11 Apr

Zen Pencils – An Amazing Inspirational Site

Zen Pencils Dinosaur

Zen Pencils DinosaurIt’s not often that I come across a site that immediately clicks with me. Zen Pencils is such a one.

Zen Pencils (or Gavin Aung Than, an Australian freelance cartoonist who is the one man show behind it) takes inspirational quotes from some of the greats of the world and creates cartoons based on them.

But wait, there’s more. The cartoons aren’t your regular, internet fare, cute kitten with cliché text type cartoons. No, Than creates entire stories surrounding the quotes, stories showing (as opposed to telling) the essence of the quote.

It may not be the exact way it was intended by the speaker (for example, I don’t think that Amelia Earhart thought it terms of cuddly monsters) but it certainly is in the spirit of the quote. And it stays with you. And it’s got Calvin and Hobes (well, Bill Waterson, which is almost the same thing).

So go read Zen Pencils.

Now.

27 Mar

Never Waste Your Inspiration

Inspiration Idea

Inspiration IdeaRemember that great idea you had? The one that felt so fresh, so clean, so bleeding marvelous that it sprouted tiny butterflies and the cast of Disney on Ice came by to sing the theme?

The one you put off until you finished whatever you were doing? The one that you tried getting back to, only to discover that it was marvelous – a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?

Inspiration has a best before date. Pass it and it’s gone, burnt out on imagining instead of doing. You can still see your idea, but you can no longer feel it the same way. Read More

18 Mar

Are your Gaming Goals the Right Ones?

Love Letter cardsI’ve come to a realization. You see, for a long, long time (like, most of my life) I thought that it would be great to get paid to play games. Would there be a better life than being a game reviewer? Just play and play games all day and then jot down some sarcastic notes and rake in the dollars.

Then I realized that there wasn’t much of a market for people who play a game once and then write down how much it sucks. Being a game reviewer, at least a good game reviewer, includes playing the game over and over again even if it does suck. Especially if it sucks.

But by this time I had become enamored with the realization that of how much smarter, better, brighter and generally more of a good guy I was than all other game designers put together. If they’d just listen to me the games would be so much greater than they were now. Read More

29 Nov

Tips from 5 mega-successful designers you’ve never heard of

Robot Turtles design sketchSometimes we tend to look too much inwards, toward what we know and what we love. Which is fine, but it makes us miss the golden nuggets of wisdom that come from people in related fields.

So, without further ado, here are five wild success stories and hands on tips from five toy designers who went from zero to hero in no time flat. Some nuggets:

Find the hook. I couldn’t convince myself that Robot Turtles was a good idea until I came up with the phrase “A board game that teaches programming to preschoolers.” That generated interest. It was something new. If I said, “I made an educational board game,” nobody would have cared.

– Dan Shapiro

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04 Sep

Advice for those dreaming of designing a game

Image: Flavio Takemoto/FreeimagesYou’re going to design crap. There’s no way around it. No matter what you do, you’re going to design crap.

When you start out, you’ll look to what others have done and attempt to copy them. You’ll look to published games and attempt to make something like them, only better.

You will fail. Read More

22 Apr

When you can’t create – Ways to beat Procrastination

Procrastination posterI have moments when I really want to design but I can’t manage to force myself to sit down and do the work. I putter around, surf, read BoardGameGeek, Wikipedia, webcomics, news sites. I try to think about my design but I do it half-heartedly, my mind wandering off to how glorious my game is going to be rather than working on how it is now. I sit, I stare and I waste time until I realize that I’m procrastinating and have to do something about it.

I used to think that procrastination was a sign that my ability was blocked, my muse gone on vacation. Then I thought that it was because I feared success or failure, that I couldn’t stand the idea of showing my work to somebody. I read and read, going through the self-help shelf at the library the way a drug addict goes through strings of cocaine. It’d help for a while but once the euphoria of Eureka! had worn off I’d be back in the old cycle of productivity-procrastination. Read More

03 Jan

All You Really Need to be a Game Designer

Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.
Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.

Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.

I once saw a brilliant description of what it takes to be a writer. It was filmed during a writers’ conference, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve forgotten who said it, but one of the greats of Science Fiction. He was asked what it took to be a writer. He then picked up a piece of paper in his left hand, a pen in his right hand and mimed writing.

You don’t need fancy word processors to be a writer. All you need is to write. You don’t need fancy cubes to be a game designer. All you need is to design games.
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