After my laptop died, I didn't hold much hope for computer gaming, but my wife kindly let me install some games, so I can while away some time here and there, having some good high-tech fun.
I installed Drakensang, in a wistful fit, revisiting the world and making different choices. During combat, I had a few epiphanies that made me realize that another game I own, Dragon Age: Origins, was completely inspired by other things, and that it was so transparent it hadn't hit me until now.
Everyone who owns Dragon Age: Origins who is a fan of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series knows that the computer game is highly derivative of that series, especially if you play a Human Noble. The betrayal of the King by one house that has designs on the throne, the eradication of other houses loyal to the King, an organization dedicated to fighting back the forces of darkness, etc. Almost slavishly derivative. I didn't have a chance to replay before my laptop died, but I finished one game, so I got a chance to experience everything first hand.
What hit me playing Drakensang is that combat in Dragon Age is identical, and yet Drakensang was out for several months before Dragon Age went gold. Here are the similarities:
1) The auto-pause option to issue orders. Not unusual in and of itself, but taken with everything else it tends to look bad for EA...
2) Once you issue your orders and unpause the game and your orders are carried out in realtime.
3) Everyone has a few special abilities that can be brought to bear on the foe. These options can be trained and new options are bought in a skill tree fashion, where once you have one combat ability new ones are automatically unlocked.
4) Characters can fall unconscious during combat if they take enough damage, and if everyone falls unconscious the game is over.
5) When the characters who fell unconscious get back up, they have wounds that must be healed manually, usually by some manner of "Treat Wounds" skill or similar. Unhealed wounds cause penalties to everything, particularly fighting.
Both games have all 5 things there in common. So, not only did one of Dragon Age's stories come straight out of fiction, its game play came straight from another video game!
True, there are some things about Dragon Age, the interactions among the characters, that were truly humorous and in many cases genuinely moving, and in a few cases outright disturbing. I have to give it kudos there. Few other games I've seen captivated me like Dragon Age. Other games that gave me similar "must play" compulsions were Redguard, Arena, and Morrowind.
But this new revelation has challenged my belief in the creativity of the designers. Was it intentional? I dunno, I've come up with original mechanics and settings only to see them surface in published works weeks, months, or even years after the fact. But, on the other hand, I'm not under a deadline, and I game for the love of it, not money or any other discernible reason.
I'm not saying that there is a clear case of plagiarism, but I'm merely musing about it. It's a question I will probably never have an answer to.