All games start out as ideas.
Some games come from one
powerful idea, but most are
formed by combining many
ideas to create a unique
whole. It’s very possible that
initial ideas will be (or should
be) abandoned, and lots of
new ideas will be considered
during the process.
Ideas don’t come out of thin air. Game designers are
influenced by personal interests and hobbies.
Spend a significant part of every day doing something
other than playing games:
Read a book
Go see a play
Listen to music
Exercise, draw or sketch
Study a new language
Volunteer at a neighborhood organization
The Lens of Infinite Inspiration
To use this lens, stop looking at your game, and stop
looking at games like it. Instead, look everywhere
What is the experience I have had in my life that I
would like to share with others?
In what small way can I capture that experience
and put it in my game?
Jesse Schell, Lens #11
The Lens of the Problem Statement
To use this lens, think of your game as the solution to
What problem, or problems, am I trying to solve?
Have I been making assumptions about this game
that really have nothing to do with its true
Is a game really the best solution? Why?
How will I be able to tell if the problem is solved?
Jesse Schell, Lens #12
Game Designer’s Notebook
Many designers carry a journal for jotting down their
ideas and analyzing games they’ve played.
Stages of Creativity
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes
the classic stages of creativity:
Preparation: Becoming interested in a topic
Incubation: Period where ideas “churn around”
in your subconcious
Insight: The “aha!” moment, where an idea
Evaluation: Deciding whether the insight is
Elaboration: Fleshing out the idea
Elaboration on Elaboration
Having an idea for a game does not simply mean saying,
“I want to make a game about studying Chinese!”
Games are formal systems, and an idea for a game
usually includes some aspect of that system.
As you work through your idea, elaborating on its unique
elements, it might turn out no one would recognize your
language interests in the final experience.
A “game-defining” concept is as a component,
mechanic, or other design element that is so
closely connected to the identity of the game that
it is inevitably talked about when the game is
“King” mechanic in Checkers
Letter-tile combinations in Scrabble
Polyhedral dice in Dungeons & Dragons
Running and gunning in Doom
What makes a concept “game defining”?
Presenting clever, elegant, or unusual
resolutions to in-game issues.
Showing information in a concise, centralized,
or attractive manner.
Creating tension, or acting as a game’s
primary demand for strategy.
Taking common elements and implementing
them in an original manner.
The Core Mechanic
A core mechanic encapsulates what the
spirit of a game is really about at its heart.
Usually it is the action that the player uses
most frequently in the game.
Core Action: The thing you actually do in
Core Purpose: The reason why you are
The Core Mechanic
Game Core Action Core Purpose
Chess Position pieces to capture opponent’s pieces
Candy Crush Match 3 pieces to destroy them
Tetris Rotate pieces to create lines
Super Smash Bros Attack to knock opponent back
Doom Run and shoot to kill enemies
World of Warcraft Fulfill quests to improve character abilities
Write down the names of an activity of any
Come up with a verb, based on this activity,
that you think would make a good basis for
A group creativity technique
to find a solution to a
specific problem by
gathering a list of ideas
by its members. In games,
brainstorming is used to
generate a large number of
ideas about game's concept,
Brainstorming Done Right
Brainstorming Done Right!
Osborn’s method of
brainstorming has four
Focus on quantity
Welcome unusual ideas
Combine and improve
Alex F. Osborn ideas
Brainstorming Best Practices
State a Challenge
Vary The Method
Put It On The Wall
Go For Lots of Ideas
Don’t Take Too Long
Six Creative Ways To Brainstorm
Six Creative Ways To Brainstorm Ideas
Stream of Consciousness
Shout It Out
Write an article and an adjective on a piece of
Fold the paper to conceal it and pass it to their
Write a noun on the the paper you were
handed, fold it, and pass it to your neighbor
Repeat with a verb; article and adjective;
finally repeat with a noun
Everyone unfolds their paper and reads the
poems they are holding
15 More Tips
The Write Answer
Write or Type?
Spare No Expense
The Writing on the Wall
The Space Remembers
Number Your Lists
Mix and Match
Talk to Yourself
Find a Partner
Now brainstorm your own idea!
Break into two groups of 3-6 and brainstorm
some game ideas.
The challenge is to come up with ideas for
games you can make with GameMaker and can
be done by the end of the term.
Try to generate 100 ideas in 60 minutes.
Reasons To Reject A Game Idea
Business and Cost Restrictions
The Lens of the Eight Filters
Does this game feel right?
Will the intended audience like this game
Is this a well-designed game?
Is the game novel enough?
Will the game sell?
Is it technically possible to make this game?
Does this game meet our social and community
Do the playtesters enjoy this game enough?
Jesse Schell, Lens #13
Hold an Editing Session on a different day than
your Brainstorming Session.
Edit your list down to the top 5 to 10 ideas and
discuss each thoroughly. Be positive and
discuss the strengths of each idea.
Narrow your list down to 3 ideas and schedule
brainstorming sessions to focus on features and
define the creative center of your game.
Your game’s creative center consists of two
The Razor: Determines which features
belong and don’t belong
The Slogan: A catchy phrase that gets
potential players (and the marketing
department) interested in your game
Come up with a Razor and Slogan for:
Grand Theft Auto
Call of Duty
World of Warcraft
Let’s deconstruct a game most of us have played
Formal Elements: Procedures, Rules,
Objectives, Resources, Conflict, Outcomes
Dramatic Elements: Challenge, Premise,
Dynamic Elements: Objects, Properties,
Focus on the Formal Elements
What is the conflict in my game?
What are the rules and procedures?
What actions do my players take and when?
Are there turns? How do they work?
How many players can play?
How long does a game take to resolve?
What’s the working title?
Who is the target audience?
What platform will the game run on?
What restrictions or opportunities does that
And Then Consider…
Define each player’s goal
What does a player need to do to win?
Write down the single most important type of player action
in the game.
Describe how it functions
Write down the procedures and rules in outline format
Only focus on the most critical rules
Leave out the other rules until later
Map out how a typical turn works. (Using a flow-chart is the
most effective way to visualize this)
Define how many players can play
How do these players interact with one another?
An elevator pitch is a short summary used
to quickly and simply define a product and
its value. The name "elevator pitch"
reflects the idea that it should be possible
to deliver the summary in the time span of
an elevator ride, or approximately thirty
seconds to two minutes.
The term itself comes from the scenario of
accidentally meeting someone important in
an elevator. If the conversation inside the
elevator in those few seconds is
interesting and value adding, then the
conversation will continue after the
elevator ride or end in the exchange of a
business card or a scheduled meeting.
Elevator Pitch Structure for Games
Game Title is a game genre
for target player. It features
core game mechanics that
bring play value. Unlike
competition, this game
Somehow it always falls to
Mustachio to rally his friends for
their many adventures. Run and
jump through a side-scrolling
world made of and
inhabited by blocks. With
mustaches. A world full of action,
puzzles and arbitrary danger that
Mustachio faces boldly with his
mustache-fueled power to
make block duplicates of himself.
What? Cloning AND mustaches?!
Tips For A Successful Pitch
Get In The Door
Show You Are Serious
Assume Their Point Of View
Design The Pitch
Know All The Details
Get Them To Own It
The Lens of the Pitch
Why are you pitching this game to this client?
What will you consider “a successful pitch”?
What’s in it for the people pitching to you?
What do the people you are pitching to need to
know about your game?
Jesse Schell, Lens #95
The most powerful way to explain your new
features is to storyboard them.
Game Pitches and Other Projects
Extra Credits: Mailbag #4