So, last week was Let’s Make Games 2012 edition of What’s Up Pitches?! over at Spacecubed. WUP is an evening of lightning talks where members of the community have 3 minutes to pitch their game-related ideas to their peers. The event is fully free to attend and to participate and we also had a live stream of the presenters broadcast over the internet.
I was personally on the organising committee and in the buildup to the event, we received quite a few questions from people afraid that their ideas might be stolen if they decided to pitch. After all, if you’ve watched the movie The Social Network, the threat of stolen ideas and millions of dollars of potential loss is probably enough to make most people cringe at the idea of willingly and freely sharing their ideas with members of the public without a single Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in sight.
Now, before I go any further, I would like to state that this post reflects my opinion only and not that of Let’s Make Games as an organisation. I am also no lawyer, nor am I a serial entrepreneur with dozens of startups behind me or am I swimming in money from my ideas. I only have my own experience and that which has been shared with me but I hope to share it with you so that we both may know a little more about the topic. I have however been a graphic designer for 4 years now, worked at a games company for 2, launched my own iOS game with some friends and partners, been involved with quite a number of other creative projects and frequently read a lot of articles on game design, creativity, inspiration and productivity.
So now that I have my disclaimer out of the way, here’s a few reasons why I think you should be sharing your ideas a lot more freely than you might originally think:
1. Some ideas benefit more from being out in the open than staying in your mind. This is true for ideas that may require a critical mass to happen. That can be anything from getting people excited about a starting a new game, a games appreciation club or organising large-scale events. Some of these ideas may only live in the right ecosystem and letting people in on the idea may be the only way to start that ecosystem. I do think though that you should develop your idea a bit before throwing it out to the lions. An idea shared too early might end up with just confused looks while one shared at the right time should end up giving you a lot clearer perception of what people actually want or would be willing to do, thereby possibly saving you lots of time and energy.
2. Copyright does not protect your idea. You can only ever copyright the form of an idea, not the idea itself. What it really comes down to is the implementation of that idea. Facebook, Google+, mySpace, etc.. are all social networks, but they are also quite distinct in their own ways, possessing slightly different appeals and features. It’s more about the details and the philosophy behind the supporting ideas that surround your core one. You don’t have to give away all your implementation of your ideas in your pitches, you just need to give enough away that you might gauge people’s interest about specific parts. An interesting read semi-related to the idea of success being in the details can be found from iOS pictionary game Depict’s Post-Mortem where they also mention Charadium (another pictionary-style game) and keeping in mind the millions of dollars offered to OMGPop for Draw Something.
3. Creative development is 1% inspiration and 99% hard work! While you may think that this one idea you have is worth millions of dollars, it is worth nothing until you act on it. If you don’t have the drive to see your idea through then it does not really matter. Tim Colwill mentioned recently at our Indie Games Marketing Course that you will usually reap way more benefits in terms of exposure and feedback by letting people contribute in the early stages of development. You just have to be confident that it was your idea to start with and that you possess the vision to drive it to success better than someone else who might attempt to copy your idea. What you do with that 99% is really what will shape your idea to success, not the original 1%.
4. If you keep all your ideas to yourself, you’re slowly draining your stash of ideas. We all have a certain amount of ideas in our heads and sometimes we need to find some new inspiration from somewhere. If you don’t share your ideas and thoughts with other people, you are missing out on other people sharing their stash of ideas with you. You’ll be surprised at how many people will in fact be very happy to help you achieve your vision. Jay Wilson (Director of Diablo 3) had an interesting article recently describing how he viewed the designer’s role with respect to the team’s contribution.
5. Sharing ideas makes you accountable for them. As described in this article in the 99%, sharing your ideas may force you to take responsibility for them. To own them and refine them when people will inevitably find the flaws and drawbacks.
To close off this post, I will add that as with all philosophies, there is a reverse side of the coin. Not every idea should be shared with everyone. If your idea is very simple and easily replicated, you should get a headstart before pitching your idea to people. If you already have a strong internal team bouncing ideas around, you may not need outside opinions until your product is a bit more developed. Each project may be worth pitching at different stages of development, it’s up to your wisdom and experience to know when is a good time for a particular project.
Feel free to leave some comments if you agree or disagree :)
Timelapse made for the guys over at Let’s Make Games using a canon 400D. Good fun :) I’ll probably be doing more of these.