HipBone Games as a Tool in Brainstorming / Creativity

A preliminary, brief exploration of some possible applications of the HipBone Games in brainstorming, problem solving and creativity.

Charles Cameron

There are two key issues in creativity and brainstorming: getting all the possible ideas "out on the table", and finding the pattern that solves the problem, reveals the hidden through-line of the work of art, rationalizes the intuition or whatever. Thus it is important to note that any "creativity / brainstorming" Game may stop at any point -- if the "solution" or "key" emerges -- but also that continuing play after such a point may yet reveal more than was present in that first "aha!"...


The simplest form of the Game as applied to creativity and brainstorming is already in use, under the name "clustering", which Gabrielle Rico describes in her excellent book, *Writing the Natural Way*.

The idea is to take a salient issue, "the Theme" or "the Problem", and write down a word or phrase that names it in a box or circle, somewhere towards the center of a blank page. Then start jotting down some key words that describe other aspects of the theme or problem, putting each in its own box, and connecting them by linking lines with previous "items" where an associational link is present. The "board" in this case grows in an somewhat random manner, guided only by what items, links and associations the group generates...

As with other aspects of the Game, however, this can be formalized and ritualized in various ways that add to its utility.

Thus "clustering" can be done on a pre-defined Game board such as the WaterBird Board. The items are then placed in the ready-made positions on the board, and associative links must conform to the grid of connecting lines on the board. In this case, as many links as possible should be articulated by the player making a move with other positions that connect with it. But the added Game Wrinkle called "Trumps" is added to the Game at this point, allowing other players to replace any move with another that carries more associations. This "trumping" is quite delightful in itself, and leads to a final state of play in which a very dense set of interconnections has been woven. And players can be encouraged to "include" links that were present in earlier moves, later "trumped", in more inclusive moves and richer linkages of their own. The ideal would be to compress all the many associations that might be present in a somewhat fragmented "clustering" Game into a tighter -- and hence more organized and definitive -- form.

Similarly, a "clustering" Game could be played first, and further revelations would occur if after all the participants had laid out their many associations in a loose cluster, they moved to the WaterBird board and attempted to "formalize" the original cluster into a tighter and more organized form.

Another Game Wrinkle, "Secrets", would consist in playing a "clustering" Game as described above, but with the proviso that each player after the first would keep the links that they perceived between their move and other items in play to themselves. After each move, it would be another player's job to articulate those links, so that the play would move in this fashion:

First player, initial move
Second player, second move
Third player, links between one and two
Fourth player, third move
Fifth player, links with third move
By the time the whole group has contributed either a move or a series of links, many members will no doubt be chomping at the bit to explain their own version of the links they intended with earlier moves, and in the second phase of the Game, each player could add this information into the mix when her or his turn arrived -- in addition to playing an item or commenting on the immediately preceding move. This particular Wrinkle has the advantage that it draws upon a wider range of different perspectives as to what constitutes or may be learned from a given link, thus increasing the overall web of associations and mutual understandings.

Again, if PERT charts are used in an organization to determine the necessary timelines for achieving a complex goal, they can likewise be considered as "ready-made" Game boards, and associations between phases of development along different timelines connected by leaps of association -- and once again, this may lead to a new understanding of how the complex process in question is articulated...


There are many more Wrinkles that could be introduced, either to the initial "clustering" Game, or to a Game played on a preset board -- in fact, part of the fun of this family of Games is that many players "invent" new wrinkles as they go along. The next step would be the development of a series of different Games of this sort, in the field --working with creative brainstormers and problem solving groups -- and the compilation of anecdotal materials and Game records illustrating the various possibilities, flaws and advantages of each to different people in differing circumstances.

Anyone interested in this approach is invited to contact me via email at hipbone@earthlink.net.

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HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright (c) Charles Cameron 1995, 96. See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.