As a game designer and game design lecturer, I’m always faced with the question: Where do good ideas for creating a game come from? And, not without regret, my usual response is:

There is no place where ideas live to create a game

This simple sentence hides a few key ideas that I have stuck in my brain like splinters:

  • Ideas don’t always come from the same place. A game designer, like any other creative professional, draws inspiration from a variety of sources. In general, it is usually the result of a combination of many ingredients (cinema, music, novels, games, personal experiences…) cooked over a slow fire with a lot of work.
  • There are no good ideas. Or to put it another way: All ideas are good. If the paper has suffered, imagine how much the thought itself is. Where it’s being demonstrated without a concept, it’s good if it’s prototypical. Until we play a game, we don’t know if it will meet our design goals.

Following these two rules, I want to share with you some techniques that have helped me unleash creativity in creating high game concepts:

Do things that get you out of your everyday life

Life experiences outside of your comfort zone are one of the most powerful creative triggers. To do this, you must try to do things that you wouldn’t do under normal circumstances. For example: watch an entire season of a soap opera, go to your city’s market and talk to regular customers in the queues at the stalls (there are always many interesting people willing to tell you stories), read a novel by a classic author that never caught your attention (Jane Austin, Tolstoy…), buy a comic book you’ve never read, go to a small and remote town and have a coffee on a terrace the square, pay attention to its sounds, its colors… Only those who live long can create a lot.

Talk to people who never play

Sharing a story, character, or mechanic with people outside of the game world is a great antidote to Frankenstein Syndrome (creating new games from scraps of other games).

Elena Candil, artist in A Crowd of Monsters

Working with an artist

One of the things that helps me the most when it comes to completing a story, character, or mechanic is seeing it materialize on paper. Working with a concept artist to develop a concept is a great luxury as they are able to represent your ideas and that is pure magic. Starting from a vague description, some notes, some sensations, an artist can complement, round off, qualify, surpass, define or invent your ideas. This technique, which could be defined as pair visual thinking, is great for landing and finalizing concepts because by describing your ideas, you become more concrete and think about details that you previously ignored and which are additional receive all the artist’s own contributions.

Take your idea from a video game to a board game

This helps me a lot to work on the mechanics, the design of the interaction, the flow of the action, the climax of the action and also the level design, the scenarios, the scenery…

Create storyboards

Although it is a classic technique in the world of audiovisual communication, its use in game design is not that common. Visualizing the plot, camera angles, and events cinematically can be very helpful in bringing personality and coherence to the narrative and user experience.

@santaclaragames@SantaClaraGames

This small, non-exhaustive list is nothing more than a compilation of personal experiences that have helped me over the years to collect game ideas and turn them into high-quality game concepts. I encourage you to take a look back at your creative processes (we all have them, in more or less detail) and make your little list. Having a work plan, having some alternative courses of action goes a long way in overcoming the creative swindle of blank paper and deadlines.