Games/ways to practice "creativity"

edited September 2008 in Play Advice
A few weeks ago I played Geiger Counter with my husband and some of our college friends. (I have to remember to write up a full account of it sometime...) The game had some good moments, but there were a lot of times when we felt like we were struggling with the "creativity" required by the game. (Both my husband and one of my friends put it that way -- they both said that they "don't feel very creative" and that was a problem.)

Some things we had trouble with:
- Coming up with character concepts
- Coming up with character goals/motivations
- Coming up with conflicts/obstacles
- Framing scenes
- Pacing
- Playing the character roles

Anyway, people said they did have fun but would maybe like to try something similar (as in "game that involves coming up with story/fiction elements" but with more guidance. Any suggestions?

Edit: For background, we're basically all engineers and I'm considered the most "artistic"/"creative" of the bunch. I have the most story-game experience (which is to say, some play at cons and a lot of lurking on forums). My husband has played some RPGs before and tends to focus on the tactical/strategy aspect. Our friends play board games.


  • My suggestion: invest in a copy of Play Unsafe.

    Or I could just spoil the salient bit for you: obviousness is powerful.
  • I don't think the operative word is necessarily "creativity." Geiger Counter, as described, is based around movie tropes.( And the "collaborative" nature really means that all of the players have to have big enough egos to want to influence the story.)

    The easiest way to play would be for the players to explicitly "borrow" ideas from movies that they have seen - characters, plot elements, settings - and just toss them together to make something new.

    They also have to be true to the genre - which means encouraging the death of their primary characters if it's appropriate for the plot. (Again that comes from familiarity with movie tropes.)
  • "Borrowing" ideas is the true secret of creativity. The thing is you start borrowing and mixing so many things sometimes it appears you created it from scratch.

    "There is nothing new under the sun" they say...
  • edited September 2008
    HI Selene,

    First, I'm surprised to hear of the difficulty for your group. At least, the difficulty for you -- if only because you came up with so many great idea in the Sorcerer & Sword game we played together.

    Second, we all have our own ways of doing things -- so when I disagree with people I do it with the spirit of offering you new options, not with the notion of telling people on this thread they are wrong.

    Caveat out of the way, I'm not sure if imitating anything is going to be very helpful. From my own experience, it puts one in the position of trying to get the "right" idea or borrow the pieces that "should" work together. This tends to make my brain freeze up rather than producing useful ideas.

    Now, I haven't read the rules of Geiger Counter (though I'm familiar with the game). I also don't know what parts of the game that pulled you and your friends toward it. But I can say that the strongest way to keep any creative ball rolling is to speak ideas that interest the person doing the speaking. Trying to do the "generic" or "right" version of the "monsters are coming for us story" will mostly like seem like an exercise in rote delivery. But if you guys can tap what you found appealing about the situation, don't think in terms of movies you've seen, and instead think, "What do I find interesting about this? What do I care about this? What sorts of situations, other characters, moments would I like to see?"

    If you're interested in big guys with guns, and what would that be like...? Start there. If your thinking, "If I was a parent, would I do to keep my child safe?" go there.

    Seriously. There's all sorts of variations on this kind of story. But the stories that work are the stories where the makers (in whatever media) actually cared about the moments, the characters or the situation at hand.

    So, instead of reaching for ideas "out there" -- which in my view is doomed to failure, whether one is trying to do the genre template or steal from bits of movies -- poke around inside and simply say, "What would be interesting?" And then, when it's your turn again, simply ask the question again. "What would be interesting?" Because what you're really asking is, "What would interest me?" And what interests you is going to at least interest YOU -- and, if you are being really authentic about answering that question, usually what interests you is going to interest the people around you as well.

    This isn't to say you won't be borrowing or shifting ideas from other media or moments... you probably will in some way or another. But just don't think about that. Simply ask, "What would interest me to see? To do? To speak about?"

    Get everyone onboard with this. Just lay it out clearly. Say, "So, when you get stuck, ask 'what interests you? what would you like to see?'"

    Also, don't make it feel like a game show with a clock running. When I GM I often let silences occur as the Players search around for color to speak or decisions to make. I let other players toss out ideas. Ideas are often built by the group! I try to make it a fun, social occasion. I never let anyone steamroll over a fellow player with an idea for that player's PC... but I encourage the social brainstorming of ideas. Let people have time. No one is failing if they are rummaging around to find that idea that makes them go, "Ah!"

    Finally, be generous with each other. Listen to other people's ideas... listen with generosity. Then, if possible, build on that idea. Get excited about other people's ideas -- because if excites you, you can incorporate it into your own ideas. In this way, no one is on their own in that pressure of brainstorming ideas. Every idea generated becomes something for everyone at the table to pick up and examine, turning it this way and that, in case there is some use for it for their own character.

  • Good tips I know for being creative:

    1. Stop trying to be creative. Just say the obvious thing: when framing a scene, frame the "obvious" scene that would come next; when thinking of goals, use the "obvious" goal for your character. The trick here is: what's obvious to you seems brilliantly creative to everyone else.

    (Don't discount this too quickly. It's really powerful.)

    2. Use random things to inspire you. I love the way Zombie Cinema uses random cards to create your character: I've grabbed my copy, while writing this post, and drawn "Family", "Lust or Greed" and "Useless?". From those, I instantly know who my character is (he's a fat philandering middle-manager with a family that bores him).

    You could use random things too: Tarot cards, perhaps. Or pick a random word from a book to inspire a character's goal. Or look around the room ("Right, this character's goal is going to be something about a vase. What the hell...? Oh, wait, it's a family heirloom...").

    (This links into being obvious. If you pick three random things, you'll instantly have an idea, and that idea is the one to go with).

    3. While playing the game, pretend you're a more creative person. Pretend you're a brilliant storyteller who waves their hands and has astonishing ideas.

    (Don't discount this one either.)

    4. Change something in the environment. Often, we play sitting at a dining table with the lights fully on, making everything feel businesslike. If you change things, you'll change the game: play by candlelight and you'll become philosophical and emotional; play in a hottub and you'll laugh more. Change something: what's on the table, the way you're dressed, the lighting, the chairs, anything.

    5. Warm up. When I did improv, we used to walk around the room, pointing at things and yelling out the wrong names. I wouldn't necessarily suggest this, but do something to put you in the right frame of mind. If you started your session with a game of Jungle Speed, the game after would be completely different.

    I hope some of that helps.

    (Mike, thank you for mentioning Play Unsafe. I'm going to quietly link to it, then be slightly embarrassed.)

  • Posted By: Graham W(Mike, thank you for mentioning Play Unsafe.I'm going to quietly link to it, then be slightly embarrassed.)
    Oh, you brits.

    Anyway, Graham said what I was trying to say in little, clear bullet points.

    Listen to Graham.
  • Posted By: Christopher Kubasik...when I disagree with people I do it with the spirit of offering you new options, not with the notion of telling people on this thread they are wrong.
    That is the basis for a successful and productive Brainstorm. :D
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