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Educational Feature: The Idea is Not the Game

Educational Feature: The Idea is Not the Game

September 23, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

September 23, 2008 | By Jill Duffy
More: Console/PC, Student/Education

It's been said that good ideas are a dime a dozen, but what are aspiring game designers supposed to make of that advice? has just posted a new article about where and how game designers get their ideas and what they do with them between inception and realization.

The article is written by Dr. Lewis Pulsipher, a NC-based instructor and designer of non-electronic games. He shares some professional insight about no just where to get ideas (everywhere), but how to work at getting more, as well as how to keep track of them (he actually suggests specific software for this).

He also stresses the importance of understanding that there are almost no new ideas, but that there is great value in appropriately recycling old ideas. Even The Sims, he says, wasn't exactly a new idea when it came out:

"In video games, there have been many technical advances, but few really new games. The Sims comes to mind, but it was preceded by a game called Little Computer People, which Mobygames calls "the mother of The Sims"; have you ever heard of it? A new idea does not guarantee a highly successful product, and highly successful games usually have no new ideas.

It doesn't make sense to try to come up with 'a great idea.' Your chances of coming up with one are worse than one in a million. And if you did, would you recognize it as a great idea?"

He also shares some of the harsh realities of working in a highly competitive creative industry:

"Remember the conventional wisdom that upwards of 90 percent of the video games that are initially funded -- that is, the plans are good enough for someone to be willing to pay to have them developed -- never reach the public. At some stage they're canceled or the studio fails for other reasons.

A relatively well-known and successful board game designer has estimated that 60 percent of his completed games will not be published. For every idea that is good enough to warrant someone trying to turn it into a game, there are many, many ideas that don't make it much farther than that mark.

You want to get to a point where you have far more fruitful ideas than you can possibly turn into games even if you live to be a hundred. Ideas beget ideas, so the more you come up with, the more you get. As novelist John Steinbeck said, 'Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.' But this means you need a great many ideas."

The complete article is now available for reading on Gamasutra sister educational site

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