Take an idea and run with it

by Frances Moritz

Gaming is a thinker's hobby. Whether you're planning the details of your latest RPG character, creating an army for a miniatures strategy game, or determining the best cards or click figures for a tournament, there is a lot of thought that goes into it. A side effect of people who tend to think too much is the incredible quantity of ideas running around in the gaming industry and fandom.

Many of these ideas just get bounced around and then fizzle. A few are so impractical that everybody involved acknowledges that while it would be fun, it's not really feasible. An online discussion several years ago about a gaming museum, where you could learn about the history of gaming and play games you didn't have access to normally kept the discussion board entertained for a couple weeks, but we acknowledged that it would be near impossible – and financially painful – to establish as a functional business model.

On the other hand, an online discussion about a mini-convention entirely focused on Dork Storm Press, which initially was left hanging, resulted in the creation of DorkStock, now in its fourth year. (For more details on the development of DorkStock, see Lori's article.)

In reflecting upon the various gaming-related ideas I've been involved with, I realized that they develop in different ways. Some days, ideas just hit. Very occasionally, I have the sense to run away from them. Most of the time, I don't. Fortunately for me, the people around me haven't learned to run away from them either (see examples: The Lady Gamers).

Many of the ideas come from a commute that I consider too long. The commute seems to produce more time-consuming ones (see example: The Lady Gamer). Mostly, these ideas spring up after too much caffeine – the energy's got to go somewhere when I'm trapped in a car for that long.

A few are directly based on other people's ideas - Cartoon Frag, for example, was hatched out of another MIB's Furry Frag, which gives characters both advantages and disadvantages. Cartoon Frag is simpler in that characters only have special abilities, but is easier to expand, based on the availability of cartoon figures versus anthropomorphic figures. The initial wave of characters was based on figures I owned or wanted to own; additions are based on finding appropriate figures in the right size. Much like a kid in a candy store, I'll stand in a toy store excitedly turning packages every which way, evaluating whether the figures will work for my needs, both by size and potential abilities.

Likewise, last year's Munchkin Poetry Contest was based on a friend who wrote the first Munchkin poem that I had seen. (Look under "some of his writings" for "The Problem With The Gazebo.") It occurred to me that the Munchkin fan base could almost certainly come up with more poetry. Some day, the contest judges may even forgive me.

Some are group ideas, developed by sitting around talking until someone suggests something so outrageous that everybody agrees we should try it. The insanity that is ÜberGURPS spun out of a late night excursion to Culvers during a gaming party. And as frightening as the concept of running a four-day, continuous RPG – and all the planning that goes with it – is, it's the shortened version from the original. The difference is that original happened on its own, with no planning involved, for a full week. (As I mentioned to my brother-in-law the other night, I didn't marry my husband for his sanity.)

It's not that they're bad ideas. I figure if I've been able to sell other people on the concepts, they can't be all bad, right? (That or they haven't learned to run away yet. Your pick.)

Most of the time, coming up with the idea is the easy part. The actual execution is what takes planning, recruiting assistance, splitting the work down to manageable levels, and some real work. Sometimes, it's just passing the work off to someone else and keeping an eye on it. (Corporate America has taught me that this is called "management," not "passing the buck.") For the Munchkin Poetry Contest, I simply came up with the idea and sent the poems on to the judges; the webmaster for the MIB North website did most of the work, from creating a submission page to setting up voting and tallying the results.

And this is another advantage to gaming – we're used to working in teams. Even in competitive games, there's opportunities for alliances (err... and backstabbing, but let's not get into Munchkin right now). The downside is that in the games, we're not used to a consistent leader – it can vary based on the characters, the armies involved, or other factors of the game. Of course, there are often (lack of) focus issues, but the same thing happens in real jobs. While organizing gamers for a project has often been described as herding cats, organizing any group of people is quite similar, especially when everybody has ideas they want to contribute. While this may generate some disagreements and seem upsetting at times, it's far better than the alternative: apathy. Any project is easier to accomplish when the people involved care about it.

The key thing with ideas is that they usually need some assistance. Even if the execution phase can be accomplished by one person, there are benefits to brainstorming with other like-minded people. We don't live in a vacuum; we shouldn't try to think in one either.

Knowing that there are a lot of good ideas out there, this month, The Lady Gamers want your ideas. Just your article ideas, what you'd like to see covered here in future months. Take a look at our Contest page for details.

Meanwhile, I'll try to convince one of the local science fiction conventions that they want to allow a Munchkin d20 Dungeon Crawl in their basement next year....

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