There comes a point in game development when you think you’ve seen it all – all the tricks of the trade, all the level layouts you could possibly use, the storylines that you could possibly come up with, etc. Nothing seems like it’s new and fresh enough. There comes a point when you become a little jaded, because everything you do starts to feel too simple or too overdone. Much like a writer, a painter, or any other artist, a game developer has to constantly search for inspiration. Whether it’s found in places within the industry or not, the number one goal of a developer should be to put out work that not only he/she is proud of, but content that players can enjoy. After all, that’s the point, isn’t it? To provide entertainment. If your game fails to entertain and just simply frustrates, you have failed.
So let’s consider places that you can find inspiration to avoid this dark and jaded mentality that is inevitable throughout several points in your career:
Yes, the one place that you go to five days out of the week is a major source of inspiration. The reason being that it is probably filled with artwork relating to the games that you have worked on, or at the very least, the studio’s work that they did before you joined the team. If you work from home, your workspace area should be inspirational. Wherever you work, and for whoever you work for, your workspace should be not only a place that you enjoy spending a lot of time in, but also a place where ideas flow easier than most other areas.
Consider the things that you might have on your desk: maybe it’s photographs, maybe it’s screenshots from the current game you’re working on. Maybe it’s a series of colorful Post-it’s with things that you have to do, or reminders of ideas that you had that could evolve into bigger, better ideas. All these things can inspire you, but if somehow your workspace is lacking and does not help you create new ideas that could break down barriers, then you need to change your workspace somehow.
If you’re looking for inspiration, sometimes you don’t need to look further than the people that you’re currently working with. What better place to find people, not only that know about your current game, but that clearly enjoy gaming in general, if not your team? Working as a developer means you work collaboratively. Everyone pitches ideas, people feed off each other, tweaking certain things, adding or discarding other concepts, etc. If you find yourself thirsty for more inspirational fuel, to get that creativity flowing, do something as simple as talking to a fellow co-worker. Ask if they have notes relating to the project, pick their brain a little. If they’re busy, wait for a better time, or go ask someone else.
Consider everything that makes up the gaming industry: The players, the developers, the studios, the conventions, the media journalism, marketing and everything between. It’s a lot of ground to cover. The beauty of it all, and perhaps the best way to prevent becoming overwhelmed, is to look at it all as a melting pot of potential. Our industry is not that old, in fact, it’s still growing. There is a lot for everyone to learn. There is no set path to get into the industry, there’s just steps that work for other people. We are all in this together, learning every step of the way. If that’s not inspiring, then nothing is.
If you’ve been in the industry long enough, you probably know where to look within the industry to find inspiration. Then again you might also just be jaded and be having a difficult time finding new, fresh ideas. Whatever the case, it is important to remember that our industry is ever-changing. Although it is fickle, it can always be counted on to provide something new and different just when you’re losing hope.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget there is a whole world outside of the gaming industry. Game development isn’t everything, although it probably is a big portion of your life. It’s pretty demanding, especially during crunch time. When you stop to really live your life, however, you have places to be, people to see, and things to do. You have love ones, you have hobbies, you have general interests. There’s art, music, movies and books. There is potential for inspiration everywhere you look, even if it’s not gaming related.
For that matter, who said that it has to be gaming related for you to be inspired from it? There are no rules written in stone, and that is not an exception when it comes to game development. The person who continuously gets inspired by all the gaming is a great developer, but the one that is inspired by everything, not just gaming content, is the better developer. If you continuously look to other games to inspire you, you will never create something new. But if you are inspired by something that doesn’t have to do with the industry, and apply that knowledge to your game, you’ll have the potential to create something that hasn’t been seen before.
Coming up with new and fresh ideas can mark the difference between a jaded developer, and a developer that enjoys every single day of their existence. If we only have one life to live, and our calling is to make games, we are a lucky bunch. To forget that is…unspeakable. This is why every developer should be constantly searching for inspiration, rather than simply waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But it is also important to remember that although the potential for inspiration is everywhere, not every idea is a good idea. And not all of your good ideas will be approved, because at the end of the day, you work as a part of a team. It is important to not only come up with your ideas, but to make sure that they’re worth it. Make sure to think about the pros and the cons, and the general effect that they could have on the game. What it would change, what it would leave unaltered. Get feedback from your team. You’re all in this together.
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