Close analysis of having a game idea
I was just sitting here trying to think of what to write because I’m trying to write more often. Had nothing as usual, but then over the course about about 20 seconds I had a game idea and wrote it into my big ol’ list and realised it would be funny to document how the idea came about and expanded in those 20 seconds. So here we go…
Context: “Respect” by Erasure was playing on the stereo, played after listening to Gérald Kurdian‘s Icosaèdre (which is great, as is his band This is the Hello Monster). It’s early afternoon on a Monday, nice weather outside, the cat Kasper is sleeping on our bed, we’re sitting in the living room sofa working.
First: I looked over at Rilla’s computer screen and she had Processing’s documentation for the resize() function on her screen. She’s working on an interactive visualisation of Canadian obesity rates. The documentation page has two tiny images of images being resized in different ways (one horizontal only, one proportional).
Second: found myself thinking about image resizing, which I somehow do a lot of while making games and press screenshots, and the more specific idea of image cropping in Preview.app when I take a full-screen screenshot and need to crop only the part of it that contains a browser game window. That activity is related to the Processing resize() in that the resizing example code is dynamic (so you drag the mouse around to resize) and the cropping has that same feeling of trying to make a box the correct size by dragging a corner.
Third: imagined a game activity entirely premised on resizing images to a standard resolution like 640×480, with a flicker of the mind going to various online game-like things that ask you to make similar visual judgements, like the centre-point between two points, say, or putting different colours in order.
Fourth: expanded this idea of image-resizing-as-game to the idea of boring UI tasks more generally being treated as games. The aesthetics/tone of WarioWare started to play alongside this in my head as well, that kind of time-pressured absurdity that WarioWare does. Thinking of other “skilled” activities you could participate in, like dragging a file into the trash, selecting a menu item, closing a window, opening a folder, kind of endless.
Fifth: satisfied that this was something to think about making at some point, went over to Things on my computer and typed “BORING SHIT AS WARIOWARE MINIGAMES: Resize the image to 640×480, drag the file to the trash, undo the typo, change the volume” to remind my future self about this idea when he’s looking for a game to possibly make.
More context: I should also note that part of why this game idea went along the way it did, too, is because I’ve been thinking a lot about user-interfaces in connection with games, both in terms of the UIs that games have (see: Independence, Missouri), the idea of standard computer UIs as games (see, long ago: Let There Be Smite!), and the idea of combining the two (see, soon: It is as if you were playing chess). So it’s fairly natural, to me, that I would go in this kind of direction of “gamifying” standard UI practices, and I like it because it’s so familiar, but the game context defamiliarises it in a pleasing way.
So: there, that’s pretty typical to be honest, both in terms of the speed of the “ideation” and its (small) scale. I’d say a truly vast percentage of my game ideas come about in more or less precisely that manner.
Post-script: while writing this blog post I ended up having a second game idea. I don’t want to go into the same depth or I may die of recursion, but it revolved around the little example in the Things writeup of the other game: “undo the typo”. It occurred to me when re-reading that to paste it into this post that it would be hilarious to have a game where you are the autocorrect function on a word processor. I’ve got a lasting interest in games that are almost “degrading” to their player by putting them in the computer role rather than the active role, and this is a really nice and tidy example of doing that. It would be called… Autocorrect.