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Search String: “Ideas for Games”

December 21, 2007

I’ve seen “ideas for games” or some derivative of that phrase in my search string list numerous times and with increasing frequency lately. The good news that I take from this is that people are making games or at least considering it.

So, where do game designers get ideas for games? Everywhere.

There are two key things to keep in mind here:

You can make a game about absolutely anything.

Any doubt? Check out this list of The 30 Strangest Board Games From 2007 on Yehuda Berlinger’s site. Right now, in my very living room, there are at least 10 things happening about which I could make a game including movie watching, furniture jumping (I don’t exactly want this to be happening, mind you), keeping kids entertained and so on. Look for games in everything you do.

Good game designers are great generalists.

Don’t rely on games to give you ideas for games. You certainly get ideas from them, and you have to understand how they work inside and out, but if you rely on games only, you’ll end up making derivatives of derivatives of derivatives.

Expand your world. Every game designer I know has a periodic fascination with one topic or another, and it all adds up to a wealth of random knowledge upon which you can draw. My current fascination is with the Irish mob in the late 1880’s in Boston. This is yet another sub-theme of my much larger “all things Irish” theme that’s been going on for years now. I’ve also become interested in reasons why immigrants came to this country long ago and the situations those immigrants found themselves in, some good and some not so good. I will be expanding upon current reading and looking into Ukrainian immigration in the same period for an idea I’m developing. Reading history books is always helpful. There are thousands and thousands of themes we’ve yet to cover.

If in doubt and stuck for an idea, you can always use Wikipedia’s random entry search. I use this all the time for brainstorming. This link will take you directly to a random article, but you can find others by clicking “Random Article” on Wikipedia’s navigation menu.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2007 12:46 pm

    I think it helps to have a working understanding of the parts that make up a game (like storyline, mechanics, etc.). If you can deconstruct a game into its component parts, it makes it much easier to notice a “part” in the everyday world around you and say “hey — I could use that in a game!”.

    As an example, an average person would not notice anything special about the thermostat in their home. A game design student who was recently studying positive and negative feedback loops might look at it, notice the feedback mechanism, and say “hey, what if I made a game where the heater and air conditioner were fighting for control of the temperature in my apartment?”

  2. December 21, 2007 1:12 pm

    Good point. I take that part for granted, I guess.

    I would argue that a storyline has nothing to do with a game, though. You don’t need it to have a game.

  3. December 21, 2007 5:16 pm

    Quite. Take Tetris, for example. Or Peggle. Or some people would argue Katamari Damacy, though I think the story built around Katamari Damacy is necessary to the game. Not the storyline, true, but imagine if Katamari were a game where you just rolled around picking up colored blocks. It wouldn’t nearly be as much fun.

    There’s an interesting game to mention. Katamari Damacy is an example of a game that was based off something so bizarre that it was awesome. You don’t always have to make a first person shooter about a war, or an RPG about generically handsome/beautiful protagonists out to use magic and save the world.

    Why not a rhythm and beats game where your main characters dance in order to motivate people in need?

  4. Brian Shurtleff permalink
    December 21, 2007 9:00 pm

    I always love finding systems among my life or my interests, and consider the possibilities for use in a game.
    For example, for a short while I was a professional DJ, and ever since, banging around in my head is a desire to make a game based around the ‘rules’ of DJing. To put it in wonderfully nerdy game design terminology: As a DJ, it was my job to grok the interactive system that is a dance floor. So, if there’s a complex system to be grokked – sounds like there’s a game in there for me to design, eh?

  5. December 22, 2007 11:36 am

    Reminds me more of this post:


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