How to become a game designer

How to become a GAME DESIGNER?

If there’s one question I get asked more than anything else, it’s this: How to become a game designer? Fortunately, We have some of the answers and the ability to ask other people in our circles of industry colleagues that have helped us draft an answer to this question.

How to become a GAME DESIGNER Table of Contents

And let’s start by the actual most important questions of all: What is a game designer and what does a game designer actually do, and why consider to become a game designer.

What is a game designer?

The game designer is the person who designs the creative aspects of the game, such as the plot and story, levels and environment, and character interaction. They work with other professionals, such as developers and artists, to communicate ideas and manage the project through to game production.

Depending on the situation, game designers may specialise in certain game elements and work with other teams at commercial or independent game development companies.

Alternatively, they can invent, produce, program and publish titles themselves.

There is a lot of mis conceptualizations about game design and especially about the figure and role of the game designer. Most of people, when thinking about game designers, usually think about the game designer figure and fame, like for instance Kojima.

How to become a GAME DESIGNER - Hiddeo Koijma
How to become a GAME DESIGNER – Hiddeo Koijma

the truth is that a game designer role is much more closer to one accountant than to some one purely creative, as the game designer has to control all the main mechanics of the game which will be mainly mathematics based.

Surely there are some creative aspects associated with story & visuals, but there other roles associated with these parts for the game creation process that will probably have a more important role in the process.

The evolution of game design

The term “game designer” is quite common these days. Many commercial game development companies are made up of large teams with many individuals contributing to the success of the game. These include programmers, producers, level designers, modellers, animators, technical artists, testers, marketing and finance specialists and many others.

For example, level design is the concept of players brainstorming what they will encounter during the game. Course designers therefore need to consider a number of factors to create a game that is attractive to players.

Course designers do not want to create games that are too easy or too difficult. In other words, they want to create games that are “just right”, i.e. fun! To do this, the game should encourage repeated play and “Yes!” “Yes!” feeling. The game must be challenging enough to encourage repeated play and “I did it!” “I did it!” feeling.

The balance of difficulty depends on the game and the type of game. For example, in multi-level games, the difficulty can be increased from level to level, with the first level being easy and the next level being hard. Alternatively, the entire campaign can be run on medium difficulty for each level.

Overview of a game

As you can see, game design is about more than just characters and plot.

Game design therefore involves many elements, not just characters and plot, but each decision is branching and requires concentration.

For example, the first decision a game designer has to make is: what kind of game do I want to make? There are many types of games: action games, sports games, puzzles, simulations, etc.

And from there, what is the theme of the game? There are many types of game software, but also many more themes. This is not difficult and it is to illustrate the fact that no matter what ideas the game designer comes up with, there will always be people who like to play similar games.

The next step is level design, as explained above. Game designers want to create a blueprint of the level to sketch out the idea and plan how the developer will bring it to life. These blueprints can include different locations that characters can explore, such as houses, towns and dungeons.

There are many other processes involved, but this also shows how much detail is needed to design and create a game that others can enjoy.

Why considering becoming a game designer: An outlook on the games industry

How to become a GAME DESIGNER - An outlook on the games industry
How to become a GAME DESIGNER – An outlook on the games industry Source: WEF

Industry trends have changed dramatically in recent years. With the huge presence of game consoles and PCs, independent games, casual games, social games and mobile games have become important segments and continue to grow rapidly.

In line with this, the barriers to game production, publishing and digital distribution have been significantly reduced in recent years, encouraging incredible creativity and opportunities to reach a wider audience via the internet.

A career in game design is also a smart choice in terms of stability and profitability – in 2019, video games generated more than $35 billion in revenue in the US.

The bottom line is that games, whatever they are, need to be designed, coded, tested and marketed. There is room for the best talent – people with a solid and proven portfolio.

Game designer VS Game developer

How to become a GAME DESIGNER - Game designer VS Game developer
How to become a GAME DESIGNER – Game designer VS Game developer

Sometimes, there will be confusions about the general term of game design versus game developer, being the latter more focused toward the coding part of the game and usually not taking part in the actual design of the game, although some feedback must be gathered as every thing conceptualized for game will come into place through the coding task.

What does a game designer actually do?

The answer is not straightforward and depend on a lot of different aspects, the size of the studio, the type of games they make, and the structure of their teams.

