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'What are the greatest influences on your work as a creator?'
'What are the greatest influences on your work as a creator?'
July 21, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

July 21, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Smartphone/Tablet, Indie, Design

"Influences" is a broad term, and we got a variety of answers for our latest Twitter question.

When we asked our Twitter followers what influenced them, we were hoping to hear lots of different things, and so we did. From specific works of literature to entire forms of expression -- from fields of study to specific books on game design -- we got it all.

One thing that seems to unite game developers is their devotion to this medium, above all others. Where does that come from, and how do developers stick to it?

This collection of replies from our followers covers the gamut.

And if you're interested in participating in these conversations in the future, make sure to follow @Gamasutra on Twitter.

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Kevin Fishburne
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Very insightful and funny responses. My favorite is "alcohol". It's the angel on your shoulder that with an increasingly fervent voice lets you know when it's time to stop programming and start watching let's plays on YouTube. I also really dig the one about trying to recreate the feeling of playing the games of our youth. I suppose making that kind of magic is the holy grail of game dev for many of us.

John Ardussi
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I think of myself as a toymaker or an amusement park ride creator. I create the toys and rides I want, then let others try them to see what they think. Being willing to adjust based on how people play your game to me is the most important step.

Kujel Selsuru
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The greatest influence for me has been the games I grew up with (Dune II, Warcraft I, II, & III. Command and Conquer, Halo, Fable, etc). It was these games and others that drove me to study programming and start actually making games myself :)

Luis Guimaraes
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Trying to recreate that awe of youth today when barely anything can really impress me anymore. Not an easy task though...

Beyond that, movies, books,*, real life, sports, everything...

*Look up some image and think of it as it that image was the theme of a GameJam and think up a game you'd make out of that, then if the idea is good, write it down (and add the image's URL to the note). Rinse and repeat. (I haven't done it in the last ~7 years I guess, I should start doing it again...)

Daniel Pang
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I just wish game designers would look to the world outside instead of just looking back at games. It creates a navel-gazing system where we constantly look inside the loop of games for inspiration.

The same source materials have been swallowed, digested, defecated, and swallowed again so many times at this point. Maybe this is also why so many games these days share the same mechanics, design aesthetics, or subsets of the same mechanics, perfectly happy to ape what's come before. When we all look at and reference the same things, it homogenizes the product pool.

Jacek Wesolowski
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There certainly exists a problem of insufficient openness to "exotic" influences, especially among middle-aged developers. By "exotic", I mean "that which we aren't used to". Here's an anecdote I like to share: in a level design meeting on a large first person shooter project, one level designer suggested a solution inspired by "The Moomins". He got laughed at, and his superior asked him sarcastically if he was going to refer to "Anne of Green Gables" next. Truth is, a first person shooter sequence that takes genuine inspiration from "Anne of Green Gables" could be a shocking and original experience, and someone should probably give it a try one day (bonus points for not making Lucy Maud Montgomery roll in her grave).

In my previous job I worked mostly with a younger generation, and they were quite different, so there is hope.

I think it's important not to confuse two things. One thing is when people keep playing the same games and watching the same movies over and over, and it limits their imagination. A completely different thing is when people play the same games and use them for learning craft and discussing its principles. For instance, because so many people have played Civilization, it makes sense to discuss strategy game design using Civilization as a canonical example of certain concepts, even though the goal is not (or at least should not be) to make a Civilization clone. It's easier to have an informed discourse when there is a point of reference.

The big reason why there are so many games that look like each other is, in my opinion, not the fact that there is a canon that people share, but the fact that we don't foster knowledge transfer. For instance, my career as a game designer begun in 2006, i.e. at a point when games were already a huge, established industry. I had to learn virtually everything on my own, in part because my colleagues (and particularly my bosses) wouldn't share, but also in large part because they didn't know that much in the first place (possibly because no one shared with them). We often stick to gameplay we're used to, yes, but in a great many cases we simply stick to gameplay that's easy to make, because we cannot handle anything more challenging. And we can't do that, because the lessons larned from the games we've already made aren't being transferred to less experienced developers.