Sunday, April 22, 2007

Inspiration and the other 99%

I love games. Video games, word games, board games and puzzles.
And I love creating games. And one of the challenges in creating games is coming up with new and interesting ideas.

As game developers a lot of us seem to draw our inspiration from two places: 1) other games, and 2) TV shows and movies.

Within those two wells of inspiration we tend to focus on specific areas. If we draw inspiration from TV and movies, its invariably genre shows focusing on sci-fi, fantasy, action or horror. And if we draw from games, we generally look at the top selling blockbusters. Now there are so many other sources of inspiration that range from books, toys, real life stories, sports, and natural phenomena to academia, but within the areas of games, TV and movies there is still a lot of untapped potential that developers can draw from.

Looking at the Top 20 grossing films in the US last year we see a wide range of topics that include pirates, penguins, race cars, period musicals and political parodies. If you dip below the top 20 you get an even more diverse range of films. Of course not every idea would make a great game. But then prior to Diner Dash, the smash hit casual game, most people probably would have thought basing a game around a sassy restaurant owner to be sales suicide.

And if you look within the world of games for inspiration you'll find the top 20 to be fairly predictable with themes of war, sport, music, crime, fantasy and sci-fi action. But like film, go outside the top 20 and you'll find some cool stuff. If the casual game market was included in the NPD data you might even find Diner Dash somewhere close by.

What I love about this great medium of games is that there is so much potential to be had if we stray only a little bit from our usual source of inspiration. It feels like we've only tapped 1% of our potential - and that 1% has been pretty good so far - so imagine what's waiting for us with the other 99%.

That excites me!

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