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All of us have fond memories of olden days, when now-famed developers were small-time companies that delivered the first innovative games. Since then, those companies have grown into monolithic power-houses that manage to rake in millions of dollars every year... yet there has been a lack of consistent innovation in the video game industry for quite some time, and the cry for a new experience is ever heard. The following article will examine what exactly it means to have talent in the first place, and whether it can actually ''run out'' as many gamers have been led to believe.
Throughout my life, I've always been under the impression that all of us have our own God-given talents, and that no matter what sort of career we pursue, we'll always have a prescribed natural ability that we ought to hone - whether it be in the realm of writing, art, public speaking, music, film or game design. But in the years following my decision to become a game designer (which was in 2008), the gaming industry started to change my perception of what talent really is, and worse yet, I began to think that my own talent was slowly fading away. I wondered what could possibly be wrong with me; I even considered giving up game design and pursing some other form of story-telling. As time went by, I starting seeking some help from other talented people by means of reading popular quotes. One day, I came across one that struck fear in my heart because I had firsthand experience in what it was talking about.
''Don't show off every day, or you'll stop surprising people. There must always be some novelty left over. The person who displays a little more of it each day keeps up expectations, and no one ever discovers the limits of his talent." - Baltasar Gracian
The guy who came up with that notion may not have been talking about video games, but nevertheless his quote stopped sounding inspirational at the ''limits of talent'' part, because for months I had been feeling drained of anything new to show for my work; and the pressure of always delivering something better can also get to someone. So I was asking myself, is there really an end to someone's natural abilities? Are we all doomed to someday run out of creative juices and live the rest of our lives as uncreative vegetables? Is it really the best strategy to save your greatest ideas for later?
After a long while of feeling creatively blocked, my friend Leonardo Da Vinci gave me a new perspective: ''Life is pretty simple,'' he said, ''You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.''
It was then that I made up my mind: My real problem wasn't a lack of story-line add-ons; it was a lack of unique base story-lines! I was too busy working on the plots that had been conceptualized months (and even years) before that I had completely forgotten about making something totally new. ''I've just been being lazy all this time,'' I thought, ''I should have been creating back-up story-lines the whole time I've had a talent for story-telling! Now my talent is going to waste!'' So I suddenly picked up a daily routine of sitting at my desk every morning, brainstorm for plot-twists or whatever story-lines popped in my head, and then writing down each one of them. Hey, I was only 12 years old; I thought it was good exercise. ''This is why my talent has been so sleepy; I haven't been working my brain enough!''
Or so I thought....
Over about a month, I had even less to show before I had started my new, ''creative'' endeavor than way back when I had been ''lazy'' and just spent all my time waiting for an idea to come naturally. ''What went wrong?'' I thought, ''Shouldn't I be even better at story-writing now?'' All my work was of the lamest quality; it all looked like stuff that someone had thought up after eating breakfast and brainstorming out of his mind for an hour. I was absolutely discouraged, to say the least. My creative juices had run completely dry, my talent... gone. ''This is it,'' I thought, ''My original work is my best work; I just can't make anything of the same quality.''
The following days were boring, let me tell you. Free-time was spent playing games and watching Lost. In case you haven't heard of that TV show, it follows the events following a plane-crash on a mysterious (and I mean really mysterious) island. The story is chock full of plot-twists, complex characters with troubled pasts, and ongoing exploration of the island's secrets (if you haven't watched it, you need to). Around this time, I started getting new ideas for story-lines and gameplay elements. I'd go to my desk more often than usual and pour out never-ending novel ideas for gameplay mechanics, enemy types, level designs, and characters. It was as if Lost had turned my brain back on without actually giving me anything to work on.
The pains of this process I went through could have been saved, if only I had understood one concept, the fuel of everyone's creative talent: inspiration.
You can't come up with quality through random, deliberate conception. All art starts out as a vision; you'll know for sure that the vision is perfect because you'll never have to take away from it. This sorta goes with the saying, ''You'll never need to revise something you woke up in the middle of the night to write.'' Quality isn't something that just blasts into existence through very hard thinking.
Just seeing something unique can make your own brain think competitively against itself, making you better yourself through open-mindedness, which is born from seeing others' original, diverse ideas at work around you. Any writer, musician, or artist will tell you what they spend their downtime doing, and it's being inspired by other people's work. This thing called inspiration drives ideas and helps them develop. A person in a box can't innovate because he isn't exposed to anything new; you must bring yourself out of the box to even understand innovation, otherwise it's as foreign as another language. And this is the problem I see in the video game industry today.
Most of us gamers can testify that the majority of game developers start with copying other people's work, instead of making something good enough for someone else to copy; but what could be the cause of that? Surely there isn't a shortage of talent in the industry. We've seen the same big companies craft genre-defining franchises before; why can't they do it again? Could it be that their creative talent has run out? Or is it a lack of inspiration?
I lean toward the latter. This industry is the most sterilized of any medium in America. Even the music industry goes through crazy changes all the time. But I blame the lack of innovation in video games on the ever-growing need to compete with someone else's idea; everything's just a matter of adding to a long-established formula. Game developers don't take chances with creative gameplay or story-lines because they don't see anybody else doing it around them; they have a lack of inspiration just like I did.
Now, I don't have a fix for the business side of a multi-billion dollar industry; the problems businessmen create for themselves stem from two things: an exaggerated love of money, and/or a lack of creativity. That's not something I'd really like to get into. But the most important thing a young person can do if he or she wants to change a medium is get used to honing his or her talent, and by ''hone it'' I mean ''understand it.'' All skill starts with knowledge, and all knowledge is used to complement a natural talent. If you can get past that, you've taken a first step in the direction of mastering your talent.
This marks the end of my essay, and I hope it was able to edify you as it edified me when I came to understand it (... even if it was a little late). Thanks for reading.