Inspiration is a tool that I believe all designers use and is inherently in every game designed. Just take a look at the website www.whoinspired.com. 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.
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.