Before we going to start I would like to ask you something, just to give me an idea what I’m dealing with: Who is currently working in the game industry? Who wants to be working in the games industry?
Hi, My name is Tj’ièn Twijnstra
I’m a game designer at Playlogic Game Factory, Breda the Netherlands
Amongst some unreleased projects and prototypes I’ve worked on the following projects
Today I want to talk about the design process.
This presentation is largely about how i think we should embrace limits. How they help us design more creative and innovative ideas
How we should add more limits to our thinking system, not less! How we should restrict our ideas instead of adding more
To force us to be creative. This process seem counter intuitive, but I believe it definetely works.
To explain how this process works I will use the metaphor “Thinking outside the Box”
So, what is this Box?
The Box is a methaphor for our mind, our thoughts and out limitations. It consists out of 2 part
And the content
The content of the box is filled with our thoughts, ideas and concepts. These are reasonably easy to access.
The borders are the limits of all our thoughts, ideas and concepts. It is very hard (if not impossible) to think outside these borders!
But the box only exists with these borders!
Our thoughts, ideas and concepts are infinite if we do not have borders. I’ve stumbled upon this conslusion many times during my educational, where I got the assignment to just create anything. For my graduation assignment I could design about any game. So where do you start if you have absolute freedom like that? I don’t know... SO what I did is that I created my own borders!
But if you don’t set up you’re own borders, where do they come from? Well it happens automatically.
This is the most important factor. Borders are setup by preconceptions. By everything that we have thought before.
These preconceptions are fed by our experience. Not only are profesional experience, but by everything we have done in the past.
But also by expectations. What we think we are going to create, what we would like to happen. But these too are based on our memories and experiences of the past.
This whole process happens automatically. Our brain just does this without allowing us some control over it. If we here something, we associate it, we disect, we adjust and we order. So, lets take a look how this may work... With lets say, a semi realistic example, such as an assignment. An assigment is / or is going to be a standard for most of us.
So here’s our infinite thoughts, ideas and concepts. An enormous pool of inspiration and limitless possibilties. Pretty.
So, our first part of the assignment is going to be the fact that we’re creating a video game. Now, from hearing the word video game we add a border and we get associations. Both things happen at the same time and automatically. Not every association is the same for everybody as we had different experience with video games, but we have all associations with it. Also, our brain seperates the inifite supply of thoughts, ideas and concept by determining what fits video games and the rest doesn’t
Now, are part of our virtual assignment is going to add another border in our mind. We are going to create a home console game. And again we have associations. There are consoles and game controller involved, for instance. And the PS3 is more powerfull than the Wii, while the Wii offer a new input method and so on.
The thrid part will reduce our thinking univers even further while pointing out new associations again. Say, we’re going to creat a video game, for a home console, for boys in the age 8-12. We all have been that age and most of us are boys or have some experience with them, so we pretty well know what were dealing with.
And our last part of the assignment is going to be a genre, which by itself is already a big preconception. So we’re going to create a platfrom game, which is about jumping and collecting, right?
So there you have it, a big Box of thoughts, ideas and concepts that are about a platfrom video game targeted at 8-12 year old boys for home consoles. Great! This is our pool of inspiration.
So, what we’ve seen is that borders seperate our thoughts from infinit...
... and attract preconceptions that fit in this Box. So it is a 2 sided knife.
But the ideas in our box are superficial, the thinks that we come up with without any effort
It is a comfort-zone. If we stay in this box we know that we’re fulfilling our assignment
But it doesn’t have to lead to tremendously great ideas. It doesn’t lead to innovation, because it contains things from the past, preconceptions, experience and expectations.
So, to combat this automatic process I’m using 2 techniques that I will explain here today. These process can be uses seperately or together in tandem, however you see fit. Some may even argue that they are part of the same process.
So the first technique is to shrink the Box.
So the first technique is to shrink the Box.
So the Box is already setup by our assignment, and has shrunken infinity down to this box.
Now, doing research is part of most designers start, and it will usually shrink the box a little. We now have more knowledge about our target audience, for instance. Some preconceptions may turn out to be false (or accurate)
The thing is, with a more tight Box we feel restricted. Why, because we can already feel the boundaries of our thoughts. We feel limited because our mind, our preconceptions and our experience is limited.
We don’t like the way we are going, because we want to create something which is better, more original and innovatibe than the thoughts, ideas and concepts in our Box. So what do we do?...
We expand the Box! Which - again – is a natural response! We don’t like our ideas, we feel limited, we want more. More breathing room.
