When we think of the “rockstars” of the game industry, we immediately think of people like Tim Shafer, Hideo Kojima, SUDA51, and Shigeru Miyamoto. What do these heroes have in common? They’re all game designers! Great game designers have built entire industries and have shaped culture as we know it. So it’s easy to see why there are a lot of people dreaming of becoming game designers.
Video Game Designer:
You can start becoming a video game designer today! So where do you start? We‘re going to tell you all you need to know about what a video game designer does, and how to get started on a career path in game design today. We are Ask Gamedev and this is how to become a video game designer in 2018. Before we get into how to become a design designer, let’s take a closer look at the role. What does a game designer do? Game designers play a pivotal role in the overall direction of a game.
Everything starts with a game designer. Before a single line of code is written, game designers are busy planning in pre-production working on game design documents. Using written documents, visuals, and in-engine examples, game designers scope out key design pillars and rules, explore over-arching designs, prototype, and plan ahead for production and post-launch. Keep in mind that there are many different types of designers – and they often hold titles that reflect their area of expertise.
Gameplay designers have a deep understanding of mechanics and controls and work closely with gameplay engineers. UX designers have a good feel of how to build screens and HUDs – and they work closely with 2D artists, UI engineers, and animators. Level designers are commonly used in games with episodic worlds – like shooters, platformers, and adventure games. They are good at creating fun and challenging levels and work closely with environment modelers and animators.
Scripting designers often create code scripts that can automate certain aspects of the game creation. They typically use scripting languages and provide the bridge between design and engineering. Systems designers architect complex systems like the progression or metagame features. They do a lot of work in spreadsheets and work closely with systems engineers. And Finally, in the free-to-play mobile space, there are a lot of specialized designers that focus on developing retention and monetization design.
These designers are heavy users of analytics and are constantly reviewing data in order to optimize the game. This list is by no means exhaustive – there are designers that specialize in virtually all areas of game design. So how do you become a designer? Whatever type of design role you want to pursue- it’s important to remember that very few people jump right into a career in game design. A common way to become a game designer is to start working for a game studio in an entry-level testing job.
The benefit of being in quality assurance that you work with multiple teams and acquire a firm grasp of the entire development process. In addition, the number of hours spent in play-testing games can contribute greatly to your overall game design IQ as playtesting and quality design go hand in hand. Finally, testers often have to interact with existing game designers to interpret whether an issue in the software is as intended ora bug. This interaction can help develop an understanding of the design role and the language they use to describe the game.
In terms of educational background, there are many schools out there that provide educational designations on video game design. These can be helpful in signaling to a potential employer that you have built a base of game design knowledge, but these programs can be expensive and are by no means necessary to jumpstart your design career ambitions. As with many roles in game development, a superior strategy can be to develop an awesome prototype or game on your own time that demonstrates your creativity and technical abilities.
Now we know the types of games designers, and a few paths to becoming one – but what skills should a good games designer have? Game designers need to have a number of soft skills and hard skills! A good game designer should be able to communicate his or her ideas effectively, and be able to influence and motivate a team! Designers often draft a lot of early visualizations of game features before coders, artists and animators start the final creation process. A huge part of a designer’s job is keeping everyone aligned on the vision for the product.
Knowing how to write compelling design briefs, storyboards, and wireframes can be extremely useful in this effort. A good designer should also have a deep understanding of past games and the merits of their different mechanics and features. There are very few ‘new’ ideas in game design – so the more you know about existing products, the better you will be at making something that feels fresh. On the technical side, a game designer can definitely benefit from being skilled in a graphics program to be able to better visualize and present their ideas.
Knowing a scripting language like LUAis also important for things like designing levels and events. [role perks and challenges]Now that you know what a designer does and the skills they need, what are the perks and challenges with the role? On the positive side, you get to have a direct impact on the creation of a game – something we have all wanted to do! Also, designers are often seen as evangelists for the game – they can get media and conference opportunities as a result of their close understanding of how the game works.
In a large studio, the designer can often get lots of exposure to senior leadership as a result of their ability to speak on behalf of the team. This said the designer role is not without its challenges – as a team centerpiece the designer will often have to put in long hours and support the other team members during the crunch periods leading up to major milestones.
Designers often have to review and provide feedback on the work of other development team members, which means that they have to be regularly available. The lineup of people looking for game design roles is long – so expect to tough it out while you work your way up the ladder. But once you do become an established designer, where do you go from there?
What is the career path for this discipline? Typically, a designer can work their way up to the role of design or creative director – this is a senior design leader who typically manages a team of designers and is responsible for the overarching product vision. Once at this level, the managerial expertise gained can often lead to an executive producer or general manager role in a larger studio. The best designers have lots of upward mobility and can reach the highest levels in our industry.
If you want to learn more about video game design some great books to check out include Theory of Fun by Raph Koster The Design of Everyday Things by Don NormanThe Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda And A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell We have links of each of these books in the description.