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IllegalSeagulls

Legal Legalities for Game Companies and Minors

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Hello, this is my first post, and originally I wasn't going to even join this community, but I thought it would be a good idea. Especially because the people at Reddit ignored my post completely.

Being a Minor (I am about to be a sophomore in high school), I have about three years of coding experience. I also have been composing music, and I have many friends who do many other things that happen to coincide with game development (I will get to this next).

Currently, me and two friends are wanting to start a development company. I have had a good amount of experience in Unity, and I am well versed with JavaScript, as well as learning C#. I have a friend who does a lot of art and pixel art, who also is well versed in JavaScript (no experience in anything other than Pocessing.js) and a friend who has the same if not more experience with JavaScript, as well as advanced GameMaker skills.

In terms of technology, coding levels, music, art design, and pretty much everything else that actually creates the full game experience, we are set and ready to go. The problem is legal issues.

My parents are not too fond of me starting a company now, because they think school is more important (I go to a special program at my school, which is similar to STEM mixed with avid, but includes all classes, which I could easily do this for projects), and legally, none of us are old enough to actually create a company (I have researched into LLC's, DUNS Numbers, Apple Developer, and a lot of the other publishing/marketing stuff we'd need for a company and actually publishing the apps). I know, if we continue, we will probably need legal advice from an actual attourny (especially because laws vary by state so a lot of information might not be correct on the internet), but I was wondering if any of you either have experience starting a company/software development company as a minor, or if any of you know anything that might help us on our endeavor legally so we can have our own business. We already have options of people who are above 18 who will help us with this and will more than likely help us with being the legal organizer of the company, but other than that, we are a little blind.

If you have any information that would be helpful, that would help us so much!

Illegal Seagulls LLC (Hopefully at least!)

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At your age you are extremely unlikely to develop a product that can be commercially viable.  Perhaps in a few years when you have some additional experience you could do it, or if you had more resources available to you, but that isn't the situation you describe.

From your description you are best off focusing on your education.  You and your friends can certainly build games on your own, and I recommend it if that is your interest, but still focus on the education.

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I'm from Australia and we don't use the same terminology, so I just want to double-check my understanding:  "about to be a sophomore in high school" would make you around fifteen years old, is that correct?

As you've obviously discovered, as a minor you are unable to form a company or sign legal agreements in order to do business.  If you really want to proceed with selling games at this stage the normal recommendation would be to have a trusted adult handle those aspects on your behalf; normally a parent or guardian.  The fact that your parents are against the idea puts you in a bit of a tough spot.  You can try working with another adult, but that means taking on some level of risk, and also may strain your relationship with your parents and make your home life more difficult.

My personal recommendation would be to proceed as follows:

  • Continue your studies, and ensure you're giving them the attention they deserve.  Your education will be very important for your future regardless of the path you end up taking: it will help you to do a better job of running your own business, or it will help you to get a job if your own doesn't work out or you need more money on the side.  It will also help to make you a better-rounded person in your personal life and will teach you valuable skills that can be used no matter what you do.  Your parents are right to place a high value on your education.
  • Find opportunities to work on games.  If it's relevant to some of your assignments you could make games or demos during your education.  You can also dedicate some (not all!) of your spare time to working on games.  This will be good practice and will allow you to refine your craft.  It takes practice to make good games, so it can be beneficial to make some that aren't released or are only released for free to build your skills and make it more likely that you will be successful when you decide to release a commercial product.
  • When you're ready, approach your parents with a completed game that you would like to publish.  It should be a good quality product, and you should ensure you have made it without impacting your studies.  Ideally, have at least a basic business plan as well.  Having a complete game will show that you are both capable in your craft, and serious about proceeding.  Showing that you have produced it without impacting your studies will help to allay their fears for your future.  This is Step 9 of "12 Tricks to Selling Your Ideas, Your Game & Yourself"; inoculating parents against potential objections.

 

You will still need to speak to a lawyer (with your trusted adult) when you're ready, however you choose to proceed. 

Probably not exactly the advice you were after, but I believe this would be a better approach for you than trying to form a company against your parent's wishes and partnering with a potentially less trustworthy legal adult.  You likely get what you want after a little waiting, your parents are happy, and your future is also secure regardless of whether your games are successful.

I hope that's helpful! :)

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7 hours ago, IllegalSeagulls said:

Currently, me and two friends are wanting to start a development company.

Starting a game company without games is like opening a empty shop.

Use your free time and make games, ask your parents or guardians to help with the marketing.

Then by the time you are old enough to own a company you will have a bunch of games to use for the company.

7 hours ago, IllegalSeagulls said:

any of you either have experience starting a company/software development company as a minor,

Not as a minor although at 19. My company was a software company, I made one program and thought I could make software and sell to the South African mines.

It worked at first, made a lot of money the first month, then all my customers had the software and the global market had better software. The money I made dried up very fast, after all I was a registered company and had a company bank account.

The Tax and the banks took all the money I made before I could create a new software. The worst part was that there had been no reason for me to register as a company. I could have sold the software as a individual and still have made the same money.

My advise is this: don't open a business account or register as a company unless you have to. For every perk you gain there are very expensive costs.

There is no reason you can't sell as just one person.

7 hours ago, IllegalSeagulls said:

My parents are not too fond of me starting a company now, because they think school is more important

They are right. Everything you learn at school will help you make games.

From language for writing the text you need for your games to math the very core behind making characters move around. You need it all and right now your parents are paying for you to learn it; later it will just be one more cost you have to pay as a company.

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You're going about this backwards anyway. Make games first. You don't need a company to make games, and the first games you make will invariably be crap anyway. (That goes for everyone, including myself.)

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Thank you everyone for the kind and helpful replies. Although they weren't the replies I was looking for, stepping back and going over everything, I think they were the responses I needed. I agree that I need to make good games before thinking about publishing, and that school is important. I think I am probably going to go into personal publishing (As an Individual on the App store), and just work and collaborate with my friends on games if I need to. Being a minor, it is very hard to find the right information on the internet about business, law, and other things I would need before publishing anything commercially, because everything is geared towards adults, who don't have legal limitations with this kind of stuff. There isn't much to cater to us in terms of information to helping us understand the market, or legal stuff. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I don't know, but it is nice to see such a nice community who can help give information to someone who otherwise wouldn't be able to access it.

Hopefully, going towards the Individual Development doesn't deter me from creating games, and I hope to come to this forum often because of the great community it seems to be!

Thanks Again,

Illegal Seagulls (Not LLC... for a while at least)

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No worries, I think you've made the right decision and I hope it works out well for you! :)

I forgot to say in my earlier reply, welcome to the community! We'd love to see what you'll work on in the meantime and help with any feedback or technical questions you might have.

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