The Power of Inspiration

Inspiration is a tool that I believe all designers use and is inherently in every game designed. Just take a look at the website This website has lists of movies, books, games and details the inspiration behind each item. The Angry Birds entry is a strong example because it shows influence from games, news, and even world events (swine flu + curiosity rover). Game design is a creative art so designers have to draw upon inspiration for both ideas and motivation to create game content.

Inspiration can come from many different places: personal experiences, culture, religion, and existing works in the field. Personal experiences come from your daily life, your travels, your encounters with people, etc. The list is endless. These are things that you particularly remember when you think about your own life and past. A great example that I recently learned about is Will Wright. He made the famous SimCity series and noted in an interview that a large part of his inspiration for SimCity comes from the books of Christopher Alexander, a famous architect. Will Wright remembers specifically how Christopher Alexander approached his studies of architecture by studying how humans interacted in and around buildings. Will then applied the idea of designing around human interactions to the SimCity series.

Sometimes designers look for experiences for the express purpose of finding inspiration. For example, the manga writer and artist for Zatch Bell, Makoto Raiku, specifically went to England to research for his manga. He even draws about his own adventures in England in extra pages, mentioning the influence it had on his recent chapters as seen below.

Screenshot 2015-03-19 11.14.29

Designers can even draw inspiration from their previous work as well. Bungie developers wanted to create a heavily scripted, first person shooter because of their previous text-heavy game, Marathon. This led to the inception of the Halo series and Cortana herself.

With many places like personal experience and religion to draw inspiration from, designers should apply one of their most important skills, deep listening, to truly understand what these sources mean to them. Ajahn Brahm, a Buddhist monk, said, “Never allow knowledge to stand in the way of truth”. It’s the same as deep listening. When reflecting on experiences, designers should see things as they are instead of what people say they are.

To clarify, Ajahn Brahm reflected on an experience he remembers particularly well. Several years ago, he visited a small Thai village. This thai village was largely untouched by western culture and many Thai people were surprised to see Ajahn Brahm. They showed him their culture and even went through a funeral cremation with him. During this cremation, Ajahn noticed none of the villagers looked sad. They weren’t happy but they weren’t sad or crying either. Ajahn Brahm soon realized that to these villagers, they had no reason to be sad. Who says people must be sad at a funeral? Western culture has told us since we were young that funerals are a sad process but to this Thai village, it was just a neutral process of moving on. *You can listen to Ajahn Brahm in this video.

This example shows the importance of truly understanding how experience, popular culture, or religion has impacted you. With deep listening applied towards religion, culture, and personal experiences, designers can create a limitless pool of ideas where they can draw inspiration from. You can always reflect on these topics if you find yourself out of motivation or stuck during the design process. By doing so, you may be able to realize new ideas and different perspectives from your experiences.

6 thoughts on “The Power of Inspiration

  1. Experience is the most efficient way of inspiration to learning by ourselves. There is a famous saying in Chinese culture: “He that travels far knows much,” which means travel broadens our horizon much better than wide-reading. The most impressive thing is from your real experience. I really enjoy reading this post because you mentioned Will Wright and Ajahn Brahm. Their interesting story remind us of bewaring of the new stuff from your environment and life. You inspiration can not only be affected by others, but also give a strong impact on others. No matter if you want to design, you should not ignore each opportunity of new experience from your life. Once they become your memory, they convert to a valuable experience, you can expand your idea to design your work in the future forever.

  2. I see that the previous lecture had provoked some extra thought from you about the subject. Inspiration is certainly an important thing in any creative process. Especially important for us game designers because we often we design games within a particular genre and we have to make them unique and fresh. Life experiences are often wonderful sources of inspiration because it can encompass so much like nature, art, sounds, etc.. Inspiration is certainly a fickle thing to deal with.

  3. Interesting…”inspiration” is such a weird thing that I don’t think I’ll ever understand. Going through all of the Game Design, I’m not too sure if I can ever identify what actually came from an inspiration or just an “idea”, or all “ideas” have some relationship with “inspiration” as well. I definitely agree with how strongly each individuals inspiration is tied to his or her life and their experience. I had an opportunity to talk to a Mr. Toriyama Motomu, a Lead Director at Square Enix and he recommended alot of the juniors or young developers to travel and see the world. Just dipping your life in a different culture makes your thought and knowledge more valuable. Thanks for the interesting read.

  4. I’m curious why you named this piece “the Power of Imagination” when it seems much more about how personal, real-life experience inspires you. Regardless, it’s a really nice insight into how, more than anything, we as designers incorporate our perception of “truths” into what we create and what we find valuable in them. Naturally, how we as humans come to an internalized understanding of what the truth is is through the experiences we have and events we go through. It best serves us as designers, then, to consciously acknowledge our life influences and deliberately decide what we want to incorporate into our creations.

  5. I enjoyed reading about your different examples of inspiration. I think an important and often-overlooked piece of creation is that to make something you must have experience things first . All of your examples above stand true to this and especially the example of Will Wright shows that excellent games can be found in the obscure readings and other places that we will only find if we allow ourselves the time to explore. I would be interested to know where you yourself draw inspiration from and how it manifests itself in your games.

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