So we create a bigger box, stretch the limits and start adding ideas.
And more ideas
And more ideas! This gives us room to breath, to let our mind go everywhere. Freedom! Freedom to make our game innovative by adding stuff nobody else has added. Adding gambling, fighting, flying sources and beatyful girls in our game will make it innovative! Ans although this may sound as an absurd thing, it happens all the time. We try to cram everything into one game, because we feel limited by border, borders that our mind creates automatically.
But what it actually does is create a big mess in our heads. Adding lots of ideas will allow more freedom in the short run, but out of all these ideas, which one will make your design better, more innovative? Adding the univers to your design doesn’t help but makes it harder for you to choose.
So opposite of what seems natural – which is to widen the Box – we need to add more and more borders
As I found out, one way of adding more borders is to challenge the preconeptions that are inside the Box. By challenging them you restrict yourself by not allowing your thoughts that particular thought.
These challenges make us think and force us to become creative and find solutions.
So lets challenge our platform game preconceptions. So one of the preconception that I have when thinking about a platform game is that the player is in control of 1 character. So, what if we challenge this?
What if the player can not control the character, but instead it controls the world where the character(s) live in. We might end up creating Loco Roco!
Another preconception is that we use the standard controller. A preconception linked to our home console part of the assignment. So what if we challenge this?
And use a set of drums instead?
By adding more borders, our Box becomes smaller. The less thoughts, ideas and concepts fit inside the Box and the more we are challenged to find other solutions. Creativity is all about finding solutions to problems, not about sudden inspiration of the collection of ideas.
So the second technique is called the new Box
The idea here as that we take our Box, filled with thoughts, ideas and concepts and throw it away altogether. Depending on how strict your project’s borders are set up we might return here in the future. But for now, we throw the Box out!
And we just start with a completely different focus point, which can be anything. So for instance, you may want to start with some game mechanics.
You could end up with a game as Braid
But your new focus point doesn’t have to be related to games to create a game. You can creat a game about anything, like being in somebody else’s shoes....
Or even something vague as an emotion can be a starting point.
Such as the feeling of caring and isolation
What this new focus point will do is provide a new starting point. Lets say we started out with the emotion of joy.
This new Box of joy will provide a new way of looking at your old box
And shine a different light on your old Box... Highlighting stuff that you didn’t think about in the first place. Highlighting the joy of jumping for instance. What will a platformgame look like that focused solely on the joy of jumping look like? It would certainly be different from from other platform games.
The more distant there is between the new Box and the comfort zone the more likely you end up with an innovative and original idea
The Box <ul><li>The Box is a metaphor for our mind and its limitations </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The borders </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The content </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>All our thoughts, ideas & concepts </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The limits of all our thoughts, ideas & concepts </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The Box doesn’t exist without borders </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>Thoughts, ideas & concepts are in infinite supply without the Box </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>So, where do the borders come from? </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The borders of the Box are set-up by: </li></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The borders of the Box are set-up by: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preconceptions </li></ul></ul></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The borders of the Box are set-up by: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preconceptions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul></ul></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The borders of the Box are set-up by: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preconceptions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Expectations </li></ul></ul></ul>23-05-10
The Box <ul><li>The borders of the Box are set-up by: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preconceptions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Expectations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>This process is automatic </li></ul>23-05-10
Shrinking the Box <ul><li>“ Kick started” by assignment </li></ul>23-05-10
<ul><li>Researching the assignment will tighten the borders </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>But now our thought feel limited and restricted </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>We don’t like these limits and feel the need to come up with other ideas, thought and concepts </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>So our natural response would be to widen the box </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>Adding more ideas into the mix </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>And more… </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>And more…and more… </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>Turning our head into a messy collage </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>Opposite of what seems natural – which is to widen the box - we need to setup more borders and tighten the box even further! </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>We need to add borders that challenge the content of the Box </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>It are these challenges that force us to rethink and start to become creative </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>What about character control? </li></ul><ul><li>Almost all platform game are about a player controlling a character </li></ul><ul><li>What if we challenge this preconception? </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>What if the player can not control a character, but instead controls the world? </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>What about the controller? What if we do not use the controller? </li></ul><ul><li>What if instead, we use another peripheral? </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>A set of drums? </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box
<ul><li>The smaller you make the Box by creating more borders, the more the necessity rises to find unorthodox solutions (aka creativity, innovation, originality, etc) </li></ul>23-05-10 Shrinking the Box