Game Ideation For The Everyman

All games, regardless of medium or success, stem from the abstract construct of thought we know fondly as the ‘idea’. It all has to start somewhere after all, be it on the proverbial drawing board, along the margins of your thesis paper, in your sister’s diary or even the back of a paper towel.

It goes without saying that simply having an idea is practically useless (this applies to most, if not all industries really). These days, you could pick anyone off the street and chances are that they probably have a couple of pitch-worthy game ideas up their sleeves, ideas that will likely never see the light of day. Simply put, game ideas are aplenty. On the other hand, game ideas that are acted upon and further developed however don’t come along quite as often.

In truth, it takes a good measure of dedication and perseverance to see one’s ideas realized. That, however, is a topic for another time. For now, let’s shift our focus to the actual birthing of a game idea.

And no, there’s not going to be any ‘thinking out of the box’ going on here. I mean, who has the say as to what or where the box is? What actually constitutes the box, and why do we even think within it to begin with?

I come to you now as a gaming enthusiast and an aspiring designer to share a number of pointers and ‘soft techniques’ that I’ve personally found useful while in the process of creating and brainstorming ideas, for games or otherwise.

– – – – – – – – – –

That Is Not A Game Idea

Before we delve deeper into the subject, let’s get one thing straight. An idea for a story (character, background, fluff, lore, etc., what-have-you) is NOT an idea for a game. A story may or may not influence the overall design of a game and even its mechanics, but a story is STRICTLY NOT a game idea. A premise for a story may too influence a game’s design, but DO NOT turn the premise into the core design philosophy of a game.

This is one of the most common mistakes fledgling designers make, yours truly included. I’m sure most of you out there have, at some point or another, come across a situation that goes kind of like this: “I HAVE A GREAT IDEA FOR A GAME. IT’S ABOUT ARMORED DRAGONS FROM SPACE THAT ATTACK THE EARTH AND KIDNAP OUR WOMEN!” That is an idea for a story, not a game. Get the picture?

So, let’s now take a step back and look at this simply. Ideally, a game idea (in the strictest sense of a ‘game idea’) involves an abstract collection of rules, constraints, boundaries and possibly a goal. At its bare minimum, it may even simply manifest as a general gameplay direction or premise. In essence, it’s about laying the foundations or manifesto for a set of mechanics that, upon further development, will pass off as ‘playable’.

Imposing Self-Constraint

One of the first things we have to take into consideration is the necessity of scope and self-constraint. It is all too tempting to simply wade into the vast expanse of the ocean that is the collective consciousness and, with our bare hands, simply fish for the next great game concept. As beautiful as it sounds, regrettably, it’s not all too practical in terms of productivity.

It is very stimulating (not to mention enjoyable) to simply ride the stream of consciousness in hopes of eventually landing upon the shore of a brilliant idea. Our mind, however, processes thousands upon thousands of thoughts at a blazingly fast pace and without the proper cognitive sanctions, the chances of getting lost in one’s train of thought is pretty high.

This is where scope, themes, constraint and focus come into play. As an individual or within a group, identify a theme, or range of themes, that peak your interest(s) and brainstorm with said themes in mind. Better yet, set yourself a challenge or a number of constraints by which your brainstorm must adhere to. These methods do not stifle the ideation process. Rather, it forces you to explore more options and perspectives within a specific scope, which in itself is very conducive to the brainstorm.

Identifying And Solving A Problem

This has to be one of the oldest tenants of inventing. It first involves identifying one of the many varied problems or dissatisfactions that life has to offer, then seeking a means that would ideally solve or appease said problem or dissatisfaction. Essentially, the solution has to remove a thorn in the side of mankind and in turn, make the world a better (and easier) place to live in (not to mention potentially making you a truck load of cash). This is a thought process that can easily be applied to game ideation.

The market provides a huge collection of case studies that may be easily drawn upon by gamers and designers alike. In every game, there will be features and/or problems that don’t sit well with any given particular demographic of gamers. More importantly, in every game that possibly exists, no matter how ‘refined’ or ‘perfect’, there will always be room for improvement. This is something that designers can easily capitalize on.

Identify a game, a game feature or a gaming/genre trend that displeases you, your colleagues or the general gamer populace. Take that, chew it over and break it down. Make it better, for you and the rest of us gamers and enthusiasts alike.

Don’t Try Too Hard

Article Source:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *