Gamestorming was a circuitous process, but that is to be expected. Any brainstorming exercise involves some amount of iteration to see which ideas filter through the rest.
Exploring four separate ideation techniques was fascinating, especially as they built upon each other in some ways and worked independently in others. Out of the four, I took the most away from the first—can’t go wrong with the “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” approach. Not every idea I came up with was appropriate for the assignment at hand, but there’s a non-zero chance I revisit some of them under different circumstances. With a page of concepts written out, I developed two of them for future use.
Roughly two weeks passed before I continued the process. I was still turning over ideas in the background, but the combination of unexpected tragedy and isolating illness took priority over creative endeavors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this hindered my brainstorming; I let the idea card exercise go fairly early, and I was in no state to consider what if scenarios.
The idea I felt most strongly about had to do with a coffeeshop. I am quite fond of coffee, and have been searching for a light coffeeshop management game—in digital or analog—for a while now. My thought process may also have been impacted by a coffee-themed game jam running during that two week period, though I of course did not have the wherewithal to participate. In any case, the topic mapping exercise was entirely coffee-centric, and it led to some new dimensions which I hadn’t previously considered.
I had a strong foundation at the end of the ideation process. Entering into the story building phase, I knew generally where I wanted the plot to go, so I sat down and got to work.
Unfortunately, I quickly hit a wall. The concept lacked achievable depth for narrative branches, and the alternate endings I had in mind were essentially just game overs. Taking cues from Long Live the Queen and I Was a Teenage Exocolonist, I considered implementing a time management/statistic development mechanic, but including enough stats and interactions with them was well out of scope. Reluctantly, I made a pot of coffee and returned to square one.
The strongest alternative I considered was more of a social sim with a barista protagonist: Have conversations with patrons while making them coffee, learn some of their stories and struggles, and maybe help work through them. While I liked this idea, I realized that it was essentially Coffee Talk. Not only that, I vaguely recalled a classmate having a similar idea—down to the fantasy café setting—on our discussion board a few weeks prior. Ultimately, I decided to change focus, starting from concepts which I already have experience teaching.
While goal setting and breaking down tasks do not fit into the barista job description, they do coexist nicely in the role of a career coach. If I had the opportunity, I would absolutely schedule all non-confidential meetings over coffee, so I stubbornly refused to drop the coffeeshop setting. With these basic ideas in mind, I flew through the story development steps once more.
At first, I thought about beginning with a random selection between two clients out of a pool of five. However, I quickly realized that this would essentially require me to write the story five separate times so players could see 20% of the content per play—an idea well beyond the scope of such a short term project. Even so, between long-term outcomes and the client/counselor relationship, possible branches and conclusions came about far more easily. I will almost certainly revisit the prior concept in a different light, but the following story concept will carry into the subsequent narratology practice:
“You are a career counselor taking on a new client. Through three biweekly sessions over coffee, you help your client identify what they want to pursue, break it down into steps, and set an actionable goal to move forward.”