Design Tips: Let Yourself Be Inspired

When it comes to creativity, there’s a commonly held belief that the best ideas are original ideas.  That for an idea to be good, it needs to be brand new. It needs to break the wheel. It needs to be like nothing that came before it.

I’m here to tell you that’s wrong.

Ideas aren’t created in a vacuum. Instead, ideas build on and inspire each other all the time. Game of Thrones was inspired by The Lord of the Rings. Braid iterated on Super Mario Bros. The Shape of Water couldn’t exist without Creature from the Black Lagoon. Does that mean the new ideas are bad? Of course not. Instead they each found ways to build on what came before them in order to create something new.

Why does this matter? I think it matters because it’s important to realize that there are tons of ideas that came before you and it’s okay to iterate on them. Take Captain’s Gambit as an example. Here’s a very short sample of some of the games that influenced its design:

  • Bang!
  • Coup
  • One Night Ultimate Werewolf
  • The Resistance
  • Saboteur
  • Sushi Go!

Without these games, Captain’s Gambit simply could not exist the way that it currently does. It was only through identifying what we believe worked and didn’t work in each of those games that we were able to create something new. And hopefully one day someone will be inspired by Captain’s Gambit and use our ideas to create something even better.

How can you be inspired? Here are two tips to help you come up with new ideas:

1) Seek out ideas that worked. If you want to make a game, go play the best ones you can find. After you’ve played them, try to identify why they are good and how you can emulate that in your game.

2) Seek out ideas that didn’t work. Look for where the people that came before you made mistakes and figure out why they made them. Not only can you learn to avoid them, but you may also discover how to turn those failures into successes.

Want to know what inspired this post? Check out the video series Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson, the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and the article Good Designers Copy, Great Designers Steal by Cameron Moll.