Computer Games And Creative Inspiration

Correction - for "twenty minutes", read "probably more than twenty minutes"...

Correction – for “twenty minutes”, read “probably more than twenty minutes”…

Computer and video games often get a bad press when it comes to creative work (and work in general). After all, they’re often seen as a tool of procrastination and distraction, rather than something that can help us to be more productive.

But, I’d argue that they can be one of the most overlooked sources of creative inspiration out there for a number of reasons. Here are three of those reasons:

1) Mindful distraction: Let’s face it, uninspiration can be one of the most frustrating things in the world. Whether it’s writer’s block or artist’s block, there is nothing more annoying than wanting to write something or draw something, only to find that you have no ideas whatsoever.

Of course, the more you sit there and try to think of a creative idea, the further out of reach any good ideas tend to become. Feeling frustrated about your creative work is one of the quickest ways to shut off the possibility of feeling inspired.

So, you need to distract yourself from your feelings of frustration about your writing or art for a while. But, if you’ve ever felt frustrated, then you’ll know that it isn’t something that you can just not think about. No, getting rid of creative frustration usually requires getting frustrated about something else – and this is where computer games come in.

Playing a fiendishly difficult, but fair, computer game can be a great way to redirect your feelings of frustration away from your creative work and turn them into something far more enjoyable.

Choose a game in a genre that you enjoy and crank the difficultly settings up as high as they will go (for me, this might include be playing “Left4Dead 2” on ‘expert’ difficulty, or playing “Doom” on ‘nightmare’ difficulty whilst using only the traditional keyboard-only controls), then see how far you can get. You will fail repeatedly, but you will also know that you can succeed if you use the right techniques and tactics – after all, no-one intentionally makes unwinnable games.

At the very least, this will make you frustrated about the game that you’re playing, rather than about your creative work (putting you in a slightly better frame of mind to feel inspired). But, more likely, it will either be a slightly meditative experience that will allow you to think about your creative work in a slightly more calm way or it will put you into more of a “puzzle-solving” state of mind, which can be useful for solving any creative “puzzles” that you might also be dealing with.

2) You’ll want to make one: If you play enough computer and video games, then you will eventually want to make one of your own. But if, like me, you’re almost allergic to programming and if the idea of spending months or even years on a single creative project sends shivers down your spine, then it’s likely that your ideas for computer and video games will be nothing more than idle daydreams.

However, as you’ve probably already guessed, idle daydreams can be a great source of creative inspiration. Yes, you might not be able to make a computer game – but you can take the basic idea (eg: the story, settings, characters etc…) you had for that computer game and turn it into something else, such as a short story, a comic or a piece of art. Although this isn’t always the most reliable source of inspiration, it can be a surprisingly powerful one.

For example, both the zombie-based horror comic that I posted on here late last month/early this month and the zombie-based art series I posted here a couple of weeks before that were heavily inspired by an idea for a computer game that I’d had a couple of weeks earlier. I’d been daydreaming about this game repeatedly for weeks until eventually, I thought “I’m never going to be able to make this game, so I might as well cut my losses and turn it into a few pieces of art and a comic.

Because I’d also been daydreaming about this idea for such a long time, it was really easy to turn it into other things. But, of course, you’re not going to be able to think of interesting ideas for computer games unless you’ve already played quite a few of them….

3) Modding: One of the great things about computer games is that, if a game has been around for long enough, then some of it’s players will have probably made their own modifications (or “mods”) to the game.

Most of the time, these modifications are released online, so that other players can enjoy them too. And, yes, you’d be surprised at how changing something relatively small about a game can have such an effect on the experience of playing the game as a whole.

Unfortunately, this idea of “modding” doesn’t really exist to anywhere near the same extent in other creative mediums. There are a whole host of reasons for this but, don’t worry, you can still do something similar in order to get into a more inspired frame of mind. You can write fan fiction, you can make fan art, you can make a parody of something – or, if you want to be more professional and imaginative, you can create something totally new that is inspired by the things that you love.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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