Brainstorming is a brain teaser at a number of innovative or creative companies. The challenge then lies in how to stimulate creativity and inspiration among employees who have been working with the same techniques and processes for years. There are cabinets full of literature written about brainstorming, but it always comes back to the basics. How do you make people deviate from their standard thinking patterns. I am not saying that you should now hold extensive brainstorming sessions in order to arrive at your new game idea. There are only techniques that you can apply in the development of your own game. Both at the beginning and you still have to work out your first idea, and when you are already further in the process.
The game world is huge and there are millions of different game ideas on the market. Only 2,000 different variants have been made of the Monopoly game. There is so much you could think of that it can help you limit yourself in the possibilities. For example, ask yourself the following questions:
- What if the game should only be played by 4 people?
- What if only one game component may be used, for example only dice, or only playing cards, or even only a game board?
- What if the game should last no longer than 5 minutes?
- What if no one can win?
- What if no one can lose?
- What if the game has to be cheaper than 5 euros?
- What if you can only use one game mechanic?
- What if your game was not themed?
- What if you only have one day to design the game?
- What if the game cannot be played on the table?
By imposing these kinds of restrictions on yourself you can find new inspiration. You reduce the possibilities and can therefore make choices more easily. By thinking in this way you can sometimes come up with ideas that you would otherwise never have come up with.
For example, we imposed the rule on our dungeon crawler 'Tomb of Rasha'consist of 54 cards. No more and no less. The game must fit in a regular tuckbox, which also holds a normal set of playing cards. By putting this restriction on ourselves, we had to rethink how we could give depth to the game. As a result, we have devised a unique mechanism that gives the game its own identity.
This may sound crazy after what we said before, but broadening your options can also help you gain new insights. Often people are stuck in something not can. By removing all restrictions, options come to light that can lead to new inspiration or ideas. Ideas that often turn out to be possible, maybe sometimes with some adjustments.
Here too you can ask yourself questions, such as:
- What if I had a million euros?
- What if I don't have to make a profit?
- What if I don't have to think about color blind people?
- What if the game doesn't have to be played again?
- What if there was no end to the game?
- What if there were no players or no restrictions on the number of players?
- What if there were no tactics, luck or interaction involved?
- What if the rule book takes 3 days to learn?
For example, it is common that games can be played again. When we released Escape Room games, which can only be played once, it was quite unique. Had the makers not left that option open in advance, they might never have come up with this.
Play games, many games
There are game designers who don't. Who deliberately do not play other people's games so as not to be influenced. In my opinion this is a shame and you limit yourself very much with this. So many fantastic game mechanics have been devised and perfected. It would be a shame if you didn't learn from that.
For every game designer, there comes a time when you need to look for people who want to test your game. Fortunately, there are often people who like to do this, but this is not always easy. However, there are online communities of board game makers testing each other's board games in development. Virtual Playtesting is a good example of this. Here you can have your own game tested by other developers in exchange for testing their games too. These online sessions take place twice a week via Discord and are a huge source of inspiration. Even if you do not yet have a game that is ready to be tested, I recommend that you participate.
Get inspiration from everywhere
There is inspiration all around you. Read a book and think about how you can make a game around it or try the same with a nice movie. Immerse yourself in history, this is also a source of inspiration for many people. After your vacation or a day out, think about what that experience would be like in game form. Or just look at everyday events. Your breakfast, the supermarket, school, work or the dentist. Each experience can serve as inspiration for your game.
A nice source of inspiration is a YouTube channel that we follow from “the game maker's toolkit“. In this video games are broken down into the choices made by the designers. Often it is about game mechanics or the psychology of players. There are many comparisons between video games and board games. They both focus on the involvement and entertainment of the players. One game mechanic that has been explained here, for example, is the Rock, Paper, Scissors principle. You often see in video games that certain characters or techniques are good against one, but bad against the other. This is also sometimes used in board games. I think it would be nice to reinforce this principle in which player A has an advantage over player B, player B an advantage over player C, and who in turn has an advantage over player A.
Are you really stuck and can't think of anything new, even after applying the above techniques? Then give yourself the freedom to accept that, but don't wait until you have had that genius inspiration. Talk to friends about ideas you do have and try out ideas, even if you know in advance that they won't work. It is better to try things quickly and learn from them than to do nothing.