Start with what inspires you and build out from there
I am fully aware that inspiration has its own plans for when and were you will get a game idea. This post is directed to designers that spend time specifically working on idea generation (does everyone do this?) or want to start generating more game ideas. This means you are going to have to find a regular source of inspiration. That can range from the games you play at game night, a “mood room”, watching play throughs to find new and interesting mechanics of games you haven’t played……the list goes on. The point is that you need to find your main source of inspiration and build out a web of potential inspirational topics.
Since building a hypothetical for this is proving to be difficult, I will give you my own story. I started out by writing down different kinds of mechanics that I really wanted to work with. I had a list of 20-25 different mechanics and variations of those mechanics and started making games from that list. From there, I decided to make a list of themes that I wanted to work with. Thinking that my list of mechanics was not long enough, I branched out to making notes of interesting mechanics of games I played and games I saw in You Tube reviews and play throughs. From there, I started making notes of what themes and mechanics reviewers said were under utilized or worn out. I trust the You Tube reviewer community to have played more games than me (Secret: I don’t get to play a lot of published games) so I felt like keeping a list of their grips and wants was a good idea.
I was able to organically build a method to help me find inspiration. You might have to take some time to nail down a starting point for where you get inspiration but taking the time is worth it. One of the benefits I have found that a structured inspiration method (irony not lost on me) provides is a point in time where my brain will go into idea generation mode very easily. The quality of the ideas is not important, quality comes from development. The important part is that you are building a portfolio of potential ideas.
Interests outside of board gaming
Now that you have system in place, you need to expand your horizons! Really, there is huge value to training your brain to find ways to get inspired whenever and where ever you are. In the Working Method post, I talked about working with You Tube videos on while I was working. I started watching mini games of Minecraft, I refuse to play it, but I will watch it all day long. I found that as I am sitting at the table in a game making from of mind, I would take what I was watching, and wonder how I could turn those mini games into board games. Jot down some notes, those notes become a page and I have found a new source of inspiration.
Now, I understand that this is in the gaming world, but I will now direct you to movies and TV. Characters on TV shows need to make decision all the time. Along with those decisions, they have external factors they need to consider before they make a decision. There were times when I would be watching a TV show and I would blurt out “there is a game in that.” After saying that 10 or 12 times, I started keeping my note book handy while watching TV and I now jot down situations on TV shows I think could be an interesting mechanic.
Always be on the look out
The main function of this exercise is to train your brain to think in a way that will free up creativity. This will translate in to more ideas, better mechanics and better games.
Always be mindful of what is around you and what you can turn into a source of ideas. As the number of games released increases, we are going to have to look to other types of games and themes if we want to design really unique games.
If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.