One of Einstein's famous quotes is that "Creativity is more important than intelligence". Another one is, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere”. Do you agree?
I have always found great joy in the creative process. It has been an amazing and wonderful feeling to explore, tinker, and express myself in new ways. One of my favorite activities over the years, more like a hobby actually, has been designing board games, particularly soccer board games! I have been on a long quest for designing the ultimate soccer game simulation! This goes back to before video games. I think video games are great, but I have always preferred the physicality of the hands-on, moving-the-pieces-around-the-board-while-you're-thinking kind of experience. (I would love to go off on a tangent here, and bring up Subbuteo Table Soccer, but that can be for another time!). I have gone through the process of designing no less than 6 soccer board games, all very different from each other. One is pure tactics-based. Another is based on numerical superiority. Another is a combination of live-action and strategy. Another is a player management game. And still another that rewards momentum.
Game based on momentum
and shot creation.
Game based on support and
numbers around the ball.
Game based on systems, numerical superiority, and risk & reward.
I haven’t tried marketing any of them, because, quite frankly, I don't feel they are great, only good. They are missing the “wow factor” and need tweaking, but that isn't the point. What I’m trying to tell you is that the process of coming up with the mechanics of a board game from scratch is an amazing experience for a soccer enthusiast! To sit at a table, and play around with ideas, concepts, sequences and rules for a game of soccer simulation that flows and even remotely resembles the game we love, has been one of the more stimulating and influential uses of my time as a coach! If you have never done this, you should try it. The process is awesome, even as a one time, one game experience! Now imagine what might happen to your eye, and your understanding of the game if you did this periodically! I can tell you emphatically that my game, as a coach, jumped significantly in the 12 or 15 year period that I was building these games. Looking back on it now, I can see that that era for me was a prime example of putting the books away and not so much learning, but THINKING! And today, I am consciously aware that I need to get back at it!
What does the process of designing a board game do for you? Well, for one it does make you THINK. You are forced to connect the dots and make it make sense. It will sharpen your critical thinking and logic. It will change how you look at the game. It will change how you evaluate players. It will develop your eye. It may even help you appreciate the game even more than you already do! An example of the process might be how you need to solve the problem of quantifying skill in your design. You are basically trying to design interesting or fascinating ways to produce outcomes in moments of play. There is a lot of, “if this, then that” going on. Cause and effect.
Something else that comes out of this is that you will no doubt learn more about yourself. Subconscious philosophical thoughts will bubble up to the surface and become concrete. You might be a numbers and statistics person, so your game would reflect that. You might be a minimalist and like simplicity. You might like fast paced games, or perhaps live action games. Maybe you really like the challenge of acquiring, and then managing a team through a grueling season, start to finish. Would you prefer cards, dice or spinners as a mechanism of play? Philosophies, ideas and concepts that you hold dear to your heart will be tested in this artificial playground!
Game based on live action, shooting, goalkeeping, angles and mild tactics.
"THINKING MAN’S SOCCER"
Chess-like, only more
detailed in soccer nuance.
The hard part of course, is getting started. But once you begin the process, it becomes a journey unto itself, and like any journey, you will find yourself taking unexpected detours that produce another thought, another idea! Creativity begets creativity!
In case you haven't checked, there are soccer board games out there. I have bought most of them! None of them satisfy me. Rules are too complex and take too long to learn. Games take too long to play. Some are not challenging enough or the graphics aren't cool enough. On and on. This is where you come in! You have full autonomy to make it how you want it. Take the things that frustrate you and eliminate them. Keep in mind, just like the real game of soccer, every time you gain in one area you will give something up in a different are. What are you willing to trade off?
Probably the best way to start is to play an existing game all the way through, and then think about what changes you would make to it. Rules? Mechanics? Aesthetics? Size? Building a prototype is not that hard. Start with some graph paper, a pencil, an eraser and an idea. Use a white board. Scissors, glue, tape. Use household items for game pieces, or go to the hobby shop for ready-made items. Use a napkin when you're out for breakfast. Just start doodling and noodling.
Of course, you will need the time and then the craziness to delve into such an activity. Your spouse, kids and/or friends might think you're a bit nuts, but what the heck! There's nothing wrong with being a bit of a mad scientist with the intent to better yourself, either as a player or coach, and, who knows, maybe the game itself!
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