Game Specificity

I gave a presentation for Nokia Play New team last Friday at Espoo about the use of creativity techniques in game design (based on the GameSpace workshop III presentation). The topic is certainly proceeding towards more refined views in my head as the modification of the title may suggest.

The scope of creativity techniques in general is rather wide, as creativity techniques can hold variety of different approaches towards enhancing creative processes. Sometimes it even feels that everything outside deductive or logical thinking is dumped into “creativity” even though these different thinking processes may not have anything in common. I feel the pressure of narrowing the topic even further down.

Anyhow, the emphasising “game specificity” is something that has been one important upgrade from the last presentation. The techniques that we have developed in GameSpace are especially designed for generating game ideas. This means that they are supposed to help in keeping the focus on certain idea generation restrictions: they help producing game ideas. Traditionally restrictions in idea generation sessions may be only in the head of the participants, but we have designed the stimuli sets and the structures of the techniques to support producing game ideas. Partly this is taken even further: restrictions or special features of casual, mobile or multiplayer games are supported. As I have not yet reached any clean theoretical support for this perspective, we do know that it works.

The needs of further development and research of our methods are leading to two currently relevant questions: “What is a game idea (anyway)?” and “How to evaluate the impact of the techniques?”

The question of the game idea is not asked because of the mere needs of being “interestingly philosophical”, but from the practical perspective. With specified idea generation methods the characteristics of the idea becomes central issue. And I do not believe that all ideas are alike (e.g. ideas for political revolution vs. ideas of a more ecological car engines).When we are trying to enhance the process of generating certain types of ideas, we are becoming pressured to uncover the general structure or arousing mechanisms of this particular ideating process.

“Game idea” may mean different things to different people. Views may vary even in the level of function: for some a game idea may mean the essence of the potential game or just the initial point of game design process. In the presentation I call these two as the inspirational and fundamental approaches to ideas. I would keep these two separate regarding to theoretical aspects even though I would assume that they are not separated in practice (nor they should be). Game specific idea generation technique could be targeting to guide ideating process towards certain form or then it could be designed to support the generation of ideas that inspire participants due to different reasons. Both approaches can have their strengths and ideas produced with the techniques may then be evaluated on different basis.

The impact value of the idea generation technique however is not only in the immediate results (the ideas generated during the sessions). I have developed an early model for evaluation of idea generation techniques that takes the wider perspective on the techniques impact. The model is based on the assumption of three different functions of the technique sessions: immediate results, the triggering factors and educative aspects. Traditionally idea generation techniques are evaluated according to their immediate results as their impact may be most wanted on “creativity on demand” situations. As creative processes most likely are not always working towards this demand, the techniques may still hold two very important functions for enhancing creative work. The regular idea sessions may work as a trigger or stimulation of natural idea generation processes or they can train the participators on creative thinking skills. As general idea generation techniques would fit best to the latter, the game specific techniques could fit better to the first. Important notice is however, that the enhancement of creative work should not be left on techniques that are evaluated as being most effective on immediate results.

I am working on an article that presents the model and the distinctions in more depth. The model will work as a guideline to the analysis of the user data of  GameSpace idea generation techniques that we will gather during this autumn.

Here are the slides from the presentation for Nokia Play New:

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Game researcher, lecturer, designer and a jamtivist.

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