Are fresh ideas a good thing in the industry?
Perhaps your instant reaction is: yes, how can they not be? But new ideas for games, for example, can be risky - whereas a simple twist on a runaway best-seller, perhaps less so. Catering to established markets is the usual status quo in any form of retail. You’ve found something that works? Rinse and repeat.
Many games, and hardware too, follow formulas. We’ve got to have a feisty female character in a lead role! That game has to have the exact same features as its predecessor! Our next offering has to include at least twenty aspects from games within the Top 100!
The drawback from reproducing hits is that rot could start to set in. Because going through the motions is neither fulfilling or creative, right?
We came across a wry observation recently, where a weathered designer claimed that many graduates he spoke to said they were great at ‘coming up with ideas’. Their passion – and, some could argue, naivety – led them to want a job as the ‘ideas person’ in the company they eventually work for.
It’s not that the people producing today’s popular games don’t also have ideas, they’re just more accustomed to the financial and reputational risk uniqueness can present. Between sticking their neck out with something never-been-seen-before, or rejigging a sure-fire hit, it’s no surprise the latter wins out with the company’s bosses and stakeholders – and with the audiences crying out for more. It’s also hard to be remunerated for your ideas alone.
And yet, it’s hard to be effective in the industry or be good at your job if you don’t have ideas. They’re not actually a hallowed, mystical, standalone element, but a natural and necessary part of any designer’s role. How would you solve a problem, however mundane and everyday, if you weren’t creative? How could you reach deadlines or make the best of limited resources if you didn’t have the power to generate ideas? Without ideas, many low budget marketing campaigns wouldn’t have even brought us some of the better known indie titles.
Even bringing a new twist to a sure-fire bestseller of a game isn’t without its developers thrashing out hundreds of ‘could-be’ ideas to find the one ‘will-be’ option. The clue is ‘new twist’; which aspects will remain formulaic, and which will be something different? Do you have any idea?
And it’s not easy, either. Some days, ideas can come as freely as water flows; on others, it can be like getting blood out of a stone. Like a muscle, it’s something that needs exercising – the more you think of ideas, the more they’ll come to you. Try it now – think of ten other uses for your kettle…! Then apply the same problem-solving, objective, creative approach to your design and production.
New ideas: they’re actually on the boil all the time.