10: Headspace

10: Headspace

What do you do to get in the right headspace for game design – is it about location, time of day, method, topic, or something else?

 

 

Getting inspiration for a new game can come at any time, but for working through game design problems, I find walking to be the best stimulant. Living in New York City, I walk to lot for commuting, and I can make efficient use of that time. I think that mundane repetitive physical activity is conducive to getting into the creative problem solving headspace.

TAM

I have this ritual of working out, showering and making myself a coffee before I plug in my headphones. Then I put a song on repeat until I’m done writing. Currently, it’s the ‘Us’ soundtrack version of ‘I Got 5 On It’. When I was writing the short story for ‘Terror Below’, it was ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. I get most of my ideas from movies and music, so I consume media pretty frequently.

Banana Chan

These days I have to snatch whatever time I can get, so there’s not much getting into a headspace. I basically carry a notepad around everywhere and take down ideas when they pop into my head. I also have a dictaphone app on my phone on a one-touch shortcut for when I think of stuff while driving or any situation where scribbling isn’t an option. And those ten minutes before dropping off to sleep: magically productive!

Andrew Sheerin

I just need a long stretch of time where I know I won’t be interrupted. Location doesn’t really matter, though it needs to be conducive to working on a laptop. I don’t mind noisy cause I can just listen to music with headphones. But it takes me time to get into the groove. So I never bother when I know I’m only going to have a few minutes. It’s not worth the effort to get into it. But once I get going, I can groove for hours and completely lose track of time.

Sarah Reed

Getting inspiration for a new game can come at any time, but for working through game design problems, I find walking to be the best stimulant. — TAM

For generating ideas, the shower or when I’m just about to fall asleep or wake up seem to be the best times. For writing, I need a block of time without interruption, so that’s why you’ll see me online at 3:00 a.m. In order to stay creative, I’ve started actually booking conventions where I do nothing but play and hang out. I also play at least 1 RPG session at every convention to make sure I take time for myself. But if I get hooked on a concept, watch out! Nothing can stop me from working on it!

Sen-Foong Lim

Deadlines. Nothing spurs more work out of me than being busy and only having a tight schedule in which to fit in a number of tasks. So, in a lot of ways, time is a luxury I don’t want. I’m thinking about everything all the time–but deadlines are what forces the most work out of me.

Kathleen Mercury

I set milestones, with delivery dates to work towards. These dates usually line up with playtesting events in my city. I’ve also found pausing a design and working on a totally different game can be helpful. On a more mundane level, going for walks and doing non-game related things feeds inspiration and can be refreshing. Due to severe depression, over the last few months I’ve been reframing and reassessing what I want to get out of it, and have decided that this being a hobby, not a career, is best for me as it helps lift some of the pressure.

Sye Robertson

I create highly specific playlists for almost every project I work on so that it’s easier to lock in on the right mindset and atmosphere when I sit down to work. Once I associate that particular collection of tracks with a game, just listening to it helps me to focus on both the narrative and mechanical elements of the design. I have to be careful though because the more frustrated I get with a project, the more likely songs from its playlist are to stress me out in completely unrelated contexts.

Clio Davis

Nothing spurs more work out of me than being busy and only having a tight schedule in which to fit in a number of tasks. So, in a lot of ways, time is a luxury I don’t want. — Kathleen Mercury

I carry a notebook with me everywhere because I never know when ideas will arrive. For me, working at home is tough so I like to work in different locations when I can. I often find myself café-hopping when I get on a roll with a particular design. Working in lots of different spaces seems to help me stay in a creative headspace.

Phil Walker-Harding

In general I cultivate a low stimulation environment. It’s better not to have anything hanging over my head; emails to answer, chat bubbles to reply to, a messy desk. I take care of those things first. If I do listen to music it’s synthy instrumental or drone. I do this to make space to listen to my “back brain,” as it were. Outside of a single session though I try to cultivate a flow state so that I’m more in tune with my back brain on a constant basis.

Whitney “Strix” Beltrán

My problem is more to find what to do to have enough headspace for real life…

Bruno Cathala

Most of my initial design thinking is done in the car, during the work commute, which also helps to make the tedious miles fall away; I can’t write anything down, of course, so it’s a good opportunity to thought experiment a virtual turn. The process of prototyping and physical walk-throughs is done in the library room with atmospheric classical music blaring; my favourite composers are Vaughan-Williams, Britten, Elgar and Holst. Occasionally, I’ll organise – or attend – a formal game design session with other designers and play-testers; this is the most stressful because it’s a public presentation rather than a private progression.

Tony Boydell

I actually have to be in the right headspace for design/development. I can’t just wake up in the morning and say “I am going to design something today.” That headspace is usually sparked by an idea or an experience I have had. But once I start, look out! I’ll be into it for ages.

Helaina Cappel

If I do listen to music it’s synthy instrumental or drone. I do this to make space to listen to my “back brain,” as it were. Outside of a single session though I try to cultivate a flow state so that I’m more in tune with my back brain on a constant basis. — Whitney “Strix” Beltrán

I don’t do anything to get in the right headspace. Indeed, if I set time aside to design I rarely achieve much, aside from the mundane graft of producing prototypes, or writing rules. Creative thoughts and bursts of inspiration come unexpectedly when I have the least time to entertain or pursue them; on the commute to my other job; in the shower; in the early hours when I should be sleeping.

Adam Porter

I have to shut down everything else to let the game design happen. This means turning off the TV, music, and anything else that can make noise. I also try to have a clean table, so that I have room to bring out any different components I need or to spread out all the cards that I’m working with. Not getting distracted by clutter also helps! If that doesn’t work to make the designing start, I’ll go outside, start walking, and really focus on my surroundings. Usually the ideas just start happening before I’m around the block!

Carla Kopp

Unfortunately, it’s not an exact science for me. I often need to be “bored” to have nice ideas, so showers and long walks alone are my best friends.

Théo Rivière

It’s all about the mental state. If I’m feeling low, maybe because of friends dying, then designing a game is far more challenging than normal.

Depression or tiredness can be barriers to productive pondering.

On a good day, I can design a game anywhere. In my room. On a bus. Whilst cycling or swimming. Obviously, excessive noise and danger would interfere.

To begin, all I need is something to latch onto. An existing idea or restriction. When I’m a bit further do I start writing/moving paper around. At that point, I just want to be in a safe space.

Bez Shahriari

Creative thoughts and bursts of inspiration come unexpectedly when I have the least time to entertain or pursue them; on the commute to my other job; in the shower; in the early hours when I should be sleeping. — Adam Porter

In order to get into the right headspace for game design I need to have allocated a specific amount of time that grants me the permission to design and explore, and which won’t be encroached upon by other commitments. I also almost always record my ideas in the same moleskin notebooks; other brands are also available, but if they were good enough for Picasso and Hemingway…

Sam Illingworth

In a way, I’m always in the headspace for game design, in that my brain never stops working on those puzzles. But to do focused work and get ideas down where they are useful I need to have some time to myself, so it’s really about getting excited about those opportunities – I have learned to love evenings home alone for that reason.

Roberta Taylor

“Inspiration Is for Amateurs — The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work.” This is a quote I try to live by. A creative has to sit down and put the work in, just like any other thing in life. Practise and good things will come.

Pini Shekhter

Cup of tea and a big pile of research, generally. Could be a whole stack of maths stuff, could be a load of articles that take things in a more thematic vein. Either way, I’ll generally take a little bit of time before launching into making something. Of course, there’s also the notebook at the side of the bed for those 3am lightning idea strikes. Everyone has that, yeah?

Michael Fox

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