When you’re working on ideas, you want them to be amazing. Off the chart. To give the world some staggering thing it has never seen before. But brilliant ideas are often built from things that for the most part seem to be quite ordinary. Sometimes a simple twist is enough to elevate it from something familiar to something genius.
This is what I think if as a quarter turn – not even a full twist, but just the spin on the expected that makes you look at familiar things in a different way. And one of my favourite examples of this would have to be a game called Braid.
For anyone who’s not familiar with the game, its a few years old now but still amazing – the craft in the artwork and soundtrack alone make it well worth a look. But what gets me about this game is that it’s a platformer. A style of gameplay that has been done, and redone, about a billion times since classics like Donkey Kong were first on the scene.
But here’s the turn: in the game there are no “lives”. Instead, every time you die, you can reverse the flow of time – accompanied by an eerie backmasked soundtrack – right back to the point where you slipped off the ledge, and see if you can do things differently. Add in some platform elements that move the same regardless of the flow of time and suddenly you’ve got a mind-bending puzzler on your hands.
We’re attracted to what’s different about this idea: how warping the flow of time affects the gameplay. But without the surrounding context, without the incredibly familiar mechanics to twist in the first place, something like Braid wouldn’t exist.
Over the years, I’ve burnt a lot of energy searching for something completely new, out of left field. But sometimes the real creative gold is buried in the ordinary, tucked away in a place where others have stopped looking.