I was out at a restaurant last week with a friend just shooting the breeze, eating some nachos, and just having a good time. We got on the subject of ideas we had for games and bounced some pretty neat ideas around. Before we knew it, we had a concept for a game that I can only describe as Harvest Moon meets Fallout meets Papers Please. The idea still sounds awesome, but it made me realize the genuine power of using other people to come up with ideas on your own.
Now this concept isn’t anything new of course– in fact, I’ve discussed the power of generating new ideas among other people a few times myself. But it’s one of the few tricks you can use to discover new ideas for games that can come together in such a way that you have an, “aha,” moment that gets you excited and ready to make your next big game. Want to learn some other tricks? Use the following tricks to discover new ideas for games that will help you to start developing your next big thing.
Quick note: This entire post is going to be about creating new ideas by conversing with your studio versus coming up with ideas on your own (i.e. no brainstorming via paper as is tradition in most of my ‘brainstorming posts.’).
First: There are no bad ideas
Say this aloud to your group before you begin. I have noticed that the reason it is so hard to come up with new, compelling ideas is because most people do not want to look like an idiot. If you want the best ideas to come out while brainstorming, nobody can have any reservations about shouting out an idea off the top of their head. Zero filters here folks, so let everyone know that there are no bad ideas. If someone legitimately believes a Flappy Bird-esque mobile game with RPG elements is a good idea, they should have no qualms about throwing this idea to the team.
Letting everyone know all ideas are welcome will pick up momentum among the other ideas, and before you know it? Your team has generated an awesome idea that may be worth prototyping. That guy that believes a Flappy Bird type of game with RPG elements is worth pursuing? His idea could inspire someone else on your team to come up with your studio’s next big idea. Again, no ideas for bad ideas.
Only brainstorm with a few members of your team
Have you ever watched a primetime news program where a host has eight-to-nine different guests and eventually, everyone is shouting over everyone else trying to be heard? How annoying is that (answer: very)? This same thing can happen among your team members if you have too many people brainstorming with you, so keep the size of your team to a minimum – about two-to-four.
From there, go around the room and have people briefly off the top of their head describe a game concept they think sounds appealing. At the very least, ask them to tell you some of their favorite genres and game ideas/concepts that sound appealing to them and write them down on a dry-erase board in front of the group (you didn’t think you could get away with writing ideas down did you?). Before long, you will have a bunch of different words, concepts, phrases, etc. written on the board to play with, and the group can start brainstorming about ideas that are written on the board, ideas that pop into their mind, etc.
Treat it like a boiler room
I’m not saying treat the room like a boiler room from Casino where you break a cheater’s hand, but instead lock the door and tell everyone, “we’re not leaving until we have some solid ideas.” Say it half-jokingly of course as you lock the door (don’t squint your eyes and say, “nobody’s leaving,”) but use this to let everyone know you are serious about getting some idea generation going. If someone wants to order pizza? Allow them to eat pizza in the room. If someone wants a soda or everyone needs a bathroom break? Let it happen. But nobody should leave until you have at least a few tangible ideas you can prototype starting tomorrow.
Be vigilant, be firm, and constantly ask for your team member’s input about new ideas and concepts regularly. Boom, boom, boom – ideas should be flowing left and right, and you should find yourself writing ideas viciously on your dry-erase board.
It’s fun throwing out ideas with your colleagues. Think about it: you’re trying to decide your next game – your studio’s next vision for what a game truly should be. This is an exciting time. New assets, new scenarios, and new gameplay mechanics are about to be created, and you should be thrilled to embark on this next step in your studio’s journey!
This isn’t just about having the right attitude: having fun will ensure that new ideas are generated in a timely manner. Going back to the ideas throwing back and forth with one of my friends last week over a platter of nachos: if we were not having fun throwing around ideas, we wouldn’t have come up with our idea for a game. We would have dropped the conversation and talked about something else, but instead we were having a blast coming up with new game concepts until something finally stuck, and that is what developing games is all about: having fun, creating new works of art that have never been seen/touch someone in a way that brightens their day, and makes you feel that you have made a difference in the world.
Gaming is powerful, and generating new ideas? It should be a blast. Make it a blast. Brainstorm over a platter of nachos or while drinking a bottle of scotch if you wish. Just have fun doing it, and as a result, you will generate your studio’s next big idea.