Ever Face a Creative Block? This Card Game, Invented by an Agency Founder, Might Help

The Game of Creativity helps build confidence as well

The Game of Creativity is being crowdfunded for its second edition. Matt Vojacek

If you ask anyone in the ad business, creative block is a real phenomenon that can prevent breakthrough ideas. There are all kinds of techniques and tales of how that wall can be broken from long walks and drives to spins around the internet to find weird things that might jar something … anything loose in the right part of the brain.

For Columbus, Ohio, agency Zwelly principal Matt Vojacek, getting to the creative promised land takes a card game he invented: The Game of Creativity. The game itself is deceptively simple. In the first iteration of the game, two or three out of 56 cards with objects and scenarios are flipped, and players are encouraged to write out how a problem can be solved with the combination.

The second version of the game, which is now on Kickstarter, includes a story brief and another called an “ingredient card,” (similar to the cards in the first edition), that helps expand the opportunity for creativity. In a way, it’s akin to an improv show, where a scenario and objects prompt the actors, but the difference is that players can write, draw or talk about the vision of the combinations.

A motion designer by trade, Vojacek found that creativity is mostly based on researching other peoples’ work as opposed to jarring one’s own sense of creativity.

“I think that a lot of people who call themselves professional creatives do more research than actual creative thought,” he said. “That’s not meant to be a dig at anybody, but I think that a lot of people specialize in looking at things on Pinterest and then creating things based on other people’s work. This was a problem that I was running into.”

In essence, Vojacek was trying to help himself become more creative but, after inventing the game, he found that his mission was to help influence creative education and keep it alive and well, especially at an early age. Referencing a TED Talk by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson, where he discussed how schools kill creativity, Vojacek pointed out that definition of creativity, anywhere in life, should be reconsidered.

“Whenever people get older, they see themselves doing something creative, but they consider ‘creative’ to be drawing, painting or photography … things that are based more in tools than actual creativity,” he said. “I’m trying to find ways to bring that back into peoples’ live and reintroduce them to creativity, their own thoughts, experiences and worldviews.”

The idea of a game in the first place wasn’t in the cards. An adjunct professor at Columbus College of Art and Design, Vojacek was seeking a way to help his students.

“I keep a journal, and I was looking back at what I had written for the previous six months, and I came to the conclusion that creativity is the collision of two unlike things,” he recalled. “So I started drawing little squares on paper and writing different objects in them.”

From there, he found a special offer for cards on Moo.com and began prototyping the game. After the initial idea was set, he went to Kickstarter with a goal of funding the project for $750.

“I was looking for maybe 15 to 20 people to buy it,” said Vojacek, who has worked several major brands like IBM, ESPN, McDonald’s and TV shows like Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. “We met the goal within 24 hours and then, by day two or three, people started sharing it.” By the end of the run on Kickstarter, 1,045 people pledged $32,394.

Now, Vojacek is back on the crowdfunding platform for the second edition of the game. While largely the same, the pack has expanded to 100 cards (50 story brief and 50 ingredient cards) and will be of higher quality.

Part of the reason for the change was what Vojacek learned from a year of feedback from players. He found that people were playing the game with their kids or using it in corporate workshops to introduce more creativity. Some stranger applications include using the cards as magic tricks or, in the case of one woman, tarot cards.

As far as the game’s design, it is sparse and utilitarian on purpose, using only black and white as the primary colors.

“I wanted to remove all the colors,” noted Vojacek. “I don’t want people to be inspired by the cards, I want them to be inspired solely by their own thoughts.”

The end goal now for Vojacek? After reaching his goal of $12,500 to fund the new version of the game, he hopes that people, especially in advertising, see this is an opportunity to break from the sea of sameness.

“I’d love to see people start making more personal work,” said Vojacek. “And I think that has a place, even if it’s working with major brands that have 200-page brand guidelines. There’s always a place for people to be a little bit more unique.”

The Game of Creativity: Volume 2 Kickstarter campaign ends on Mar. 12.

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.