The first step to making a great game is finding a great idea. But what idea? Well, if you ask anyone, you will find many very different answers.
Anywhere is a common answer.
Will Wright got his ideas from his reading. He was a fan of learning new things. He was reading about city layouts and design before making SimCity. Try that! It may sound boring and may not obviously yield game ideas, but you gotta start somewhere, eh? (Yes, I am Canadian, and fun fact: Wright got his ideas for The Sims when his house burnt down and he had to “rebuild his life”!)
Another one commonly used is to carry a notebook as you go for a walk, or take a shower or bike ride. (In fact, taking a notebook everywhere you go anyway is smart, as ideas can come out of nowhere and surprise you! Write em down before you forget em!) Your brain seems to relax while doing these activities, and seems to cause it to focus more freely on building ideas.
Follow your passion is another common answer. Stay close to your interests and build upon them. Love gangster movies? Make a game about gangsters. Love biking? Make a game about biking!
The answer that is my second favourite is to play video games. Yep! Play video games. They may inspire you. However, even better than playing good video games is ironically, playing bad video games. You probably come up with lots of great ideas while playing games (usually bad ones) on how to make the game better: “What is with the respawning enemies?! Take them out! Why is there only one multiplayer mode?! This game’s story makes no sense at all.!” Rather then wait for a sequel, make your own game with a list of your improved ideas.
My absolute favourite answer is to think of something stupid. Yep, it helps. It seems the stupidest ideas make the best (and sometimes most innovative) games (it doesn’t seem to work that way with other media!) Think about it: An Italian plumber jumps all over mushrooms and “goombas” to save his kidnapped girlfriend from a dinosaur. (Super Mario Bros!) Or what about: A yellow circle with a mouth is chased around in a maze by ghosts while eating dots. (Pac-man!)
A few other tips to break game designers’ block (I coined a new term!) include:
-Changing your environment
-Deal with something that is distracting / harassing you
Whatever you do to create an idea, follow your gut instinct. And remember, ideas truly are a dime a dozen, it just depends on the execution. While you’re at it, why not make a game focused around something bothering you? It’s up to you!
Need more? I recommend you read the Art of Computer Game Design by game design legend Chris Crawford. It’s probably the simplest, most coherent summary of game design principles and ideas. It’s slightly outdated, but incomparable.
About the author:
Nathan H, aka Super Guy, is our point man for developer interviews. Among his many talents are critical writing and humor. Check out cavemanrock.blogspt.com to see what he’s been up to!