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GDC Mobile: Creativity Techniques in Game Design

GDC Mobile: Creativity Techniques in Game Design

February 19, 2008 | By Mathew Kumar

February 19, 2008 | By Mathew Kumar
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The University of Tampere's Annakaisa Kultima provided a lecture introducing the game specific creativity techniques developed at Finnish game research project GameSpace, a study of design and evaluation methods for casual multiplayer mobile games.

"We all know what creativity is... Or do we?" Kultima asked, presenting some common thoughts about creativity: that it cannot be explained -- "it just happens"; that people are creative or they are not; and that there is no method to creativity.

Before going on to try and debunk these ideas by describing ways to enhance creativity, Kultima discussed exactly how the mind works, looking into thinking styles, including vertical thinking and lateral thinking, explaining that both ways of thinking are important: "vertical thinking is used to develop the ideas that are powered by lateral thinking."

"We all know ‘brainstorming', but what about other ways to enhance creativity?" she asked. "Brainstorming has become so famous that it has become a general term for idea generation, but it really is quite specific, with the assumption that criticism is ruled out for example. But it doesn't always work, and it's definitely not the only technique out there."

"There are lots of variations on brainstorming, and creating ideas does not require only using one technique exclusively."

Kultima moved on to conceptualize her idea of the "idea generation session" arguing that idea generation requires a stimulus to begin with and a structure for ideas to spring within, rather than simply expect participants to "think outside the box."

"Of course, when we bring our specific ‘domain' of stimulus and structure into the session, it can be hard to avoid the box."

But it's not only about the session: the sessions allow ideas to be generated, and later evolved through development.

At Gamespace, they ran workshops which involved discussion on casual multiplayer mobile games with 30 participants from various companies. They quickly found that new approaches of idea generation were found useful and welcomed, and by the time of their second workshop, they found using stimulus were important; "if we used no stimulus, the environment became important, and a coffee mug on the table would become the stimulus, resulting in many mug based games; but if we used stimulus that was too complete, such as full games, it was overpowering."

Game Idea Generation Study

"We were interested in what would happen if the ideas of our study were used in an authentic process, such as mobile game development at a real studio."

They created a physical, "product-like" idea creation kit, which included cards and books to work as stimulus for creativity. As an example, Kultima showed an example of three decks of cards included, featuring verbs, nouns and adjectives, which could be combined in a collaborative fashion to create ideas.

Another method "Game Seekers" was a similarly collaborative game creation card game, which used pictures to create associations and forced compromise and combination of ideas.

Other parts included a game board, which could structure a shared game idea through a competitive game, "piece box" a Lego-like system of interconnecting pieces where the idea creation session could be a form of prototyping, and "Morf" a database of existing game ideas split into modules that users could force into combinations to create new ideas.

In closing, Kultima discussed the tentative results of the study (although it had only ended two weeks before her session) revealing that the results seemed to be positive, with over 93% of users saying they would continue to use the system, 100% willing to recommend them to other users, and over 60% of users finding they already had, within only a three month period, new ideas that could lead to game ideas from using the system.

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