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News Archive for ‘Game Making Theory’

Limitations Can Breed Creativity

Have you ever looked down at a white piece of paper, or stared at a white blank screen and thought.... what the hell do I draw or make? Well you're not alone in that thought. 

What's interesting is that sometimes having no bounds to break out off gives us no inspiration. The thing that drives the human brain to creativity is actually limitations imposed on it. By giving us rules we have to follow, all of a sudden we want to break those rules. Sometimes having complete freedom is the worst thing for creativity. To think of new ideas and great ideas, you sometimes need to box yourself in to force yourself to want to break those rules.

I remember back in school when we had free choice for an assignment I would struggle to think of something, but when we were told you have to do an article on "plants" all of a sudden I had ideas on making it different like branching out and saying lets explore only "bug eating plants" or can I flip the topic and make it about "plants we can survive eating only" etc.

Sometimes instead of starting with a white blank paper, give yourself a few stupid rules you have to follow and you may find yourself coming up with more ideas.

In the olden day of game making with atari etc, they had huge limitations on what they could make, they had to work with a very small amount of memory. By doing so, it actually is half the reason we have the games we lose. Sometimes forcing the developers to come up with creative work arounds made them come up with interesting design choices. Like a common example is that the old atari tv player could only mirror both sides, meaning you had to design a level that was identical on both sides. Which resulted in games like pacman having a mirror'd map. 

Don't be afraid of constraints, use them to your advantage by seeing them as a problem to break out of.

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The Role of Dopamine and Gaming

Games have a positive and a negative experience at the same time.

During playing a game the primary chemical in your brain affected is dopamine. When we accomplish a task in a game it releases a hit of dopamine, this is the chemical that makes us feel good. The same chemical released when you finish a task in real life, eat food, have sex or engage in any activity you enjoy. Some drugs are addictive because they release this chemical.

Games like Candy Crush and others learned to “Hijack” the reward part of your brain. When you accomplish these small tasks of lining up crystals, it releases this dopamine in your brain. Making you happy and feel good. This makes you feel like you achieved something. The more you achieve, the more dopamine your brain gets. This can have an addictive effect and be quite fun.

However it’s not all bad as it sounds. Games also increase memory, learning, reflexes, hand eye coordination and even have a social effect if played online with friends. Some people prefer to interact this way. Stimulation of the brain in such a fast way helps the brain learn quickly and has even shown to reduce dementia and other aging brain diseases in older people. If grandma is playing games, she’ll feel younger for longer!

Game Designers can take advantage of this by whats known as the “addictive” quality. By using random chance chests in games that grant a reward. The harder you work for that chest, the more dopamine is released. Gambling also releases dopamine when a randomized system is added to game items.

However you don’t want the player working too hard, or the stress and frustration will offset the reward factor. It needs to be challenging enough to entice reward, but not enough to make someone push the problem away.

Overall the effect of video games can be addictive, but it is not dangerous or harmful in any way and can even be beneficial.

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Struggling for Game Ideas? Here a Tip

Struggling for game ideas? Have you been slaving over ideas non-stop trying to come up with a big hit before you even open your game making program? Well sometimes the answer isn't in planning but rather development and living your life. 

A common mistake I find is people get hung up on the idea phase thinking they need to be a creative genius to come up with the next big hit. Even though it does help to have a great idea, sometimes you don't need to have a huge thought out plan, but rather keep adding onto a basic idea as you continue forwards. 

Lets take a platformer for example, you decided lets make a platformer as you go through the process adding in your character, adding in backgrounds and art, and adding in your programming you may find an idea develops as you go. Sometimes glitches can be used to your advantage. Is your character going through walls? no problem lets say that certain walls can be passed through. Now we have an idea for a game where the character can bend matter and go through it. Then we add a timer so he has to use it wisely. If it runs out inside a wall? well bam he explodes. 

As you can see we took a very simple glitch and turned it into an idea.
Sometimes let your brain follow its natural thought process and it will give you a brainstorm of ideas without you trying. If you sit there with a blank piece of paper you won't be able to think of much because your brain requires stimulation. It requires input to give output. The more you can make, the more games you play, the more art you experience, the more your brain can create new offshoots from these inspirations. Give your brain as much stimulation as possible and you will find ideas come to you rather than having to force them out.


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