What is the best way in your opinion to find new ideas for games? I want to invent something really new (like Gish, World of Goo, Crayon Physics etc), but I'm having problems coming up with new, creative ideas.


1 Answer 1


Consider that there is no NEW ideas, only different combinations of old ideas.

Make lots of games

The best way to get really good ideas — ideas that will become great games — is to make lots of games. You should brainstorm up lots of stuff and make prototypes. You will not make good games without lots of trying things and failing with some and iterating on what works. World of Goo and Crayon Physics both started out as small, quick prototypes (not sure about Gish).


Prototyping allows you the freedom to try out wild ideas, figure out how to make them shine or figure out that they don't work, and not spend years of your life doing it. The years of your life come when it's time to make a real game.

Prototypes come in various forms. The two big ones I see a lot are quick and dirty videogame prototypes and paper (or boardgame) prototypes. Do the simplest, smallest thing possible and make that. See whether it works and what needs to change. Iterate. Then go and do the same exercise with a new idea. Eventually, you'll have a prototype that you MUST MAKE: something you feel really strongly about.

Make that.

Keep in mind that a prototype need not be a vertical slice of the entire experience. More likely it is just some simple aspect of an unpolished product, like some new mechanic that needs to be proved to be feasible and fun. Therefore, the time to prototype an idea can easily range between an hour and a month depending on the complexity of the idea and the skills and tools you can leverage to get it done.

As a reference, Kloonigames — Experimental Games, from Petri Purho, the creator of Crayon Physics, was "the experimental monthly game project". The projects always used SDL+box2D, always just a few hours/days. It eventually created World Of Goo.

Work with other people

Most idea generation techniques can be done by yourself, or with a group. When in a group (even when "group" means "you and a partner") you have the opportunity to feed off each other, and come up with more unique ideas because of the different perspectives. Don't underestimate other people, even "non-creatives" can have great ideas.

Observe the world around you

One informal way is to observe the world around you. Watch the kind of objects and interactions you have every day. See what makes people happy or what captivates them. Is there any way that can be used as the basis of a game? Or can you add it to an existing game in a way that makes something new? Mull it over, try playing a mini prototype in your head. If it doesn't have potential, move on. If it does, make a real prototype.

Spend a lot of time thinking and observing. Eventually you will have a lot of ideas that aren't good enough and some that are.

E.g. Shigeru Miyamoto has got his inspiration for Pikmin from watching ants.

Hit Wikipedia's or a dictionary random page

A solution is to hit the random page link on Wikipedia or select a random word from a dictionary a few dozen times until you find some amusing topics and then build something from that.

Another approach with this is to try to come up with 10 bad game ideas for that topic. Usually after 5-8 bad ideas you will have a really good one. Then try to implement the essence of that idea over 2 or 3 days, setting a strict deadline before you start. Toss the result away and do it again. From there on it's just execution...

Turn off the computer, leave home

Some take their inspiration from things completely unrelated to games. It's better to go out and do stuff: travel, watch movies, read novels, do sport, just walk around downtown, etcetera. E.g. Shigeru Miyamoto's inspiration for Legend of Zelda was when he used to play in the woods as a kid.

Carry a notebook and a pen

For some, the best ideas come when they are not trying to think about them: in the shower, while commuting to work, having a nice walk in the park, or when sleeping. Always have a notebook and a pen with you, wherever you go, whatever you do. Then when you're sitting back in front of the computer the ideas will be there with you in your notebook.

Attend game jams

Taking part in game jams and participating in activities like The Experimental Gameplay Project can help: sometimes placing restrictions on your design or building a game around a theme will yield some interesting ideas. How would a game about candles play? What would a game in which you could only use black and white look like? How can you exploit that restriction in terms of a game mechanic?

Take game design classes, read game design books/articles

Many universities offer classes in game design (though make sure they are really teaching what you want to learn, as the term is misused a lot).

Improve aspects of a game you like

Many highly successful games are simply refinements of previous games, figuring out what makes players enjoy a certain playstyle and then enhancing or providing better gameplay. WoW is a great example, taking cues from previous MMOs and tweaking things for the "common" gamer, and even casual gamers.

WoW took from Everquest, which enhanced ideas from MUDs, which were taken from adventure games mixed with old school paper and pencil Dungeons and Dragons which took from J.R.R. Tolkein. Basically, all the old things are new again in the right hands.

Take an idea or two that you like from games and think about the process that might make a game better that would use those ideas. Plot out what a player would do in order to start playing the game, and what kinds of things would be fun for a player to do. Many new designers simply take ideas and steal them directly, not giving much thought to what the player is supposed to do that differentiates their game, or why they should be fun. In order to stand out, you must improve on the gameplay that you decide is part of the core fun.

Other idea generation techniques

This also known as Ideation:

  • Brain-storming sessions
  • Mindmapping
  • Problem Solving
  • Metaphorical Thinking
  • Thinking Hats / Ego Alter
  • Using Random Media To Stimulate Thoughts
  • Forced Associations
  • Changing Perspective Or Place
  • Collaborative
  • Experimentation
  • Vision Circle
  • Just keep playing games of all kinds

Also see

Words of caution

  • For some, the more time they spend in front of their computer, the less creative they become.
  • Taking inspiration from games can lead to only think of derivative clones of those games, harming creativity.

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