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Why do my best ideas come when I'm busiest?

Started by Andy Kitkowski, April 19, 2002, 12:17:03 AM

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Andy Kitkowski

This is a topic not on the mechanics/structure etc of a game, but the game design process itself.

I just had a question out there, looking for other people with similar experiences who can possibly relate and offer advice.

So after saying to myself for a few years, "I'm a Game Designer", I've finally begun to SERIOUSLY design a game. Up until now, I've designed other games, but not very seriously. Or I would just think about the games (settings rules, methods of distribution) that I'd like to make in the future, and never write the ideas down.

Here's my two major experiences with game design, and they're like night and day:

1) Approx 2 years ago, I lived in Japan and finished up a full-time work contract. For the next six months, I did IT consulting only, getting a steady income for only teaching a few hours a night, a few nights a week. During this time, I had more free time than I have ever had since, say, high school. I spent about 2-4 hours /a day/ involved in "serious game design", which mostly came down to throwing dice over and over again looking for good Resolution Mechanics (I was also working on a "dice combat" customizeable game).

2) Now, I'm back in the US (been here a year), getting my full-time IT career back on track. Just got a new, busy job 8 weeks ago. Helping my wife find work. Learning like 3 computer languages, as well as pursuing a Masters in Japanese. On top of that, martial arts. Free time per day, were I to get a good 8 hours of sleep a night, is approx 1 hour or less (therefore I usually seek 6 or less hours of sleep). Yet now, more than ever, my mind is coming up with solutions to problems with my game design, ideas for games, and the drive to actually write said ideas down and perhas publish them.

So I want to know, what is this?  I know that I can't be the only one here like this, someone's gotta have similar experiences. Is this stress that somehow wires me? Is it the environment of "lots of things going on that I need to work hard at" which has somehow caught up with my gaming as well?

The reason that I'm worried is that, if this is stress, that I don't end up doing any damage to my health or mental state. When I'm writing, I do feel a gentle pressure of stress, but I can't deny that it's fun, which is really why I'm doing it in the first place (and maybe stress is a catalyst).

Any insights? Any stories about how this behavior can be good/bad in the long run?  I'm wondering if I should slow down a little: I just don't want to keep going along at my current pace if it means that I'll get sick or something, but on the other hand I'm worried that if I cut back on my writing/RPG-related thinking that I'll unconsciously train myself to shut off my "creativity valve" or whatever. Plus, I'm still kinda pissed that during my "slow" times I seemed to drag my feet with my game ideas, and my current state might be some sort of blessing.

Any thoughts or experiences are highly appreciated.

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The human brain is marvelous, if often inscrutable, development...luckily, the answer to the above is known, boiled down into two bite-sized chunks for ingestion:

One must consider that even when busy and engaged in other activities, one's mind is working on problems it has encountered, attempting to solve them.  After a certain point, sitting and staring/working at a difficult problem is often the wrong way to go about things: take a break, forget about it and do something else.  Elsewise, one's conscious mind ends up turning the problem over and over in useless circles.

One must also consider that the mind is more active whenever you are more active...whether physically or mentally.  In fact, for a number of reasons, one of the best creative boosters is to go for a run or play a quick game of basketball or your choice of sport.  There is more blood-flow, more oxygen, more activity period.

Hence, following from both the above, if you are both active and concentrating on something else, your brain is working on things in the background with increased intensity, thus explaining why your best ideas happen while you're busy.  Knowing the above, you should be able to schedule your design time into your life without all those good ideas popping up when you can't sit down and pound them out.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Andrew Martin

My best ideas come when I'm at my busiest doing something else. When nothing much is happening, my brain seems to go to sleep! :)
Andrew Martin


Andy, I completely sympathize with you.. My free time consists of the hour or so nap my daughter takes and the hour or so after she goes to bed for the night

Yeah I'm a full time dad and a part time Kodak employee, both of which keep me very busy

I don't find that I get alot of ideas while I'm busy, but right before I hit the magic hour before sleep... which bugs me to no end, because I can't remember most of it after I wake up..

I'd keep a Journal next to me, but I can't sleep with any lights on.. and even if I wrote in the dark it'd be enough of a distraction to keep me up for another hour

My best avise is to take One Part of the day that you know you will be completely undisturbed and pound out One idea you have. the next day  work on another idea.. by the end of the week, you've got 5-7 ideas hashed out...

Remember there is no such thing as free time... there is however You time, and you can choose what to do with it..
"power flows from the barrel of a gun" - Mao

Slave State Gaming
Digital RPG