Creativity: A Game Designer's Guide to Show Business
We're excited to launch our first ever Gamedevtuts+ Session: a comprehensive set of posts by Epona Schweer on the topic of Creativity and business development for gamedevs. Read on to find out what you'll learn...
So why is a series on biz dev for game designers focused almost exclusively on Creativity? (And by "Creativity" I mean "the pattern matching mechanisms of the semi-conscious mind".)
Because your Creativity is core to those brilliant games we are going to remember you for.
It's what you'll rely on while building a sustainable business around those projects - so you can keep making games for as long as you want.
And that is what this whole series is about: Strengthening your creative muscles. Getting into that state of crazy productive creative "flow" that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has built his entire political career on.
Why That Matters
Your creativity is what will make your games unique; it is your "competitive advantage" in a market saturated with sameness.
It's how you grow your audience from one core fan, to ten, to 100, to your core 1000 "true fans" - developing and evolving your business model and eCommerce pipeline from those very first interactions with your audience.
Examples of This Concept in Action
- Pure and uncompromising Creativity (and a sardonic devil-may-care attitude) lead to the "shocking" success of Binding of Isaac, surprising everyone who writes about such things (including creators Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl)
- That same creative genius which gives Jim Butcher's "Wizard for Hire" Harry Dresden a cheeky life of his own is behind that author's own cheeky bizdev antics, from stubbornly pushing through years of rejection letters to sneaking into VIP parties to pitch his work to editors
So Why Follow This Series?
Because Creativity is something we seem to let atrophy as we get older. You had no problem inventing games as a kid. But now? Now, it's hard for some reason. Seems to be that way for every adult these days.
Being able to "switch" that imaginative ingeniuty back on, at will, is what makes us Professional Creatives.
And if I'm going to teach you anything that is going to be at all valuable in an uncertain world (where the definition of game design changes constantly and bizdev reinvents itself after every market collapse), it is going to be this Conscious Creativity, the ability to switch on and maintain a productive state of creative flow.
The Table of Contents for This Series
- Welcome to the Creative Industries! (Setting the Scene) - Takes us through business development in creative industries and how it compares (and contrasts) with the standard MBA model of bizdev.
- Finding Your Unique Creative Style (Character Development) - How to turn the unique bundle of skills, experiences and curiosities that make you you into a competitive advantage in an oversatured market.
- Improving Your Craft (Skilling Up and "Getting Experience") - Your professional career as a Creative is built upon the skill with which you convert your creative curiosity into an experience that can be distributed.
- Creativity Challenge #1: Sneaking Around (to make games) - Our first creative challenge is securing a time and a place, every single day, where we can focus on our projects and practice getting into that state of semi-conscious creative flow.
- Creativity Challenge #2: Messing with the Laws of Physis (seriously not a typo!) - A wandering mind or a tendency to over-analyse can kill our creative flow. This challenge explores how to reach a balance between conscious and subconscious mental processes and focus all our attention on the creative task at hand.
- Creativity Challenge #3: Auditioning for "The Scottish Play" - Taking advantage of an old traditional theater myth to overcome the anxiety and fear associated with releasing your first games to the public.
- The Working Creative: Directing Your Own Apprenticeship - It can take years to develop a personal creative style and an audience attracted to the work you do. So you might as well be paid for the learning experiences along the way!
You may have noticed some strange phrases in this table of contents, like "Character Development" and "The Scottish Play". That's because this series has a theme running through it - and that theme is Show Biz, Kid.
Because that is exactly the business we're in (and there's no business quite like show business...).
In my professional career in creative industries (from a senior and lead artist, to producer, a business development manager and now a teacher and analog game designer) I have found more parallels between the music industry and game design than I have with any other industry - even after spending a few years in traditional "lean manufacturing" software development!
(Also, Triple Town and Panda Poet designer Daniel Cook wrote a brilliant article drawing a comparison between indie games and the business of touring bands at LostGarden.com.).
So rather than waste your time by describing game design and bizdev terms that you can find redefined in books and conferences every year: I'll give you a course in Creative Improvisation in Show Biz.
Because if you can improvise your ideas and be reflexively creative (at all times), then you can figure out anything. From game development and starting a business, to living well as an indie developer.
Enjoy the series. Let us know how you go in the comments with links to your devblog, and happy game making!