“Ket, I know what game we can make!” I was really excited to give Ketner a call that night after inspiration struck me earlier in the day. He and I had spent about a week trying to come up with ideas for a game and some of them were decent enough ideas but nothing that really got us excited. Earlier that day I had dinner with my grandmother. I visit her once a week in her Assisted Living Home to have dinner with her and spend time with her, usually watching game shows. I would get to the Home early typically to make sure we got to the cafeteria before they opened, and on this particular day as I wheeled her into our usual place just outside the doors something happened, and I’ve come to call it “The Slowest Tornado of Chaos”. At 4:20 p.m. there were only a few people in the lounge area, but by 4:25 the hallways were filled with old folks making their way to us. I saw a traffic jam that actually made me laugh, and that may sound cruel in a way, as though I was laughing at old people, but the truth was I saw the faces of these elderly people who lived with each other every single day, and as a group of them either using canes, walkers, and there was even a scooter, met all at once no one knew what to do, and they all just laughed and said to each other, “Go ahead”, “No you go on”. One would start to move, then the others, then they would all stop, starting the process over. This went on for nearly 2 minutes, which was an eternity it seemed, and that’s where the idea for our game came from. I knew right then to call it “Dinner’s at 4:30”, and a flood of ideas came into my brain all at once. “We could make a card over this incident, and a card for this, and a card for that…”, drawing from things I had seen at the Home for the past year. All I knew at the time was that making a game that could place you as an elderly person in a Home could be really funny. I knew as well right then that I didn’t want to make a game that was making fun of these people. I loved and respected my grandma and to use things in a game that mocked her wasn’t anything I could stomach. If I did this then the game would have to focus on the aspects more or less of the Assisted Living Home rather than a game that’s sole focus was just on being old. I know someday I’ll be old, and maybe in a Home myself so why make fun of a group of people that I’ll join?!
I explained the idea and concept to Ket and his reaction was what I wanted to hear. “Man… that is hilarious! We could really come up with some great cards and great artwork for a game like that!” This was our first ‘success’ as a team and it made me feel great. Here was an idea that we both agreed on, and an idea that we could both get behind equally.
For any creator the point should be to let inspiration hit you however it does. Not every idea is going to be great. Some ideas are going to be the best idea ever, but possibly only to you and to no one else, especially the public who you want to get behind your project. Let ideas spring into your mind and run with them for a bit, see if they have any traction at all. The ones that don’t should make themselves known, and when they are obviously bad ideas or bad concepts then don’t be afraid to stop. It’s possible to come back to them later because maybe you were approaching the idea in the wrong way. However, if something is dead in the water in the development stage then quit trying to bring it back to life and realize it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
In fact I had a game recently that I was beginning to work on developing and got quite a bit far with my notes, gameplay, and was even starting to build a prototype only to realize the game just wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be. I’ve taken time from it, thought it over, and the conclusion I’ve come to at the moment is that I’m not going to make it. It’s possible I come back to it, and maybe later a different game mechanic can make it’s way into my brain to make the game into something that both I and the player want. Until then I know I can put my time and resources into something else.
So how exactly did we know we had the right idea? We began to develop the game, coming up with ideas on gameplay, cards that could be included, and most importantly we ran the idea through some friends and others who said the concept was great! When we told them about the idea of being an old person in an Assisted Living Home attacking other people with your dentures we always got a smile. We continued to create more card ideas, and the more we created, and the more we talked with others the more we realized we were making something that people could really enjoy.
I’m continuing these ‘prologue’ posts because I’m still creating the backdrop of everything that went right and wrong for No Echo Games, but just this past month I was able to sit down with some game designers who’s first reaction to seeing the game I had made, the artwork, the board, the cards and just the concept had them give a reaction of, “When I first saw the box and you explained the concept, I loved the idea!”. Unfortunately that was about as good as it got, but trust me, I’m getting to that fateful meeting soon enough.