Chris Crawford is a game designer, interactive designer, who worked with Atari in the 80s. He has an extensive volume of essays/blog posts on his personal website. In it I found what I feel is some fantastic advice of Chris’. I’ve quoted part of it below; I hope you don’t mind Chris. The full article is available here.
The article is called The Education of a Game Designer. You could easily relate much of his advice to any creative field I think.
“Which brings me to the game projects you do in school. Your first project should be something conventional; your task is to get down all the basic mechanical tasks of building a working game. But your LAST project should be something unconventional. You need to think way outside of the box. This is the real test of your chops as a game designer. Most students fail this test; their idea of an unconventional design is a shooter with different guns, or a platform game with some cute twist. You need to get wild and crazy here. The best way to do this is to spend your first three years playing weird games. This is important: don’t waste your time playing games for fun. You don’t have time to waste entertaining yourself. You have to educate yourself about the huge galaxy of game design, and you won’t learn much by sticking close to the center of that galaxy. You need to explore the edges, the remote areas that few people visit. Every hour you waste playing a regular old game is an hour that could have been spent discovering a weird new idea about game design.
It won’t be fun. Any game that’s fun represents an idea that has already been figured out; there won’t be much room for you to improve on it. You want to look at broken games, games that don’t work, games with ideas that didn’t quite make it. You’ll learn more from ideas that almost worked than from ideas that already work. Prowl the dark corners of the web searching for the bearded ladies, the deformed monsters, the freaks and weirdos of game design. They’ll teach you more about game design than you could possibly learn from Halo XXVIII: the Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Successor of the Sidekick of Whomever It Was Who Started This Series.
Your senior year game will NOT be as much fun as the conventional games that your fellow students make. It doesn’t have to be; its purpose is not to make money but to impress studios. They see that conventional crap all the time; something truly different will make them sit up and take notice. So long as the game has an interesting idea that could be fun with some more polish, it serves its purpose.
Don’t waste time on the cosmetics: focus on the game mechanics. The important question is not “Does the game look good?” There are a million crappy games that look good; you want a game that does interesting things. If the I/O is pure text but the game does really neat things, then any idiot can look at it and see how to make it pretty. If, on the other hand, the game is beautiful but does boring things, then a prospective employer can’t see how to make it better.”
Featured image from here.