Game design can be a very broad or a very narrow field, depending on where you work.

On a small mobile game, for example, one designer might be responsible for every aspect of design. But on a larger title or even an indie game with small teams, game designers tend to specialize in different areas–level design or gameplay design, for example.

If you go even bigger and they might be split up even further between quest design and open world design; narratively focused people might work separately from systems designers who think about progression systems and player rewards. Or you might have UX designers who are separate from technical UX folk; economy designers that focus on crafting item drops; interface designers whose area of expertise is inventory management systems; and dialogue writers who collaborate with narrative designers to create characters that players care about.

Game designers are responsible for designing the features that make up a game. They do this by coming up with ideas and then converting those ideas into something real—design documentation, asset lists and programming scripts that will help turn their ideas into reality. Level designers create environments for players to explore and traverse.

They do this by creating simple geometry (known as graybox) using tools provided to them by game designers, which are then dressed up using textures and models made by artists.

Level designers work closely with other game developers to bring game ideas to life. They collaborate with artists, animators, programmers, writers and others to create environments or missions that are both pretty and playable. They work on many aspects of games including designing for specific encounters and tying missions together in an open world.

For most roles, you’ll need some level of experience in the games industry and a way to show/prove your potential value for the studio by being able to show experience and good portfolio of high quality projects.

If there’s one piece of advice that is shared by almost everyone in the industry, is : Make stuff! Show people that you have an ability to design a game or level, and then put that together in a portfolio.

Showing your ability / Portfolio as a game designer/ Level designer

So if you want to be a game designer, your portfolio should include small projects like this that show your ability to come up with an interesting mechanic or system and applied it in real games ( commercial or demos). This step may be easier or harder depending on your capacity to engage with a team or with other people that are in the same situation as yours. If not, then you will have probably have to make most of the demo/showcases on your own, which depending on your skills maybe a problem or not.

If you don’t want to learn how to code games or create are for your games, and only interesting in showing your design abilities, then you could game based platforms like the PlayStation 4 game Dreams, , Roboblox, Sandbox or other platforms to create your games.

Another option is to use prebuilt assets from game stores for game engine like Unreal or Unity, where you can find not only art assets but also in some cases code snippets that you can then integrate in your game. Another option could be going through the modding path, which is taking a game that allows for the modification of assets and mechanics to modify if to match your game design.

The important thing is that you’re creating something—it doesn’t matter if it’s a vertical slice, a game jam project, or just an idea that you think might work well. Whatever the case, you need to show potential employers that you’re working hard by documenting your process so they can see your design thinking skills in action.

On their side, Level designers should create an actual level that shows off their technical proficiency with a particular toolset; for example, use Unreal or Unity to make an environment for Super Mario Bros., Portal 2, or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or other well-known games.

It is also very important in case you are applying specifically for a company, to try to make a level that’s relevant to the company flagship game.

Whatever’s on your portfolio, make sure your stuff is finished, even if it’s relatively ¡ short. Try to focus on your best work, and always pick quality over quantity. And while downloads and documentations are great, employers can’t play and read everything so pack your portfolio with videos and screenshots.

Getting the Experience

One way to get this kind of experience is through internships, trainee positions and work experience posts. If you do well at these, there’s a chance you could be offered a full-time role at the company. Another common approach is to start in quality assurance (QA), or game testing.

This gives you experience in the industry, and a first-hand look at how studios operate. Again, it’s not uncommon for QA testers – especially those embedded in the development team – to impress their bosses and get moved into design roles at the same company.

But remember that QA is an important role on its own, and shouldn’t be seen as just a stepping stone to design. Perhaps the best advice is to remember that your first job probably won’t be designing games at Blizzard or Bungie.

You can’t be picky when you first start out, so get experience at places making mobile games, kids games or gambling games before making the leap to the studios making your favourite blockbusters.

Now there’s one pretty stellar way to get both a portfolio and experience. And that’s taking a course on game design at university. There are loads of courses for game design around the world like DigiPen in Washington, Teesside University in the UK, Breda University in the Netherlands and RMIT in Australia.

If you take these courses you’ll be taught game design theory and enough programming to get you started by people with industry experience.

A game design degree can help you make strong portfolios of work using your end-of-year projects, and it can help you meet friends and build games with them. You’ll also often get access to work experience posts and graduate positions.

