Game Development Reference
Mastering design process means knowing which card to play, and
when. The iteration loop shows us a good basic approach, but by itself it
is not enough. In reality, there is no simple algorithm for knowledge cre-
ation. To do it well, we must react continuously to the shifting conditions
of the project. To do that, we have to know all of our cards very well. So let's
go through the deck.
Rumination means thinking about a problem for an extended period of
time. Chew on an idea for hours, days, or years, and it may eventually
reveal its secrets.
The mind ruminates automatically when doing easy tasks like show-
ering, walking, or driving. Sometimes rumination can even be involun-
tary. Everyone's been kept up at night by thoughts they just can't stop.
Unpleasant as it is, even this rumination can be productive (many of the
ideas in this topic were born as paper notes scrawled at 2:00 a.m.).
Rumination also happens unconsciously. Our conscious mind might
forget about a problem, but the unconscious does not. It keeps working
long after we give up. If you've ever spontaneously realized the solution to
a hard question a day after failing to solve it, you've reaped the harvest of
There's no way to predict when unconscious rumination will spit out
its results. This is why some thinkers carry around notebooks in which
they randomly jot down ideas. They want to capture the fruit of their un-
conscious rumination whenever it arrives.
One strategy for harnessing unconscious rumination is to alternate
work on different problems. While working on one task, our unconscious
ruminates on the other. This is why Edison, Darwin, Leonardo da Vinci,
Michelangelo, and van Gogh all worked on multiple projects at the same
Good rumination requires two key ingredients.
The first is knowledge. Rumination works by forming new connec-
tions between old ideas. The bigger the store of old ideas available, the
more possible connections there are. Game-related knowledge is obviously
essential for game designers, which is why designers should play widely.
But even knowledge apparently unrelated to the problem can feed rumina-
tion. Knowledge of economics, history, Nepalese culture, or fly-fishing
techniques could all form part of a creative solution to a design problem.
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