Patently absurd

Patent number 6,604,008
“Scoring based upon goals achieved and subjective elements”

What does it cover? Quite literally, scoring points in a game - though specifically by the player setting himself a goal and attempting to achieve it. “Sliding, spinning, jumping, blocking an opponent, passing an opponent and avoiding obstacles” are listed as possible means of point-scoring.

Who owns it? Microsoft. Uh-oh. There’ve been no claims yet, though, presumably because games in which you set your own score-based targets are thin on the ground.

Patent Number 6,669,564
“Episodic delivery of content”

What does it cover? Well, as the title suggests, it’s a system to provide extra content for a game, and it is, er, “responsive to the current state of the user in the game, transmitting game-generated search results to the user.” Yes. What they said.

Who owns it? EA, terrifyingly. While they’ve used such a system to provide, for instance, Battlefield modules on their EA downloader service, their patent is too specific for them to chase other episodic dabblers such as Valve, Telltale or Xbox Live Arcade. Phew.

Patent number 5,577,913
“System and method for driver training with multiple driver competition”

What does it cover? “A second driver responsive software representative of a second user, wherein the second driver responsive software is responsive to said position information provided by the second user for a first time.” Ghost cars that replay your last race in racing games, in other words.

Who owns it? Midway, for their 1989 arcade game Hard Drivin’. Since then, they’ve done a lot of hard licensin’, having made everyone from Sony to Sega cough up if they want to include the concept.

Patent number 5,718,632
“Recording medium, method of loading games program code means, and games machine”

What does it cover? Playable minigames on a game loading screen. That’ll be because it’s generally more fun to shoot asteroids or play Tetris than watch a “...” slowly elongate.

Who owns it? Namco, who’ve been at it with their console games for ages - for instance, a crude 3D shmup playable before Tekken 5’s main menu hits. It’s a great idea, but Namco’s patent means it’s sadly denied to other publishers. Playable arcade machines within games such as GTA: San Andreas and Doom 3 are a more widely used alternative.