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The idea of brainstorming alone is fine, and it appeals to many maverick game designers and misanthropes, but ultimately, game development is collaborative art, so why not start by including your team in the creative process? The payoff is enormous. Working with others in generating ideas is both stimulating and highly productive. Two or more people bouncing ideas back and forth tend to generate more and better concepts than a single person working alone. The reason is that two or more minds in a dialogue can build upon the core idea being discussed, each acting as a catalyst to inspire the other in ways a single mind can’t.
It also helps to verbalize your ideas. Hearing yourself speak can stimulate new thoughts. It's difficult to become excited sitting alone in your room or cubicle. But when you start talking to someone and obtain their instant feedback, a dynamic process results through which concepts transform from vague thoughts into viable solutions. We strongly urge you to seek out partners who mesh with your style of brainstorming and work with them to flesh out the initial plans for your game. You'll find that this type of working relationship becomes more and more valuable as the game design process advances. The type of collaboration which is optional at the start of a project becomes mandatory once you are in full-fledged production and working closely with programmers, artists, producers, and other team members.
When you are brainstorming with other people, it’s important to remember some ground rules—it will help the creativity flow, and it will make sure everyone’s equally involved in the process.
State a purpose
When you sit down to brainstorm, articulate a purpose for the session. A statement about a problem you are interested in will help you devise a creative solution. Here are some examples:
“Opponents compete and cooperate at the same time by producing and trading scarce resources.”
“Player creates order from a chaos of shapes.”
“Player has indirect control of volatile agents. Skillful play can convert opponent’s agents to the player’s team.”
No idea is bad
Never criticize one of your colleagues’ ideas during the brainstorming process. After all, the process itself is about free thinking, and if you begin to criticize or edit their ideas before they’re fully developed, it will hamper the flow. Also, certain members of your team, feeling wounded by harsh comments, will limit their contributions, which is the death of creativity.
Encourage differing views
This sounds like common sense, but it helps to let everyone know that there is no right answer. It should be emphasized over and over again that there is no right answer in a brainstorm and that everyone in a session is free to approach the subject from a different angle.
Vary the structure
Don’t rely on just one method for brainstorming. Mix it up. Some structures may work fine for the group leaders but less well for other members. Ifyou’re a leader, make sure to experiment with structures that you aren’t comfortable with. Also, ask team members to suggest alternative ways of conducting the brainstorming sessions. You might give them a shot at leading the group. Don’t be afraid of losing control—if you are, you’ve already lost it.
Go for lots of ideas
Go for quantity when developing ideas. Try to generate 100 ideas an hour—be free and don’t worry if the ideas are outrageous. Don’t edit yourself at all during this part of the process. Just let yourself go without regard to feasibility. An idea that initially seems out of place may have value later. Designers often report that ideas that originally seem ridiculous turn into gems later.
Exercise 6.7: Do It
Get a group of friends together for a brainstorm. If you can’t get a group together, do the best you can on your own. State a purpose, set up a white board or a sheet of butcher paper, and use the previous techniques to generate 100 ideas related to your purpose in 60 minutes. This may sound like a lot, but if you can keep the energy level up, you can do it!
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