David Somerville
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Washington
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I've been into game design for about a year, and focused on tabletop design for the past few months specifically, and I find myself facing a persistent problem — I can't switch my game design brain off during the day.

This is fine on the commute and at home; by the time I walk in the door, I'm usually too brain-dead to move any game ideas forward. But it's becoming a problem at work. Nobody's picked up yet on how much time I spent sketching out game ideas at my desk, but it's only a matter of time, and I need to nip this in the bud.

I know this boils down to self-control, but I'm wondering if anyone else has faced a similar issue, and found helpful tricks for confining this kind of thinking to a better time? I'm thinking I might just need to draw a mental "ash circle" around the building where I work and not allow any game browsing, thinking, or talking once I set foot onto company property.

Anyway. Anyone else faced this? Anyone have any thoughts?
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hero gamer
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Florida
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I most definitely understand. I have about 50 Note files on my iPhone of different game ideas that I come up with throughout the day. I even have voice recordings that I do when I'm driving so I don't forget. I embrace it. Denying your creativity is a terrible idea. At least for me it is, because when I'm ready to sit and focus on designing, I have way to much crammed in my head and I can't focus my ideas. If it really is a problem, find ways around it, or use it to your advantage. When I'm working, and can't focus on game design, I put on headphones and listen to game-play podcasts, specifically the pax d&d ones are hilarious and entertaining. This keeps my mind in the realm of board games but allows me to still focus on work. Another possibility might be when you do get home and design-time is justified, to really force out all of your ideas. I mean even if you have a mechanic idea for a game you haven't designed, just jot it down, the more you get out the less you have to think about... then again, that could back-fire... shake I know my post didn't solve your issue, but at least your not alone out there!
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Beau Bocephus Blasterfire
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Berrien Springs
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The best way to get it out of your system for a while is to devote a day or two to designing and play test what you have. I'm guessing that you are pressed for time most days and probably feel that you don't have enough time to commit to your designs and therefore seek it when you should be doing something, like work.
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Schema Man
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Why fight it? I have tried to co-opt the tendency so that I think about how I'd model in a game whatever it is that I'm involved in. It's kind of a real time systems analysis process running in the background. &&
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David Somerville
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It's really good to know that I'm not alone! I've been listening to podcasts at work, but they usually just generate more ideas that I then want to act on. I think those might have to fall outside the "ash circle," if I follow that idea. I agree, though, that denying the creativity is a bad idea. I just need to figure out how to direct the flow of that creativity in a productive and non-"stealing my company's time" sort of way.

I like the idea of devoting a solid block of time to it, Beau. I think your diagnosis of being pressed for time and trying to work it on around the edges is exactly right. I probably need to just cool it a little until after we finish the move, then find a weekend to really just crank some work out.

Schema, I like the idea of running it all the time ... if I could find a way to do that without distracting myself from the actual job at hand, I think I might get really engaged with that.
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Steve Venezia
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Downtime is very important not just for your health but also to give your subconscious time to process your thoughts.

Exercising at least twice a week can significantly improve your creative output, so if you don't already have a hobby sport I'd recommend finding one. Activities like squash, running or swimming are perfect.

On top of this it's very important to have a relaxing way of switching off your brain - tv shows, books and video games do this for you. Don't feel guilty when spending time with these activities; you have to give your brain a rest!

When it comes to designing during your work hours, well that is tricky. I wouldn't do anything physical like writing notes at work, but there is no harm in taking a coffee break two or three times during the day and spending that time on game ideas.
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Nate K
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I've found that exhaustion helps.

zombie

Purging can also be good. Give yourself an hour or two and just DO GAME STUFF. That might be sketching out a new design, constructing a prototype, playtesting, research (which, yes, includes playing games), or what have you. Get out all out and make it really satisfying.

Then put that aside and do something else that will give that part of your brain a rest. Have a conversation with your significant other. Cook a spectacular meal. Write an email to your parents or grandparents. Put in a workout video or, if you prefer, ABBA You Can Dance. (Seriously, try it. IT'S SO GOOD.) Whittle. Practice your mad harmonica skillz. Get your brain off gaming for a little while and rest.

