Today I attended my second Experimental Games Workshop, which is a pretty open-ended showcase of any game that is considered “experimental.” All of the games featured were incredibly intriguing and got a lot of audience engagement, and in the interest of figuring out what exactly was the source of this, I decided to examine them a little further. Each game presented was very different but they all had one common thread: some sort of twist where a well-established concept was turned on its head. The main categories where there could be a twist seemed to be: medium, systems, or content. It was the unexpected that elicited laughter and surprise from the audience and set each game apart.
An example of a medium twist is Edible Games, a collection of games all played with food, where eating is usually a featured mechanic. The systems themselves are generally traditional, where you do puzzles or bluff your way through to get points and ultimately win, but the fact that food is the vehicle for the game made it fun and fresh.
Some examples of systems twists are Plus-Minus, a game where you control the polarity of objects and use magnetism to solve environmental puzzles, or Lucky Me, where the object of the game is to be the last man standing but the twist is that every other character in the crowd copies your movements exactly.
Finally, an example of a content twist is What The Golf?, a game where the system remains the same the whole time (your typical golfing game controls,) but the content changes to increasingly get more and more hilariously bizarre (you start off trying to golf a ball into a hole, you end up as a hole golfing itself towards a ball, a ball golfing a man into a hole, a house golfing itself across streets and around cliffs, a soccer ball golfing itself around as people try to kick it, and more.)
This paradigm of thinking when generating new ideas helps give some guidance on areas of innovation that have had success before and are likely to bring the most player delight to the table.