What Makes Your Game Special?

Let’s look at a log-line for our fictional video game: Jewel Fighters From Hell

“Jewel Fighters From Hell is a rogue-lite, RPG romp through the Zelda-inspired, retro-world of Quartz to rescue the Diamond prince from the mounting danger of a Demon Lord.”

What’s wrong with this? I mean, it’s not technically wrong. While it very generally tells me what gameplay might be like, it offers me nothing spectacular to latch onto. Describing your game as “rogue-lite” falls into the category of hundreds (if not thousands) of other games, while Zelda-inspired brings to mind, well, Zelda. The story bits provided drop me into a world I have no context for and thus have no emotional connection to. This description gives me nothing that sets the game out from others in its bracket.

Since you’re reading this, I would guess that you’re likely looking to make your game marketable for one reason or another – supporting yourself or your team on your passion project is the dream! Getting to the point where that is possible is the hard part. 

Starting the process of identifying the elements that make your game special as early as possible in your production pipeline will help assess your strengths, and maybe more importantly, your weaknesses. When you work forward with the mindset of “What makes my game special” you start to introduce new concepts, styles, and opportunities for improvement at a stage where it’s still executable. If you can’t answer this question, you know you’re headed into the valley of mediocrity. 

So, how would we go about discovering what exactly makes something special? Let’s tackle this step-by-step:

Step 1: Assess

  • It’s not enough in this day and age to do a good job. To get eyes on your project something about it needs to be great. Appealing. Mind-blowing even. Steam, alone, is climbing towards 100 launches per day (HAH HAH, yes, per day) so what is your wow-factor? There’s a lot of ways to approach this, but let’s tackle some of the more obvious avenues:
    • Art
      • This one is a no-brainer – does your game offer awe-inspiring visuals? Hand-drawn animation? Meticulous pixel-art? 
Nomada Studio used its beautiful, hand-drawn animation to elevate GRIS to a stand-out indie title at the end of 2018. Nearly every part of the game was ripe with evocative and social-media-shareable visual assets.

  • Music

  • Story
    • This one is a little harder since story points often can’t be broadcast before actually playing the game due to spoilers. This is where putting together a solid one-pager is your bread-and-butter. Nailing your elevator pitch to be able to hit important story elements and focus on your core audience 
Would you kindly write a beautiful narrative with engaging characters and a moving story or shocking plot reveal? My heart really goes to Doki Doki for an unexpected plot pivot. Something something, ok…I couldn’t think of a good way to subtly hint at Nier’s awesome narrative threads. The above image hints at so much more than great character art.

  • Celebrity Attachment
    • Keanu is selling himself to several titles in the past year – is he part of your team? Listen, it’s likely he’s not but even having popular voice actors known in the video game or anime spheres will be a selling point to their fanbase. 
Ladies and gentleman, a winning formula.

  • Studio Pedigree
    • People are FAR more likely to try the next game from a studio that has proven themselves to be a stand-out in this specialty. If this isn’t your first title, did you garner any acclaim for your previous titles?
      • Ex. Despite the reviews I read, I still went out of my way to — at full price — pick up Detroit Become Human. I knew what people were saying, but the fact that the creator of Heavy Rain was attached to it was enough for me to want to try it!
Image result for detroit become human heavy rain
You had me at Heavy Rain.

This is only a small section of what you could look at, really. If you’re having trouble on your own, may I suggest –


  • Get an outside opinion
    • This can be said for any form of artistic endeavor: Visual arts, music, theater, and video games all benefit from an outside perspective. It’s easy to get so close to a project that all you can see are the fine details without being able to step back to get a view of the overall picture.
    • Good for video games as in life: Get opinions from circles outside of your own. Look for opinions from those with different viewpoints: Gender, Ethnicity, Class, and more – diversity can introduce new concepts and solve issues that you may not have realized were issues.
    • Ok, above I said “may I suggest-” but I don’t suggest this. I’m telling you to do this. Now. Do it now.


As mentioned above about bringing these concepts in early, when this is a part of your whole process you can make sure you’re always elevating your game to greater heights. Always be asking about what can be better. Be special. 

Image result for reassess gif
Yes. Yes, you do.

Some words of caution, now that I’ve said this:

There will come a time where the time for change is passed and development timelines need to be locked. If you’ve been thinking in this way during the whole project, though, you’ve likely already isolated your key “special” points!

Everything above contributes to games getting delayed, and for good reason! After sinking so much time and life force into something, would you not want it to be the best version of itself? 

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