Maybe you have thought up a really neat and unique idea for a video game and you are thinking “If I can just get in touch with the right people I can sell it and make a lot of money. And I get to see my idea turned into a game that people will play”.
Well, that may be true, and it is possible to do but, to be honest, it is very unlikely. Developing a video game takes a lot of work. A typical game for today’s mass market takes a team of people two years and thousands of hours of work to create. There is a tremendous amount of work involved and much of this work is very creative which can be expensive.
Maybe all of that is a bit discouraging and if you really think you have an idea that is unique there are some things you can do and I will explain the steps and processes you can take to move your idea for a game out of the world of fantasy into the world of possibility.
The big obstacle to getting your idea made into a game is the question of who is going to do all that work? It is an important question. A group of people have to believe in the idea and have to do the work to take it from idea to reality, and generally you have to rely on yourself. If you believe in your idea you need to be the person that will spearhead the work and get it from idea to reality. If you can do this, and if your game is unique and different the rewards can be astonishing.
Three Possible Paths to Success
There are three possible ways to get a game made from your idea:
Get in touch with a heavy hitter in the game making industry and convince him or her that your game is worthwhile. He or she will then set the wheels in motion for your idea to be bought and developed. (This is highly unlikely although it has happened on rare occasions) Companies will occasionally buy video game ideas and keep them for future potential projects.
Get in touch with independent developers with game design skills and get them to come on board with your idea. You have the ability to allow them to patch together their time in developing your game. Gamedev.net is a good place to network and find people for this endeavor.
Spearhead the development yourself. Learn some basic game making skills and put together a group of people willing to spend time (and money) on your game. You become the evangelist for the game and the Project Manager. (This is the best option if you want to succeed and it answers the question of who is going to do all the work – You!)
Protecting your Idea
You probably have questions about your idea and how to protect it from being stolen. Well, I guess this is a possibility and maybe it has happened but it is unlikely. It goes back to the fact that it takes thousands of hours to take a game from idea to actual game and the number of unique ideas is relatively unlimited but here are some things you can do to get started in protecting yourself.
The Problem of Copyrighting Ideas
Ideas cannot be copyrighted! It sounds funny but it’s true. You can research this on the official government copyright website. So, just having an idea means you have very little. If you draw pictures of your game and hopefully develop your idea into a game you can get copyright for those things. In any case here is some help with protecting yourself.
Send yourself a letter!
Put together an exhaustive package of materials about your idea. Include a summary, pictures, drawings and anything else that will describe your idea then seal it in an envelope and mail it to yourself registered mail. When you receive it you sign for it but do not open it. Leave it sealed. This gives you an amount of legal protection that establishes a time line for your idea.
NDA’s (Non Disclosure Agreements)
A Non disclosure agreement is a legal contract between two parties. In this case it is between you and the person you want to reveal your idea to. It can be a useful tool that will help you protect your rights. Generally it outlines the confidentiality of your idea and prohibits the other party from using the idea. If you are serious about your idea you should do some research on NDA’s and even speak with a lawyer about them. Outside of the United States these agreements are often referred to as Confidentiality Agreements and sometimes they are referred to as Secrecy agreements or Confidential Disclosures (CD’s).
Okay let’s get started with something solid you can do
No matter which of the three paths you want to travel down there are some things that you can do to get your idea rolling on its path toward becoming a real video game.
1. Write out a very extensive overview of the game. Make it as detailed as possible. And put this in the package you mail to yourself!
2. Draw up pictures and artwork of game scenes, characters, maps and anything else that is unique about the game. In effect you are creating a library of images in the game. Put this in your package too!
3. Write up an executive summary – This is a one or two page summary of the game idea and it outlines the things that make it unique. This is your introduction to people in the gaming industry and it is the first thing you can give them so they get a grasp of your idea (of course you would get an NDA first!)
4. Start your research into the game industry. Hang around forums where developers and game makers chat and start learning about what it takes to make a game. You can make some good contacts and there are hordes of people willing to give you solid advice and some help with your dream. gamedev.net is a great place to start
5. Start learning how to make a video game! It is totally possible for a person with average computer skills to develop a single level of a game or a portion of a game. This can be used as a calling card and example for what the game would be about.
If you want to follow step number five and learn how to make your own game there are lots of resources available that will help you learn how to do it relatively inexpensively. With lots of perseverance you can even create the whole game yourself and have it ready for sale.
The Paragraph you might not want to read
Okay, after going through all of that I am glad to see you are still with me. But, if you are thinking all of this stuff about NDA’s, sending letters, writing up summaries and putting together packages just seems like too much work then you can see my point about making a video game from your idea. It takes a lot of work and if you are not going to do the work why should somebody else? If you really think your idea is a great one then I recommend you find the time and the motivation to make it happen! Nothing worthwhile is ever easy and hey it is totally possible that your idea can someday be an actual game. Every game ever made first started out as just an idea.