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The Man with 541 game ideas
“I remember getting to 500 and thinking ‘this is where I’ll stop’ and then I carried on – I did that thing when you think ‘I’ll stop this and do something else’ and then I missed doing that because I like drawing”. King Baggot – he prefers to go by his online pseudonym – may not be a household name in game design, but he is a whirlwind of ideas. Even prolific game designers are known for a handful of games at most, but King Baggot – a programmer of flash and Unity games and cartoonist – has sketched 541 comic game design documents and counting.
He’s given talks at the Develop game design conference and been the subject of his own Game Jam, where developers clubbed together to make games based on a specific theme – in this case, ideas from his Game Toilet blog. The ideas range from the obscene to the mundane: “I remember a guy asking me questions about how something would work in a stained glass cutting sim, and I was like ‘I don’t know. I haven’t got a clue’. I hadn’t really thought that far!’”
It started, as all great ideas do, in a company notebook at 5pm in the deadzone where the work is done, but without enough of the day remaining to start something new. Baggot would use this down time to draw a game idea – usually the kind that would never be published by the fairly cautious company he worked for in office hours. A creative outlet that continues to this day: his designs – though better drawn – still have the unmistakable spaced lines of the low-end bulk-bought company notebooks.
The ideas are an interesting mix of true stories (the mouse in the toaster game is particularly harrowing), satirical versions of existing games (The Last of Us, an Edward Snowden themed Animal Crossing and a sweary take on Doom have all appeared over the years) to films and literature. He even considered a take on the current #gamergate controversy, by making a game about Freemartins from Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: “With the controversy about women’s portrayal in games, and people who get offended by the discussion of women’s portrayal in games, I thought I’d make a game about Freemartins. They’re both men and women so it won’t offend anyone”. His work is often a mix of pop-culture and niche – alongside a Holly Hunter Top Trumps game (with points for number of lines the actress had and IMDB rating), he’s currently considering a Buckminster Fuller/Ferris Bueler crossover game – Buckminster Fuller’s Day off. “If it’s esoteric enough, you get a kick out of it.”
So from 541 games, which are his favourites? Number 500 was a highlight: a virtual butler sim, where you get notifications to your smartphone, and then have to carry your phone flat without any tilting for a certain number of steps (at later levels, the phone should emit high pitched noises to attract dogs.) Mr Crow is a game about a man in a cosplay crow outfit completing missions based entirely on taking the path ‘as the crow flies’ no matter how many painful obstacles are in the way. Then there’s #284, the realtor sim, based on the principal of ‘enough space to swing a cat in’, where you have to prove to interested buyers the generous real estate by swinging a cat (or in later levels, a tiger) around without hitting any furniture. That’s the favorite at Develop, too.
He gets occasional game design suggestions through his website (including the David Lynch themed beat-em-up: Lynch Mob), but perhaps the biggest source of off-the-wall ideas come from his eldest son, aged six. “He doesn’t do that so much anymore, sadly. Now he plays regular games, the ideas are all ‘Minecraft in space’ – for two years it’d be weird stuff like ‘there’s a man in the mountain who works with The Greener who lives in the same tree as The Butter’. The best ones are where you draw an idea based on both children – and you show them the ideas afterwards and they say ‘That’s not what I meant’ and get really angry.”
He’s made around 15 of the games himself including ‘Watch Paint Dry’ which is exactly what it sounds like (extract from a NewGrounds review: “10 minutes is all I can do for this game. I might come back and sacrifice an hour to this…”), so will he make the rest one day? Eight months is his initial estimate. Really? Eight months? “I’d have to strip out 20% that are unmakable or no longer relevant – that leaves around 400, each one seven days max that’s 400 weeks… yeah, I was wrong.” he laughs. “Eight years! Yeah, why not? I’ll just sit down and start at Number One some day.”
For now though, he’s planning to make the best into a book with the somewhat defeatest title of ‘100 games you can never play’. Will it be hard to cut it down to less than 20% of his drawings? “I suppose so, but then someone once said to me ‘one in 10 of these is really good isn’t it?’ – so now when I’m drawing one, I find myself going ‘Oh, is this one of the terrible ones?’” Having set the modest target of $250 to fund his book on KickStarter, the project has now successfully been backed – although 25 days remain if you still want to donate. If you pay enough, he’ll even draw you a custom game design in the back of your copy.
“I remember I once went to a worm farm, and a friend of mine said ‘you’re going to make a game of that aren’t you?’ and I replied ‘no, no, no, no – it’s not like I see something funny and then make a game of it!’ But then I thought ‘yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what I do isn’t it?”