The Design Ethics of Repeated Ideas

I have a lot of ideas for games and have had them backed up for some time. Recently three (count ’em) games, woefully similar – even almost identical – to three of these concepts I was keen to work on next have come out or been rumoured to be in the works.

1. Barbarians of Lemuria – While the system style and focus is different, I have had a barbarian game taking cues from violent video gaming and Wolfskin as well as the ‘lost continent’ motif brewing for a while.

2. GMS’ Far West is almost identical to an idea I had and have part developed called Wild East (the concepts and tone are that close). I think he’s giving it a more ‘straight’ tone than what I’d be going for, which would be more showy and concentrate more on a Japanese aesthetic but the ideas seem to be practically identical.

3. 7th Circle are going to be producing a mythic India game of some sort. Something I’ve wanted to do for aaaaages. I think they’re less likely to take such an OTT style cue as me, I was probably going to use an existing superheroic rules set for my game and was going to create more of a fantasy world for the game to exist in, but still…

This is a very aggravating situation and enough to make one don a tin foil hat so the international gaming conspiracy can’t ‘steal’ any more of my ideas, but it presents something of an ethical problem. What do you think I should do? Pursue these ideas anyway and weather the storm of accusations of plagiarism, the competition with other companies and the bad blood resulting from misunderstandings, abandon these ideas or bump them to the bottom of the queue to be replaced by other project ideas I have that I’m less keen on?

3 responses to “The Design Ethics of Repeated Ideas

  1. Reading about WW’s new game Geist made me put on the tinfoil hat. Some of the details are downright identical to what I’ve been working on for the past year.
    I hope the games are different enough to allow me to avoid plagiarism accusations.

  2. Sadly happens all the time.
    I had an idea for a game where you play cats called ‘Night’s Eye’ which I worked on but never finished many years ago.
    Then John Wick does ‘Cat’
    Interestingly, when I mentioned this to him he told me he always wanted to do a fantasy game where evil won and so was just as annoyed when Midnight appeared.
    Happens to us all, the moral is get your idea out first! 🙂
    Mind you, some things can duplicate quite well.
    We’re still doing an India book for Victoriana for instance.
    After all, there are few mainstream rpgs based on completly original ideas. You could argue White Wolf has been its most successful rehashing standard cliches (vampire, werewolf etc).

  3. The problem, I think, is that when the time is right for a particular idea, a number of creative people will realise this and come up with the same idea at the same time. Maybe that’s what inspiration is, but people do pick up the same ideas when they’re on the wind.
    The trick is to do it first, or, failing that, to do it best. Though both, of course, would be preferable.

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