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Coping with Comparison

One inevitable contribution to mid-development despair is being faced with the similarities between your game and others in the same genre. Here are some things I keep in mind when my shiny new idea starts to feel redundant.

Sometimes, you are your own worst enemy. It’s easy to love your game when it’s still a fresh-faced newborn idea, but as it evolves into an awkward adolescent prototype, the tender feelings may slip away. And that can lead to panic, or wondering if you should just quit. We can destroy ourselves by giving up before our game is even fully formed.

One inevitable contribution to mid-development despair is being faced with the similarities between your game and others in the same genre. Such comparisons are inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing. Being able to pitch your game as “It’s X meets Y” gives people an instant reference point for understanding what you’re trying to accomplish.

But there are two scenarios which can make you hesitate. The first is when a very similar game is announced (or worse, released) while you are creating yours. You can easily drive yourself crazy trying to imagine all the possible outcomes. The other game might have more funding, a bigger development team, or more press. Even if it doesn’t, you can’t help but worry about how people will compare the two.

Or maybe the problem is your friends. People like to connect their thoughts, and they often respond with references to other things during conversation. They probably don’t mean to throw you off your pitch, but it can be frustrating hearing how awesome this other game is, when in your mind yours will be much different.

So how do you cope with being compared? Here are some things I keep in mind when my shiny new idea starts to feel redundant.

You still love your game.

If you and your game were floating alone in sensory deprivation room, with your memory wiped of all knowledge of other games, would you still love it? If yes, then you should relax a little. If you feel good about your creation, no matter what other people say or think of it, you’ll stay proud and confident.

Have a champion.

Find someone that will support you with positive feedback. Sometimes this person is an alpha reader or a loved one. That doesn’t mean they never criticize you, but you need someone that will fight you when you’re thinking of giving up. It’s easier to keep going if you know at least one person is looking forward to playing it!

Comparison is a compliment.

Your idea was so good that other people are riding the same wavelengths. They are even suggesting your game is similar to some of their favorite games. Look on the bright side, because that means people are interested in this space!

Players consume faster than we create.

In general, what takes months or years for the development team only takes a few hours or days for most players. That should give you a huge amount of comfort, because players that like a certain style or gameplay will be looking for something new to enjoy when they finish their other favorites, and they might choose yours because of the similarities.

Think of it as a marketing challenge.

Why is your game so different than these others? Respond out loud (preferably while alone, the first few times). If you fumble your words for fifteen minutes, that might be a wake up call that you wouldn’t have an eloquent response in an interview or pitch video. This is an opportunity to be prepared for the questions people might ask you. Having a simple response that doesn’t come across as defensive or derogatory is always impressive to players and other developers.

Why do you care?

In many cases, what it boils down to is being more concerned with what others think over what you think. It’s normal to worry about your audience, how the game will be marketed, or what people might complain about. But if you compare these worries to the benefits of getting your game done, you’ll find they just don’t measure up. You started this game for a reason, whether it be to express a passionate idea, make something that you always wanted to play, or learn new skills.

Don’t let the fear of what may happen get in the way of finishing what you started.

 

This article was reposted from my game design and writing blog "Miko Writes Miko Games". You can learn more about my indie game development at http://www.prettysmartgames.com or follow me @Evaliation on twitter.

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