Designing Tabletop Games #1: Catching Ideas

Ideas. They're out there. They come to us at all hours of the day. But you know what I've noticed? We're often too busy to remember our ideas!

Perhaps you already have ideas for a game you'd like to create or any other type of project you're passionate about. How do you capture your ideas? How do you organize yourself? And how do you know which ideas to "let go" of? These three things can help.

A Paper Vault

Get a small 3 x 5" note card box at the office supply store. Fill it with blank note cards. When an idea strikes you at home or around the office, use a notecard to capture your idea in words or sketches. Resist the urge to write down every detail. Let the idea arrive in its most basic form.

Paper notes may not always seem useful. But there's something to be said for seeing, touching, and holding an idea on paper. It makes it seem more real and gives that idea a place to exist in real space and in your mind. Words paired with small sketches are even better than writing alone.

A Digital Stash

When you're on the move, use an app on your phone like Apple Notes or Google Keep to store notes. When an idea strikes you, catch it as quickly as possible. I like to use a method where I use three words to describe the idea.

An example: Bug / combinations / cards.

This snapshot of an idea led me to start a game design project called Bugruckus. The quick-capture of such ideas, or words that describe your idea, can lead to fun things. But the trick is to be fast about it. When we make creativity more snappy and easy we're more likely to keep doing it. Keeping track of your thoughts is part of the creative process.

A Trashcan

From time to time, thumb/scroll through your ideas. Delete ones that no longer excite you. Remove ideas that are not practical to pursue. Share your ideas with trusted inputters and listen to their feedback. The ideas that continually make the cut are the ones you should consider for execution. The goal is to capture lots of ideas but constantly be thinking about what makes sense to act on.

Speaking of execution and getting things done, there are lots of factors to consider, such as the upfront investments of time or money or energy. More on this another time!

What tips do you have for creatives looking to stay organized? What works for you?

–E