Brainstorming at the Games Jam

Design a game in a day

It’s a tall order, but it can be done. During our Games Jam last Friday, the six teams came up with six brand new games, playtested and perfected them – all in the course of a day.

We started off with four catalyst talks from gaming experts – I’ve summarised their words of wisdom here. After the talks we went on a tour of one of the galleries led by a curator. My team went around the Who am I? Gallery with Priya Umachandran and she picked out a few key objects sparked ideas.

Heads stuffed with inspiring stuff it was time to sit down in our groups. After setting the rules (no running, no fire-starting etc) the creative process kicked off with a free-ranging brainstorming session.

My group began thinking we might make a game about memory. This evolved into a classification game where people had to work out why objects had been grouped in different combinations. We even considered a poker-style card game where you had to create genetically modified creatures by collecting groups of characteristics.

Eventually we decided to go with a game where you had to bluff about really obscure looking objects. In our first, very quick and dirty playtest we were howling with laughter – it looked like we were on to something.

However, we were concerned that all we’d done was shift a familiar game into a new environment and we wanted something a bit more novel. So suddenly it got a bit political. We would divide our players into two teams – the scientists and the politicians. The politicians want to stop funding research and the scientists have to convince them that they deserve the money, but they might be bluffing…

Basic concept sorted we headed out to start playtesting in earnest. It didn’t start off well. In the first iteration it didn’t really seem like the politicians had much to do – they just sat and judged what the scientists had to say.

In the next iteration we decided to focus on the bluffing and ditch the politics. We took some pictures of crazy looking objects and asked people to write down their ideas. We then got the gamemaster to read them all out, along with the real answer. Again there were lots of problems. The gamemaster struggled to read out the descriptions in dodgy handwriting, and the real answers were really easy to spot.

But then it came together. On our third go we decided that half the fun was picking the objects out in the first place, so after assigning teams an area of the gallery we asked them to go away and take photos on their mobiles. They had to select objects that would be fun to bluff about, or that had descriptions that were so outlandish that people might not believe them.

Two or three teams take turns to describe an object and the others ask probing questions to try to catch them out. If the guessing team is right about it being true or a mighty bluff they get a point – if they get it wrong the describing team gets a point.

On Saturday we playtested it with real people. It’s really simple, easy to explain and can be played in any gallery. Plus it’s properly fun to play.

 

Here’s what the other groups came up with:

A bodysnatchers game in our medical galleries

A sickness and health game with evil nurses who want to make you sick

Darwin’s monster, a game where people team up and are assigned different abilities so they have to work together to survive

Rift, a game where you have to dash around the Museum to gather information to stop a rift in space and time opening between our Cosmos & Culture and Measuring Time galleries.

Nuclear Warning, a game where you had to design a new warning symbol and perhaps do a Russian Bear Dance.  

We’ll be revealing the winning game soon…

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