Sometimes, it feels like all the good plots are taken. I wrote movies off completely for a couple of years because they started feeling like a re-microwaved piece of steak. The two-hour block format Hollywood has so subtly exploited had me sick and frustrated. I mean, with a basic understanding of the Hero’s Journey, you can predict the remaining plot points of new movies at the twenty-minute mark. Why bother?
My point is, it can be hard to get inspired. That’s why I like seeing subtle but major shifts of the game. The other night I sat down to game night with some friends. They had been suggesting we play Scythe for a long time. It’s a massive game set in the post-WWI era. You play as a country and you’re trying to win by being the best at claiming territory, developing resources, etc. But, apparently, the game’s creator based the entire thing off of pre-existing art by Jakub Rozalski in a style called Dieselpunk.
If you’re like me, the word Dieselpunk may have just caused some synaptic connections to fire off like fireworks. It’s exactly the type of lateral thinking that I love. Rather than explore Steampunk deeper and deeper, this artist shifted the frame a bit and the result is gorgeous.
Just looking at the artwork immediately inspires me. This type of lateral thinking is the trick that much of Hollywood has pushed to the wayside (and a lot of authors I might add). It’s the trick that makes a viewer or reader forget completely about what might be typical, tired structural elements. As I tell my comedy students, it’s also the trick that makes humor work. It’s the surprising connection that comes from hard mental work and creates a sense of awe in the recipient.
I commend Jamey Stegmaier for following the inspiration trail and recognizing lateral thinking when he saw it. As a result, he has an awesome game that satisfies, not just the strategic gamer, but the dreamer and artist as well. In future posts, I’ll put up some exercises about developing lateral thinking, but for now, I just wanna look at these pictures.