Last week I was at the Pictoplasma conference here in NYC and watched Rilla Alexander talk about one of her wonderful characters, named Sozi, who is part of her new book ‘Her Idea’. The book talks about Sozi’s adventures to tame her endless ideas, until she finds a good one that she eventually pursues only to be happily swallowed by it. I was especially interested in the way Alexander phrased her words in her presentation; for example she said ’ I am an idea’ , instead of i have an idea, ’ I am a happy idea, one that was born by accident’, ‘We are ideas born from collaboration ‘, ‘We are ideas made out of rules’ , ’ I am an idea made out of research ‘.
So I started scribbling on my notebook some core mechanics that make up ideas… here is what I wrote down:
collaborate, collude (ideas from collaborating)
confine, limit, restrict (ideas from rules)
stumble, strike (ideas from mistakes)
remix, mingle, synthesize (ideas from existing ideas)
research, analyze, explore, investigate (ideas from research)
I couldn’t help by noticing that by default the design and play of games can generate these sets of mechanics, that help us come up with ideas. Games require that we work together with others, we move within constraints - what we call rules-, we come up with solutions by accident, we synthesize to make strategic moves and analyze data as we make decisions.
So does the play of games help us come up with ideas? Well the very idea of play and being playful allows our mind to be in exploration mode - and what we are exploring is a range of possibilities. If you are playing Pokemon, for example, and you are in battle mode- you take some seconds to decide what moves you are going to throw to your opponent. What your mind is doing during those very seconds is that it is investigating all the possibilities that will lead you to the best decision. Your mind is making connections to evaluate what will be the best idea. Take a different game such as Portal; what you do in Portal is that you are exploring possibilities of the game space till you come up with an idea of how to move the blocks and solve the puzzle. And the more you play the game the better and more plentiful your ideas become! One could say that it is the exploration of that adjacent possibility that trains our mind to be more creative and come up with ideas.
The topic, takes more exploration but for the time being I guess one could paraphrase Alexander and say that… ‘Ideas are made out of games’ !