Finally, and this is the important part, SCHEDULE another chunk of time for more game stuff. That way, unless you get an idea that's really pressing and needs to be recorded right away, you can tell yourself throughout the workday, "Nope, it's not game time yet. I can't mess with that until lunch." (Or whenever.) Make the gaming part of your day something to which you can look forward, and you should be able to hold off on distracting gaming thoughts until then. Turn gaming into a big regular meal, rather than constantly snacking all the time.
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Chris Hawkins
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Charlotte
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You can't control your thoughts in the long run. You can suppress thoughts on a topic for a while, but soon there is a rebound effect, such that you think even more about it than you did before. If you want to read, google "Wegner" and "thought suppression."

You can control your behavior. Writing notes about game ideas is behavior. Reading about games is behavior. Maybe you can confine game-design behaviors to break time, or maybe you will have more success by avoiding all such behaviors in the workplace. People who work at home often face challenges of home activities impinging on work time. I heard that having a dedicated space just for work is helpful to home workers, so it may help to treat your workplace as a dedicated space for work and nothing else (except obvious necessities).
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Gary Tanner
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Logan
Utah
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It's not possible. I mean, I log on, take a look at the first page of recently posted threads and immediately think "Hey, I could design a game with this theme that could appeal to this group of people", and that's not seeing something like 'Are there any cooperative games that fight dragons?', that's seeing just a word or two in a thread topic like 'separate boards' or 'haunted' or 'quick'. Next thing you know, I've got that running through my head all day until I put down a rough layout of a game.

Give in to the dork side...
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Lizzie
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Oh Nate I think we need a demonstration of those mad Harmonica skills

In response to the OP, I carry a little notebook around, if I think of something that just can't wait I let myself jot down no more than a page (like 2 min work) of notes and then it is out of the worrying bit if my brain, I won't forget it, and I can focus on whatever else I am meant to be doing - which is where the excellent suggestion of setting aside time to work on games is really good, because I know I only need to hold off until Friday for example...
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David Somerville
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Couldn't agree more about the notes on physical activity. The winter (and two kids under the age of 3) haven't made that any easier ... but maybe I'll start running again in the summer, and keep active through other means until then.

I love the idea of working for a set time, and then scheduling another set time. I can get my head around that, and push off any serious work until then, taking notes as several of you have suggested to keep from losing anything important in between sessions.

This is really helpful. Thank you all! I keep being surprised over and over again what a great community we have here.
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Carl Nyberg
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+1 for physical activity. At the gym, you can refresh your body and your mind.

Also, like others have said, try to make game design one large meal instead of constant snacking.

This may seem like bad advice, but if you can't stop thinking about game design, maybe watch more TV. This way, your brain will be taking in neutral stuff from TV instead of constant game design stuff. Also try reading, to take in something other than game design into your brain. At first, you will still think about game design while you are watching more TV or reading, but eventually it will lessen.

If thinking about game design is affecting your work it is a problem.
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Andrew Rowse
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Perhaps a couple of shots of whiskey just before you get to work, to help slow your brain down and prepare it for the day?
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Sturv Tafvherd
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I seem to be full of half-serious replies today... so, with apologies in advance, here's another.

As with most other things that I want to stop myself from thinking about, I try to associate the thought with something disgusting.

If I were an alcoholic, I'd start associating the alcohol with pee ... maybe even intentionally drink some pee in a beer mug or a wine glass to cement the association.

If I were thinking of sex, or find myself lusting after women, I'd try to imagine them taking a dump; or 40 years older with a less desireable physique.



In your case, I guess you could imagine having to bring that game design to conventions, and having to ask .. nay, beg ... fat, greasy, and stinky convention attendees to playtest the game with you in a poorly ventilated room.


Oh, I'm sorry, I should have told you to finish your dinner first.

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