What would a creative brief for a video game look like?

Hecker sees three main routes popular culture can travel, and games are in grave danger of ending up on the wrong one, the consequences of which could put the medium permanently in the cultural doghouse, rather than in the vaunted halls of cultural relevance.” – Chris Remo in the recent Gamasutra article: IGDA Forum: Asking ‘Why’ Will Keep Games Out Of The Ghetto, Says Hecker

Judging from the comments on Remo’s article and some discussions with industry professionals, (yeah, just Gary actually), there’s some debate about what exactly the “cultural doghouse” is, if it’s really that bad, and if you can even compare video games to any other popular culture medium. I’m going to ignore all of this for the time being and get straight to the “why”.

We know about “why” in advertising. We know allllllll about “why”. “Why is the logo over there?” “Why bother targeting women?” “Why don’t we have any black people in this ad?” When we do manage to make something that seems purely entertaining, there’s still a “why” behind it. In fact, those are the most important “why”s of all.

Yeah that's right, we make games too. Games with "why"s. What.

Yeah that's right, we make games too. Games with "why"s. What.

In order to answer all of these “whys”, we put together a handy piece of paper called a creative brief. They usually look something like this:

A half-assed example of an advertising creative brief that I put togther in 5 minutes just for this blog. Sorry I don't actually have any bacon popsicles.

A half-assed example of an advertising creative brief that I put togther in 5 minutes just for this blog. Sorry I don't actually have any bacon popsicles.

This brief goes to the creative department, and we use it as a starting point to come up with a fabulous advertising concept. (That’s the intent anyway.)

I'm not saying that stereotypical gamers aren't a worthy target audience. Just that "cultural relevance" would keel over and die if it saw this kid.

I'm not saying that stereotypical gamers aren't a worthy target audience. Just that "cultural relevance" would keel over and die if it saw this kid.

Games generally do the whole thing backwards. First someone comes up with a concept, then it’s executed, and many months and millions of dollars later, the target audience is finally considered. This has not been an issue up until now because there has only been one target audience, and they’ve wanted the same thing for thirty years. But in order to expand into the area of “cultural relevance”, some things are gonna have to change.

I think they’ve already started. Social games are reaching people who would never consider buying a console. Franchises like Fable are exploring levels of emotional involvement well beyond the typical “Holy crap I just exploded that guy!!!1!” For at least a decade, games like Final Fantasy VII have occasionally come out with a level of character and plot development that can bring a tear to the eye. And it’s easy to argue that with the advent of Bioshock, games have reached a level that the film industry was at with Metropolis. But they have yet to produce a Gone with the Wind.

Advertising creative briefs (good ones anyway,) are an extremely effective starting point for a successful, relevant project. A brief for a video game should be the same thing. But what questions would it ask? What challenges would it address? Some developers like EA and Media Molecule use documents like this already – what do they look like? And most importantly, how would it inspire the team to make something better than the last game they shipped?

Gary and I have talked this over and we’re still thinking. We’d love to see a mock-up and we might even put one together ourselves. In the meantime, I wanna hear your thoughts on this. Go on, the comments section is right there.

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3 Comments

  1. Mystery Developer
    Posted November 21, 2009 at 00:55 | Permalink

    If only we were that organised!

  2. keivon
    Posted November 30, 2009 at 18:15 | Permalink
  3. Posted November 30, 2009 at 22:48 | Permalink

    Keivon I don’t even want to know how you came acro – ahem. Found that.

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