Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Why Your Game Idea Sucks

Erin Hoffman | 29 Sep 2009 12:25
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No real game designer will ever steal your game idea, because there are at least a dozen fully-fledged concepts they'd rather work on - and probably are working on in their nearly non-existent off-hours - instead. Very, very few people in this business work on someone else's ideas because they want to. They work on them because they have to.

This is why you need about half a million dollars to even start to get a studio's attention in executing your own idea. You're paying for them not to work on their own projects - and that is, and always should be, very, very expensive.

Setting Yourself Free

If you do make it into a publisher's office with a pitch, you should still execute a mutual NDA. It protects you and the publisher, and no serious publisher will think twice about signing it. You should always document your creative property - keep notebooks, sign them, date them, etc. This is basic creative due diligence.

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But please, for the love of little green cabbages, stop worrying about someone stealing your ideas. And if you're really into some self-scrutiny, ask yourself why you should assume someone else should pay for their development in the first place. This is the flip side to the perpetual developer-publisher tension and, indeed, the tension for anyone asking for someone else to pay for their dreams: If you don't believe in your idea enough to move mountains to make it happen, why should you expect someone else to? In a business sense, even successful game studios should be asking themselves this question, because within the current market, someone else who does believe in their own ideas will probably beat them to execution and loot beyond their wildest imagining.

Now, hopefully, you also understand the utter folly of including something in your portfolio or resume that indicates you're an "ideas guy." Those go straight to the circular file - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It means you can relax. Take a deep breath. Make a game, or don't. But please stop telling us about your amazing idea.

Because you really don't have one. Or maybe you do, but we don't care. Because seeing your game to completion is completely outside of our control, and probably even your control. And because if it is a great idea, and you have the follow-through to make it happen, we can't stop you. The ESRB can't stop you. The business can't stop you. Only you can stop you. And you either will or you won't - without my help or anyone else's.

Erin Hoffman is a professional game designer, freelance writer, and hobbyist troublemaker. She moderates Gamewatch.org and fights crime on the streets by night.

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