The creative process in the world of video games

The creative process in the world of video games

“ A mass of rock ceases to be a mass of rock the moment a single man contemplates it, imagining it inside as a cathedral. ”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Imagine a painting, any one. Now think about how, before becoming the work that we all know and admire, it was nothing more than a simple canvas. From there, shapes, colors and little by little all the concepts that make up a unique, perfect and unforgettable final result were created.

However, everything originates from a multifaceted and far too complex place to analyze, namely the human mind. In short, the painting in question would not exist without a highly articulated creative process, thanks to which the artist's thoughts find expression in something concrete and visible. These foundations will be influenced by many elements, part of all that more or less real imagery that makes up the life of an author: current events, other works of art, simple entertainment but also "normal" everyday life.

In the videogame world the scenario is exactly the same and indeed, if possible, it is even richer in details that are certainly worth analyzing. And what we want to do today is precisely this: in fact, we're going to dig into what the creative process is and what it means today, for a video game author. Let's start with a small step back in time, to the early 1980s…

Creativity and video games: the value of inspiration.

--> We are in a period of strong growth for the video game industry, with many large companies deciding to invest in a medium that is gradually creating an increasingly important identity. Brands like Atari, Nintendo, Taito and many others were becoming increasingly important for a market that was preparing to explode definitively.

In such a panorama there were many products available to the public, but there were still no real icons that would make the video game instantly recognizable all over the world. We are in March 1979 and, during a simple dinner with friends, the young Tōru Iwatani is seized by a sudden inspiration: observing a pizza from which a slice had been removed, the author is struck by how it looked like... a little being with a singular shape, which would soon become famous all over the world.

A year later the first Pac-Man was released, marketed in Japan under the name of Puckman – a Japanese term meaning “to close and open the mouth” – and immediately invested with the status of undisputed icon. The game will be a real revolution, the trace of which will remain forever imprinted in the history of this medium: can you think of the fact that the inspiration was born like this, in a completely fortuitous and casual way? In short, it was enough to go out to eat a pizza to change the history of entertainment forever.


Pac-Man (1980) It is clearly a more unique than rare case, and often things work in a very different way: the creative process is not unique, and each of us lives it and perceives differently. In any case, inspiration should not be underestimated, net of the thousands of factors that can influence it again and again.

An author will be directed towards one path rather than another on the basis of his own personal culture, cultivated day after day by all those passions that are part of life. A book can be a source of inspiration, just as a TV series, a film or a song can be: in this regard, a quick look at some of the big names in the sector can give us a clearer picture.

--> Tim Schafer, for example, is a great fan of great auteur cinema: a passion that he manages to convey within each of his products, and which appears evident not only in terms of quotations. Indeed, Grim Fandango has an appeal that refers to films such as Casablanca, The Mystery of the Falcon, The Third Man and Isle of Coral.

Among the major influences of Yoko Taro we find Neon Genesis Evangelion, Berserk and the works of Team ICO, which the creator of Nier loves to evoke in each of his works. Without forgetting Hideo Kojima, who manages to take full advantage of every single form of entertainment to create something always new, unique and unforgettable: from David Bowie to the aesthetics of Blade Runner, passing through the 007 films and the action films of the years Eighty, the thousand pieces that make up the culture of the father of Metal Gear are all fundamental. Precisely because everyone, in their own way, manages to give that extra something that can transform the normal into the extraordinary. Every single time.

Nier: Automata (2017) What makes these authors so exceptional is precisely their ability to transpose, in singular times and ways, these passions into a product capable of communicating and moving unique way. Giving that personal touch to your creation is the most suitable way to involve the end user, who will thus find himself immersed in a world that reflects all the sources of inspiration we have just talked about.

Such worlds come to life not only thanks to ideas of this type: it is not only the works of fiction or the various artistic expressions that condition the way an author acts, but also all the events that are part of of our existence and beyond. From the moments that have revolutionized history, to the purest and simplest everyday life.

Video games and the creative process: reality as a starting point.

What happens in every moment can, and from a certain point of view must, be a sort of inspiration. Think for a moment about all those events that occur every day in our lives or in those of others, and how these go to mark someone's existence in a more or less important way.

Going into a bar, having a coffee and witnessing an exchange? It is one of these moments. Turn on the TV, watch the news and find out about a conflict on the other side of the world? That matters too. Go for a run in the park and, completely unexpectedly, break your own record? Even this is such a moment.

I want to clarify one thing: with what is written I do not mean that we all have to create incredible art forms simply by living our lives, but that in some exceptional cases this can really happen. If we take for example the terrible attack on the Twin Towers of 11 September, we can see how this catastrophe has influenced the gaming industry, and not a little.

Metal Gear Solid 2 (2001) Metal Gear Solid 2 saw some sections modified shortly before its release, and in terms of impact the work is somehow even more impactful in its own right for what happened in New York. The underlying message of Kojima's title appears in fact much more direct, with a critique of contemporary society and its way of approaching and understanding the flow of information that characterizes it.

In any case, it is about something extreme which, fortunately, represents only the tip of the iceberg in what is today's world. In fact, inspiration can also be stimulated by something much simpler, such as what happens to us every day: The Sims, in this sense, is perhaps the most suitable example of all. We are in fact talking about a game that makes everyday life its distinctive element, as the player actually finds himself… Simulating everything that includes the simple existence of a human being.

School, work, relationships, growth and many other aspects of "normality" experienced (indeed, relived) within a video game. The idea behind Will Wright's project was incredibly basic and inspired by the life of each of us, but the end result is a legendary work that today has several dozen copies sold all over the world. The Sims is, on balance, the maximum expression of how ordinary reality can be a perfect starting point to create something extraordinary.

The Sims (2000) Another source of inspiration linked to something tangible is history, which for a whole series of reasons can influence the thousand aspects that make up any work by entertainment. And here too we find dozens and dozens of noteworthy cases: from titles such as the Assassin's Creed saga, Ryse: Son of Rome or the more recent Pentiment, set in past eras from which they inherit aesthetics and themes in a truly impressive way.

The attention to detail is here able to take the player back to a precise historical period, in which to immerse oneself and discover a world totally different from the one that represents the aforementioned everyday life. Products of this type are able to act on two fronts precisely for this reason: if on the one hand they entertain through a perfect playful component, on the other they can even act as an educational and training experience accompanying the (re)discovery of history.

Inspiration is therefore not always around the corner, but can come from practically anywhere and at any time. We have seen it in every art, from the classic ones to the more recent ones such as cinema, and in recent decades even the video game has transformed into the perfect medium for expressing ideas, concepts and sensations of a certain type. As always, it's nice to observe and admire the past, looking to the future with the awareness of not yet knowing what awaits us.

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