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Where does the gaming industry get its inspiration?

One of the most difficult questions for any creative person to answer is “where do you get your ideas from?” It’s also one of the most valuable ones to ask. Technical skills can be learnt, and hard effort certainly needs to be repeatedly applied, but for any form of art or entertainment, from video games to books and movies, you need to start out with a good idea, and they can be the hardest things to find.


Other mediums

Like any industry, especially any industry worth many millions of dollars, the gaming industry is rapacious when it comes to ideas. It will take them anywhere it can find them, borrowing freely and openly stealing if necessary. And while individual games designers may draw on a multitude of sources, including their own real life and those serendipitous moments of inspiration that randomly strike while driving down the freeway, most often they will look to other mediums for inspiration.


Screen to screen

Books, comics, TV shows and most of all films have all repeatedly provided inspiration for video games. Sometimes that’s just about imitating a successful product in other media and hoping that some of the same success will rub off, but just as often it’s about seeing potential in the core idea and how that could translate to a great gaming experience. And while a sequence or an idea that works well on the printed page won’t always work as a game, film and gaming are increasingly intertwined and similar, so that most things that work well on the big screen, especially within game-friendly genres, will also work well on the smaller screen of a console or PC.


Hollywood genre

Video games often take place in recognizable Hollywood genres, and although those genres, like horror and science fiction, may have originated in literature, games are much more likely to take their cue from films in terms of visuals, pacing and so forth. The two are closely related, and the most sophisticated contemporary games are essentially movies in which the viewer is also the star and to some extent a co-writer, while elements like characterization and emotional depth are increasingly coming to the fore.

While some games are directly based on particular films, others are more loosely inspired. The debt that the Tomb Raider series owes to Raiders of The Lost Ark is obvious and Lara Croft’s adventures have in turn inspired a whole genre of archaeological adventure games, like Uncharted and Prince Of Persia. Science fiction blockbusters from Star Wars to Alien to The Matrix have inspired untold games, while the hugely successful Grand Theft Auto series is only the most prominent example of the gangster / crime game genre that constantly refers to the tropes of films like Scarface and The Godfather.

L.A. Noire was a blatant homage to the film noir genre of the 40s and 50s, and its makers cited The Naked City, The Asphalt Jungle, The Third Man and The Sweet Smell Of Success as influences, as well as the work of writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M Cain and James Elroy, all of whom have also supplied Hollywood with rich source material. Significantly, L.A. Noire was the first videogame to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.


Drawing from life

Some of the most popular video games are simply online versions of popular casino and table games like poker, blackjack and roulette. Slot machines are also just as popular online as in casinos and arcades, and these often have imaginative themes based around blockbuster movies like the Avengers franchise. Exploring live casino websites you’ll find games based around almost every themes you can imagine, from comic books to history, fantasy and real-life events.

History is another rich source of inspiration, especially for war games like Call of Duty and Company of Heroes. The Brothers In Arms series prides itself on historical accuracy, with the first in the series, Road To Hill 30, drawing on the actual experiences of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, who were dropped behind enemy lines on D-Day. Meanwhile, Velvet Assassin is based on the exploits of real-life anti-Nazi saboteur Violette Szabo.


Fantasy games

In the world of literature the fantasy genre has inspired many games, with The Lord Of The Rings being a perennial source even before Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations. The Witcher games are based on a popular Polish fantasy saga written by Andrzej Sapkowski, and unfolding over five books plus a prequel, written in 2013 six years after the first Witcher game came out.

The worlds of gaming, films, literature and even real life will continue to mix and influence each other, as the continuing trend for film adaptations of games proves. Ultimately, such cross-fertilization must work to the benefit of all.

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