"The Dreamers" Video game designers imagine everything from scratch, including the characters, gameplay, mechanics, and the plot. They might come from various different backgrounds: technical, audio, or art.
Rewarding Aspects of Career
- Getting to make games!
- Being part of a dynamic, passionate community of game makers.
The Inside Scoop
Day in the Life
- Pre-production: Dreams up and outlines game concept. Compiles everything into the game design document (the “game blueprint”) which includes concept, gameplay, feature list, setting/story, target audience, requirements/schedule, and staff/budget estimates.
- Production: Works with programmers and artists to ensure their design is being carried out. Checksbuilds. Creates flowcharts.
Skills Needed on the Job
- Storytelling capabilities
- Time Management
- Creative Thinking
- Tech savvy: Helpful to know scripting language (Lua, Python, 3D Modeling software).
Different Types of Designers
- Lead Designer: Main visionary of the game. Compiles the team’s ideas into the game design document. Manages schedules and tasks. Usually technically and artistically adept.
- Content Designer: Develops the game’s plot and characters.
- Game Mechanic Designer: Works on specific piece of gameplay. Work depends on the genre of game.
- Level Designer: Creates the environment of the game, objects and inhabiting characters within the environment.
- Writer: Creates text and dialogue.
Differences between Studio vs. Independent
- Works for a larger company, usually with a larger team of designers.
- Pros: Usually more financial stability, potential to work on larger projects.
- Cons: Will most likely work on things the company wants you to work on. Long hours to meet deadlines.
- Works with a team to create your own game. High risk, high reward.
- Pros: Works with a team on your terms, on your time. Gets to create your own game.
- Cons: Less resources, more risk, and must wear many hats (marketing, distribution, quality assurance…etc.).
Current Industry Trends
- Independent side is growing due to lower barriers to entry because of affordable software and easy distribution; in turn, there is more competition.
- Console is changing. Mobile games increasing. Especially with the iPad.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger….
- Played games: board games, card games, videogames…etc.
- Loved drawing and thinking up ideas, stories, different worlds,
- Loved animation and making comics.
- Made games: board games, card games, videogames…etc.
- College degree is not mandatory but will help you get your foot in the door.
- Types of Degrees: 4-year degree in Game Design, Game Development, or Computer Science OR 2-year art degree.
Top Educational Institutions
Things to do in High School and College
- Go and download Game Maker (free trial version): You can make games without code and you can get a game up in an hour.
- Make a game!: If you don’t have resources to create a videogame, create any game (board game, card game).
- Play videogames: Notice the games that are engaging and ask yourself why?
- Get involved: Be part of the videogame community on the web or in your local community. Get their feedback on your game and see what other people are doing.
How to Land your 1st job
- Major in video game design and develop your portfolio: When you apply, you can come in as a junior video game designer if you have made games on your own.
- Put your games out there: Test it on websites like gamejams.com or tigsource.com. You can get feedback from the users. See if you are any good and people like your game.
- Ask people in the industry for informational interviews.
Qualities of those who climb the ladder and enjoy it
- Relentless: Those who have enough grit to not give up. Willing to keep working to fix bugs.
- Passion for design
- Passion for good stories
- Great communication skills and ability to work with a team of people
What to look for in a mentor
- Shares a similar philosophy to you.
- Somebody that is doing what you want to be doing and is excited about what they are doing.
- Key transferable skills: Storytelling capabilities, design skills, (maybe) knowledge of programming languages.
- Alternate Careers: Game maker for board games, TV shows, and theme parks; computer programmer; UX designer.