All games, irrespective of medium or success, stem from the abstract construct of thought they 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 basically having an idea is practically useless (this is applicable to most, if not all industries).
These days, you could pick someone 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. Basically put, game ideas are aplenty.
On the other hand, game ideas that are acted on and further developed however don’t come along as often. In truth, it takes a nice measure of dedication and perseverance to see one’s ideas realized. That, however, is a subject for another time. For now, let’s shift our focus to the actual birthing of a game idea. That Is Not a Game Idea Before they delve deeper in to the subject, let’s get thing straight.
An idea for a narrative (character, background, fluff, lore, etc., what-have-you) is NOT an idea for a game. A narrative may or may not influence the general design of a game and even its mechanics, but a narrative is STRICTLY NOT a game idea.
A premise for a narrative may influence a game’s design, but DO NOT turn the premise in to the core design philosophy of a game. This is of the most common mistakes fledgling designers make, yours truly included. I am definite most of you out there’s, 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 narrative, not a game.
Get the picture? So, let’s now take a step back and look at this basically. Ideally, a game idea (in the strictest sense of a ‘game idea’) involves an abstract collection of rules, constraints, boundaries and possibly an objective. At its bare maximum, it may even basically manifest as a general gameplay direction or premise.
In essence, it is about laying the foundations or manifesto for a set of mechanics that, on further development, will pass off as ‘playable’. Imposing Self-Constraint of the first things they must take in to consideration is the necessity of scope and self-constraint. It is all tempting to basically wade in to the large expanse of the ocean that is the collective consciousness and, with our bare hands, basically fish for the next great game idea.
As pretty as it sounds, regrettably, it is not all practical in terms of productivity. It is stimulating (not to mention enjoyable) to basically ride the stream of consciousness in hopes of finally landing on the shore of an amazing idea.
Our mind, however, processes thousands on thousands of thoughts at a blazingly speedy pace and without the proper cognitive sanctions, the chances of getting lost in one’s train of thought is high. This is where scope, themes, constraint and focus come in to 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 lots of constraints by which your brainstorm must adhere to. These methods do not stifle the ideation process. , it forces you to explore more options and perspectives within a specific scope, which in itself is conducive to the brainstorm. Identifying And Solving an Issue this has to be of the oldest tenants of inventing.
It first involves identifying of the lots of varied issues or dissatisfactions that life has to offer, then seeking a way that would ideally solve or appease said issue or dissatisfaction. Fundamentally, the solution has to remove a thorn in the side of mankind and in turn, make the world a better (and simpler) place to live in (not to mention potentially making you a van load of money).
This is a thought process that can basically be applied to game ideation. The market provides an immense collection of case studies that may be basically drawn on by game enthusiasts and designers similar. In every game, there will be features and/or issues that don’t sit well with any given particular demographic of game enthusiasts.
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 basically 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 remainder of us game enthusiasts and fans similar. Don’t Try Hardin am definite lots of you out there can sympathize with the fact that a number of our best ideas hit us at the most random, unexpected and sometimes, inopportune moments.
You know what I am speaking about; those moments in the bathroom where you get struck by a flash of brilliance, only to discover that you have run out of paper towels to not only have your great idea jotted down, but to tidy yourself as well? Yes? No? Well, the point I am trying to make here is that lots of times, ideas basically come to us as and when they do.
Our unconscious mind works at a pace that far surpasses our waking consciousness, constantly analyzing, associating, reasoning and ever so subtly communicating. Every now and again, our unconscious lets slip a new idea or a new point of view on things that, with the right amount of cultivation, has the potential to translate in to a ground-breaking idea for a game.
Unlikely Pairings This point is more about experimentation than anything else. As a simple exercise, basically take a stab in the dark and toss lots of random ‘things’ together. Anything works, be it themes, objects, people, behaviors, ideals, etc. It is kind of like putting together a collage, that it will be in your head and it probably won’t be large in scale.
This tiny exercise works wonders for those of us looking to generate and/or discover uniquely quirky premises or story settings. Don’t go overboard though. As I have mentioned in an earlier point, it is always a nice suggestion to lay down some sanctions or have a scope or direction outlined before you let your mind run wild.