Where the F’ do Ideas come from?

This whole “Game Idea A Day” project has me fairly often musing on creativity and how to most effectively generate new ideas. This was already a topic that I have some strong opinions about, but I’ve rarely taken the time to articulate (that I remember). I’m actually not going to do that now anyway, but instead I’m just sharing some links that relate to the subject. They’re food for thought on the topic of food for thought. I guess they are idea recursion.

First, an earworm!

Ze Frank is one of those “internet celebrities” you probably cannot accurately describe other than by saying he’s a “personality”. (He makes youtubes, and blogs, I guess?) Anyway, he wrote a song about creativity like 10 years ago, and its hook is where I stole the title for this blog post. It’s (obviously?) not safe for work, but there is also a clean version. It’s worth watching all two minutes, because of the song, IMO.

Isaac Asimov’s new article

What prompted this blog post is that my wife sent me a link to an article about a newly posthumously published article by Isaac Asimov about creativity over at the MIT Technology Review. Asimov suggests that you need both a depth in your field, as well as the ability to put two ideas together that might otherwise not be connected.

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

I think this is definitely true in game development, and a lot of my best ideas (chess/tetris-attack, go/tetris) are combinations of game mechanics or otherwise disparate game ideas. Asimov also suggests that eccentricity is another desirable trait.

Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

He doesn’t define crackpot, so I couldn’t possibly guess whether I’m one of those, or merely unconventional. (Assuming, of course, that I am creative, which is also highly questionable.) The final important piece, Asimov says is, to be prolific.

For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

My feeling is that you have to generate those ten-thousand ideas in order to have the few good ones.

Ira Glass

All this reminds me of the Ira Glass piece on creative work, which, just in case you haven’t seen it, I will also embed below. (Note that this bit is part 3 of 4, and the entire thing is definitely worth watching.)

Essentially, my take-away (and this is from memory, so let me know if I’m butchering it), is that you have to do stuff, MAKE stuff, in order to get better at any creative endeavor. And in the beginning, you have opinions, (Glass calls it your “taste”) that doesn’t match up with the level of work that you are creating. Essentially, if you look objectively at your work, you will see that it is bad, and despair. The solution is of course to not judge yourself. Give yourself freedom to create (make) without trying to figure out whether it’s good or not. Writers get this drilled into them early. Write first, edit later. Put it down FAST, so you don’t have time to nitpick every word or sentence.

John Cleese

You can’t get much more creative than Monty Python. There is a nice transcript of one of John Cleese’s lectures on creativity over at genius.com. He makes an awful lot of good points, but one of them is that a key ingredient for creativity is play.

There is, perhaps, a whole blog post to be written about how this applies to games.

Credit, where due.

Note that the original article my wife linked me to does have some commentary and good pull quotes from the Asimov article, but is not necessarily required reading. (It was also the source for the Ze Frank video/song.)