassaing. It was no small piece of work, either – Xavier single-handedly built the technique from scratch, collaborating with a compositor and with long-running ANTIVJ composer Thomas Vaquié.
Watch in split screen (lower quality):
And here are the source videos:
Sure, it’s just some sparkly lights on a landscape on one level, but it’s a very specific technique that made that possible – and gaming hardware that we invest in for the sole purpose of accessing original creative work.
It’s not clear whether Microsoft did this work in-house or contracted for visuals. But whoever produced the Xbox video failed sort of twice over here – not only did they rip off someone else’s work, but they could arguably have gotten more impactful results by simply hiring the original artistic team.
And that’s the double whammy of creative exploitation in any of its forms: not only does it hurt livelihoods and fail to support the people creating the ideas, but the copy-of-a-copy phenomenon invariably results in poorer quality.
I was alerted by ANTIVJ to the visual ripoff first – which means we can verify that Xavier, Nicolas, and company didn’t get contacted by Microsoft. They attempted to contact the company, Nico tells CDM, and as of today have gotten no response.
But I was equally alerted by the use of audio by Alan Watts. That is clearly “inspired” by the same idea in the launch of the acclaimed indie game Everything by David O’Reilly. That use was poetic, even tear-jerking by comparison. O’Reilly even produced a short film version of the same, which I saw at the international film festival Berlinale.
Adding to the faux pas here, not only is Everything one of the more celebrated indie games of the past decade, but its launch platform was the PS4, for crying out loud.
So, let’s get this straight.
Microsoft is touting its platform while simultaneously ripping off visuals familiar to anyone who has followed bleeding-edge 3D art, and ripping off a (PS4 first!) game familiar to anyone who has followed indie gaming.
Look, this is legal. It’s maybe even arguably ethical – once an idea like these is out there, you can expect it to disseminate. But there’s also a role for a company like Microsoft to resist this kind of appropriation of creative work. Microsoft is a company that needs creative people. The Xbox platform (and Windows gaming, beyond it) relies on indie developers. Windows and Microsoft services platforms rely on creatives. Our livelihood is part of their livelihood – when we get paid, we spend a lot of that money on their products. And when you buy an Xbox, part of the premium you pay goes to supporting just that kind of originality (or else you’d just go play some pirated SNES clones).
Microsoft could respond in a way that would make us believe they’re ready to support artists, not just ape their work to sell a new piece of hardware.
I believe they could do that. I’d love to see the Xbox be a platform for more original work, for original digital art. Someone screwed up here, but I’m not here just to say we should shout at Microsoft. In an ideal world, the companies that make the platforms we use to make stuff would also build platforms where creative work is respected.
Thanks to ANTIVJ for sending this our way and – other instances of this welcome, too.
If Microsoft does respond, I’ll keep you posted.
Update: just how commonplace is this? Enough so that Sony is caught up in a similar fracas … at almost exactly the same time. At least Sony went ahead and apologized to the artists.
Thanks to reader ‘pottering’ for the heads-up on that.