Game Design

Creating Game Ideas

Last year someone posted on a forum that they have hundreds of game ideas. At the time, I had set of game project folders that I setup for each idea I had. I thought that the point of having a game idea was to allow that idea to become a real game. Maybe the developer on the forum was exaggerating, but I still think that coming up with lots of ideas is better than coming up with fewer. Coming up with many ideas is something that has been repeated by quite a few people ranging from motivational speakers to successful authors. Of course, if I continued to do what I was doing when I came up with an idea, I would have a very large and mostly useless Projects directory on my computer.

I started to keep track of my ideas in a simple text file. I basically come up with a simple name of a potential project, and then give one line describing how it plays. I avoid using genre specific terms. I am not coming up with an RPG or a puzzle game. I basically say what the game is supposed to be like. Here’s 3 and 1/3 cents worth of examples from my Ideas.txt file:

  • Egg Fight: Protect chickens and pelt your opponent with eggs
  • Elevator Rush: Move elevators manually to get customers to destination
  • Spend My Money: Spend $1,000,000 in a month the best way you can
  • Pedestrian: Run down the street while avoiding pedestrians

It’s a completely random jumble of ideas, and I get inspiration from anywhere. Elevator Rush came about when I thought about Elevator Action and Sim Tower at the same time. When I was collecting eggs in Harvest Moon, I thought about how funny it would be to throw them at passerby, and so Egg Fight became an idea. Pedestrian is basically a real life game for anyone who leaves work at rush hour downtown in a major city, and I’ll admit to thinking about having samurai swords and fighting against hordes of the undead rushing upon me, but that’s a different idea completely. A lot of my ideas are just the result of random doodles, so I might suggest investing in a 35 cent notebook. The ROI can be great.

Anyway, while some of the simple descriptions might bring to mind specific genres that they fit best, nothing requires it to be this way. Spend My Money could be a game show, a turn based strategy game, or an action platformer. I’m not interested in the details like story or character design. These are just game ideas. When I am ready to make a game, I can look through my listing and pick one or three things that sound interesting and come up with a decent game design.

I don’t have hundreds of them yet, but whenever I update it, I try to add five ideas at a time. Even if I only came up with one idea randomly, when I record it, I try to get myself to make up four more to go with it. If I discipline myself to come up with just 5 ideas a day, that’s 35 new ideas a week. Hundreds of ideas doesn’t sound hard at all, and obviously having many ideas to choose from makes getting a winning idea more likely.