But almost everyone I spoke to, including the lecturers themselves, warned that a college diploma is not a guarantee of a good job in the industry. Instead, it’s about making the most of the opportunities and connections you’re provided. And it’s about having time to really focus on building out your portfolio. It isn’t a requirement for many positions, but if you’re interested in the field, I’d urge you to consider studying game design.

Make sure you research the school carefully: look at who is teaching and their credentials and experience. Look at which studios the university has good connections with and where graduates have ended up.

Always do your research before you enrol. It’s worth mentioning that other skills and educational backgrounds can help you stand out as a candidate. For example, while coding is rarely needed as a designer, some ability to programme will help you communicate better with engineers and help you understand the scripting tools you’ll be using. Same goes for understanding other roles and pipelines like art and audio.

In addition, knowledge of relevant disciplines such as economics, architecture, art and psychology make you a better candidate when going toe to toe with those who have exclusively studied game design. And finally, we can’t discount the social side of things. The classic it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Making strong connections in the industry through networking events and social media can open up doors that others can’t even see. If you’ve got your CV, your portfolio and perhaps some experience under your belt; if you’ve applied for a job and got an interview; congratulations! And so—

How do you ace a design interview?

When interviewing for a design position employers are really looking for two skills:

Design thinking and interpersonal skills. The interviewer will want to know if you’re a team player who can resolve conflict and adapt to someone else’s vision. Can you communicate your ideas well? Are you resilient to feedback on your work?

Don’t be surprised if the employer dismantles your portfolio pieces to see how you’ll react to criticism of your ideas. For design thinking, the employer really wants to know if you can think about games on a deeper level than a typical fan or consumer.

You should know how games work. You should understand how changes can impact other aspects of a game. I’ve heard more than one studio ask candidates what would happen if you remove one of the options in Rock Paper Scissors to see how they’d work through the problem and show that they understand game balance.

It’s very common to be asked about the games you’ve been playing lately.

This isn’t small talk. It’s a chance for you to show some analysis, criticism, and understanding of design. For example, if you play a lot of Mario Karts., you could say something like “I found this opponent doesn’t have enough speed in the curves, or that the power ups that it is able to use are less effective in certain parts for the track. ”

If you are able to show confidence and knowledge, then you will probably nail the interview and you may be given a design test. This is where you’re asked to prove your design skills, usually on paper but perhaps in a scripting tool or level design tool.

For a game design position, you may be asked to take an existing game or two and add a new mechanic or show how you would change some part of the game.

How to become a GAME DESIGNER – Interviewing for a game design position

This can be pretty stressful if it’s on-site at the studio and if it’s under a time constraint. So, here is a link to a great GDC talk about what to expect from design tests to help you prepare. Now, if you don’t get the job, that sucks—make sure you get some feedback so you can improve in the future. But if you do get the job, hooray! You’re in the industry. And so now a question to ask is: Is game design a dream job for me at this point in my life? If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll definitely have seen some headlines that might put you off working in this field for good.”

Working in game development can be exciting, but it’s not for everyone. The work can be extremely hard and stressful, as there are frequent layoffs and sometimes even studio closures. Game designers may receive threats and abuse online, and there are even stories about sexual harassment in the workplace. While strides are being made to improve these practices across the board, it’s important to do some research on a company before taking a job there, especially by looking at sites like Glassdoor and talking to former or existing employees.

Another challenge for game development is that you may not have opportunities where you live.

There are few game developers and even fewer game design courses in places like India and South America, for example. So you may need to move around to get the best jobs. But you could potentially get experience in small studios where you currently live. The thousands of indie games released every year are proof that individuals, tiny teams, and small companies can put together games without industry involvement.

But maybe you can use a different approach to become a game designer. If you want to become a game designer, start by making stuff and doing game jams. Download modding tools and practice your design thinking skills. Make friends and connections in the industry, then maybe get started with a different role or study game design at school. It’s a difficult and competitive industry to enter, but the advice in this video is general advice that should apply to most people.

How to become a game designer conclusions

It’s a job that will challenge you, but one that can be rewarding if you love games. As everything in the games industry it is a tough job getting in and being in it, but it is certainly a very rewarding job that that makes the day to go by in a glimpse.

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