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September, 2004

NOTE: these lessons are primarily aimed at aspiring game designers, but many of the concepts described herein also apply to those who aspire to other types of jobs in the game industry. This lesson is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.

I got another of those calls this week. You know, some guy has a game idea and he finds my website and he calls me. I found his message on my machine when I got home. I guess he was on a cell phone or something. It was very difficult to understand all his words. But in essence, I gather that he was saying something like this:

I was able to retrieve his number from Caller ID but I didn't call him back - it's long distance! And long distance money doesn't just grow on the plant on my balcony. I briefly considered calling him just so I could turn the call into an article. Then I decided to just write the article anyway. Maybe he'll read this. Maybe this article will discourage other idea men from calling me.

As I went through my day, I mentally planned out how the conversation would go if I did wind up speaking with him. All ye non-professionals who want to call me, take note! This is what you can expect if you call me about your game idea.

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Then I'd firmly but gently get him off the phone. I would want to just hang up, but I hate being impolite. But the guy obviously didn't read (or if he did read, he didn't comprehend) my articles here on this site.

So that's how the conversation will go the next time I get one of these calls. You see, each time I get one of these, I learn something more about how to get to the bottom line more quickly, while still behaving in a professional manner. I don't want to start off with "Okay, so you have an idea - do you have money too?" - That would be rude and greedy-sounding. All I really need to determine (as quickly as possible upon receiving such a call) is whether this is a genuine business call from someone who understands business, or just another "Idea Man" hoping to get me to work for nothing - or even to get me to pay for developing his idea for him.

So if you've got an idea and you want to hire me to help you develop it, be prepared with the following before you call me:

Do not call me unless you have those three things... and one more thing as well:

Make a checklist of the above four items. Put a checkmark beside each one that seems reasonably taken care of. Don't call me to ask me how to do steps 1, 2, or 3 "properly," or to ask me if you fit the bill for step 4 or not. If you think you've taken care of 1, 2, and 3 as well as you can, you probably have. If you have doubts that you fit #4 or not, you probably don't. If you don't have checkmarks on the four items, and you have questions, email them to me - do not phone me. Your answers will be given on the Q&A Bulletin Board.

I'm sorry if you are an ordinary guy with a "spectacular" idea for a video game or computer game. I have already written my advice as to what you should do. If you are young enough to go to college, go to college (see Lesson 25) and get into the game biz (Lesson 4, Lesson 24), and Lesson 27). If you are already in a non-videogame career, then switch to the video game biz (see Lesson 41). Another option is to form an indy game endeavor with volunteer amateur help (see Lesson 16).

Street Corner Joes cannot just come up with a game idea and sell it and get rich. Get real! If it was that easy, I would be snorkeling every day behind my beach house in Hawaii, and I'd have a gorgeous young thing living with me (and she'd be wishing I would hurry up and die so she could inherit all my easy money)! Read my articles. It's all there. If there's anything missing, email me and your question (and my response) will appear on the Q&A Bulletin Board. I even have advice for those who choose to ignore my advice! See Lesson 21. Don't call me with your game ideas - what do you expect me to do, change the world?

My services are available to professionals who are prepared to hire me to write or analyze game designs, produce games, train personnel, troubleshoot projects, or help with acquisitions. I'm not an agent - I won't pitch your game or your development services to publishers (that's not what I do). I don't work for free, I don't work on spec, and I certainly don't fund games. If you don't know what "on spec" means, see Lesson 28.

I also don't review amateur game designs. Don't even send'em to me, I'll delete them or send'em right back unopened. What does the amateur want from me anyway - to say, "Hey, this is really great!" - is that it? OK, if I say that, then what? Then you think you have a better shot at selling it than the next guy? Lesson 1 and Lesson 11 still hold. It doesn't matter if you have "The Ultimate Idea" (Lesson 31).

Or worse, what if I read it and I think it sucks (or is just ho-hum) - then what am I supposed to say to you? No, thanks. When a professional game developer asks me to review a design, I provide detailed feedback... for pay. If you're not a professional in the industry, please. Don't even ask. My professional services are for professionals.

Well. This has been a satisfying rant, but I'm not deluding myself. I'm sure there will be more Idea Men who will call me, whether or not they've read this.

Oh - if there are any publishers reading this, I have some great game ideas - or better, I can come up with one that perfectly fills the bill for your particular needs...!

Got a question about this lesson? No need to raise your hand -- just click here to go to the bulletin board. You'll get answers!

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© 2004 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.