When Do The Ideas Come?
Above, a little bit of my Big List O’ Games, kept in Things. At any given point there are between 50-100 little game ideas in there, depending on whether I’ve recently purged a bunch of crap recently (though just lately I was wondering about making a game about the bunch of crap I usually purge, so…). And yet I frequently spend time gazing out a window or at a wall feeling deeply, deeply concerned that I will never have another idea for a game that I actually like. So, I may no have no idea where game ideas come from, but knowing when they come would be nice.
In recent memory, the three most generative times for coming up with a bunch of ideas for games were: 1) sitting on a plane flying from Athens to Copenhagen (without Rilla, meaning I had to entertain myself), 2) sitting in a Starbucks in Birmingham with nothing to do except stare out the window at people’s shoes wishing I had more sensible shoes for the snow, and 3) slowly but surely teaching myself GameMaker (the ye olde version for the Mac).
Alright, so obviously travel + solitude + nothing-to-do are a pretty heady mix. This makes sense. For one thing, if you give yourself nothing to do, then your mind will inevitably wander and, if you’re obsessed with games, you’ll probably turn everything you see into game ideas. (Wait a second… a game about sensible shoe choices? Yes!) Naturally, you really do need to have a notebook or other note-taking thing around, because ideas are gone pretty quickly, and it is very sad thinking of all the ones that got away. So I do tend to put myself in situations where I’m just sitting around with a notebook. That said, when I try to do that at home, or at a local cafe: nothin’.
And then the other idea is almost the opposite, which is to be learning something relevant to making games. GameMaker is kind of great because it’s just so fixated on various elements of “proper” games – especially as portrayed via the tutorials in the book I’ve been reading. You’d never imagine it was possible to make an experimental game in that context – it’s all collision detection and sprites. But of course those things can combine in all sorts of ways and it seems to be the case that it’s possible to be particularly creative about what you might do while you’re learning. Once you’ve established work-flows etc., I think it gets a lot harder to step outside the tool a bit.
Anyway, blah blah. So next time I need to stock up on ideas I guess I’ll either have to take a trip or bite the bullet and learn something. Ugh, learning… let me see what’s on offer on Ryan Air’s website…