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The benefits of playing games as "research"

How "research time" playing games actually helped me out a lot with Cafe Murder

I love playing games, and have spent many late nights- and even entire days- playing them, but now that I'm trying to start a game development studio and make them full-time, I probably shouldn't sit around playing games too much any more.

I often can't resist, however, and end up squeezing in some time to play games here and there (sometimes for a few hours too long), jokingly calling it "research" to write it off or explain it away to others.

A lot of it really is just for fun and stress relief, but I think some parts are useful to me as a game developer, and it's not too far off the mark to call it "research."

Take Harvest Moon: Animal Parade for the Wii. I played this for the first few months of Cafe Murder development, right after our Kickstarter project (I'm the artist and designer for Cafe Murder, just so you know).

Now, I love Harvest Moon games, and this one was a real delight to play. Eventually (after way too many hours) I did start to grow bored with some of the flaws and never actually finished, but you can see HM:Animal Parade's direct influence on Cafe Murder.

For example, it was a joy in HM: Animal Parade to try to find villagers' favorite gifts, and then to see the hearts explode out of their head upon reception. I had that in mind when I created the heart burst animation in Cafe Murder when you serve a customer a perfect sandwich, and the Customer Feedback screen was also inspired by the heart ratings menu in HM: Animal Parade.

Other games I've been playing, like Skyrim, don't have any clear connection to Cafe Murder. But, they've given me plenty of ideas for future games, and I think it's helpful to play currently popular games to get a sense of what's "out there" right now.

So, to all you indie game devs out there- don't feel bad about taking off a few hours for good old fashioned research! It might just pay off with a creative breakthrough.

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