Must-read guide if you want to become a game designer
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We want to give you a clear path to grow as a game designer.
I have a cool idea! I’m a game designer
Well, No… You’re not. At least not yet.
The harsh truth is that we all have ideas. Unfortunately, even having a great idea might not be enough while designing video games.
Each company gets tons of emails from aspiring game designer wannabes who want to share their ideas with a game company. (These companies have a team of pros on board. Do you really think that these guys don’t have ideas on their own?)
But why am I even mentioning that? Cause just having an IDEA is not enough.
But what really matters is: Do you know HOW to apply your ideas? Do you understand WHAT you are designing and, most importantly: WHY?
You’ll need to know how to validate ideas. And then to confront them against time and project restrictions. If you know how to answer these questions. You’re way ahead of rival game designers.
So what does a game designer do?
Game Designer is a versatile role. And depending on the size of the development team, your responsibilities can be:
- Core game concept
- Game mechanics – developing the gameplay
- Setting the rules and scoring system
- Level design
- Creating the story, writing dialogues
- Designing the in-game economy and monetization
- Testing (yeah, that too)
- Balancing the hell out of it
Sometimes you’ll focus only on one aspect (most likely in big companies). Sometimes you’ll get to work on all of it (the reality of an indie game developer).
Game Designer – that person who knows how to connect all the dots
Video games are complex creations, and a good game designer needs to understand how different elements of video games work together.
You need to design a cohesive vision for all mechanics, systems, and features. You cannot go: “Oh, I have a great vision for combat mechanics” and hope to put it into a narrative experience where combat doesn’t fit well. *Or at all*
It’s also a person that needs to understand how today’s gaming market works. Yeah, that means this scary M-word: Marketing. What genres are in demand? He needs to have an overview of how to attract and engage players. You’re in the middle of connecting the dots of every department.
And while you’re in the design process , you need to have one goal in mind:
To create a FUN player experience.
No pressure. 😉
Want to become a game designer? Then start making simple games.
- Start with really simple concepts. Something that you’re able to FINISH within a reasonable scope. (We really can’t stress enough how it’s important to finish projects.)
- Work on some basic board games. If you can’t grasp these fundamentals, how can you expect to create something as complex as a video game? (Plus – you can easily test your designs with your friends. You’ll see if your designs are working or not)
- After you test out your basic ideas, download a game engine to test in the field what you’ve learned
Here is the list of available easy to use game engines:
- Create few smaller games. Test your ideas and designing skills in the gaming field. You’ll get experience and examples that you can fill your portfolio with. Win-win.
Reverse engineering games you’re playing
After setting a foot onto the game designer path, you won’t look at games the same as before. While playing video games, you’re gonna dissect every mechanic and design element that other developers have implemented. Think about how a system or a mechanic works. How does it compliment the whole game? And why is it even there?
Or quite the opposite – if something is not working. Think about “why?”. What could you do to improve that specific thing?
Pinch of theory – game design books and videos
Game Design Books can guide game designers on the right path. Sometimes they’re pushing and challenging them to rethink their design. To do things differently.
There’re plenty of great positions on the market. We gathered the Top 5 Game design Books. Read our article here. It’s a good way to start if you’re struggling with finding good reading material about this topic.
And if you’re not the book worm type, how about watching some videos?
Here are some excellent videos about game design:
- Cursed Problems in Game Design
- Designing Games for Game Designers
- Storytelling tools to boost your Indie Game’s narrative and gameplay
Does a game designer need a degree?
No. You can easily grow professionally and find a job as a game designer without a degree. Most of the game designers I know – do not have it. And the employers, in most cases, do not care for a game designer’s bachelor’s degree. Your game portfolio must speak of itself, though. If you can prove that you can execute your ideas – you’re in a perfect position.
So it’s up to you. But not having a formal education is not a deal-breaker.
What about game design online courses?
Today game developers have it much easier than 20 years ago when it comes to video game design training and degree programs.
There are plenty of free tools out there, and you can be sure that most of them have many online video game design tutorials and courses.
Keep an eye on game industry trends
Video games as a medium are constantly changing. Sorry for Paulo Coelho’s tone, but you know that it’s true.
That means that there’s no rest for you, my dude. You need to constantly be on top of your game. Know what are current trends in the gaming market. Observe how players’ behaviors are changing and adjust your designs to that. So make sure that you’re reading fresh reviews, watching gameplays. And follow game industry news on sites like gamasutra.com or 80.lv
Hope that we answered most of your questions. But if you have any other topics that you would like us to cover. Drop us a note here in the comments on our social media:
or simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Let’s stay in touch!