Seven Things Every Game Designer Should Know

Have you always wanted to become a game designer? Are you a game designer? Curious? Well this is the post for you!

Game design is a rewarding field but a lot of people, including to-be game designers and developers, may not understand what the job entails or where to start. Thus, this post is focused on the key aspects a game designer needs to be successful in the field. Some of these concepts apply to other fields, but given my primary background in game development, I focused it on game designers.

7. Don’t Be The “Idea Guy”

A lot of people think that being a game designer is telling people how to make their “awesome ideas” come to life and then capitalizing on it. The truth is that this is not the case and this view of game design devalues how hard the job is.

Having a great game idea does not equate to being a good game designer. Ideas are cheap, and in a creative industry tons of people have good ideas. The thing that separates an idea guy from a game designer is his/her ability to turn the idea into a tangible product based on the resources he/she has available. That’s not even considering if the game is fun, has an audience (even if it’s niche), can be made with the tools/technology/people available, and be shipped to the public on time.

6. You Are Not An Island

You must realize that you have limits and that you may need to work with and rely on other people. In most cases, you’ll be working with other disciplines that would like to actively collaborate with you on the project. Ignoring this makes team morale go down increases the chance of a creating a bland, vague, never-to-be released game.

Even if you are the only one working on the game, being an island cuts you off from the various communities of game developers that have knowledge and experience in areas you may be interested in or need help with. Heck, keeping in touch with a community doing the same things as you is motivating, inspiring, and can give you the energy to finish your game.

5. Crave Knowledge

As a game designer, you must love to learn new things. This drive will not only increase the level of things you can draw from, but will allow you to design for a variety of different projects.

A game designer’s job is to create an engaging experience for players based on the framework they are given in their project. Therefore, the best way to prepare yourself for anything is to stuff as much in your head about everything as possible. This includes life experiences as well.

But of course, there may be a case that you asked to learn about something you don’t know; it could be a topic, a new tool, or language. Having a natural thirst for knowledge will make this process easier and make you a more valuable asset to your team!

4. Prototype Everything

Before running off to build your fantastic game, you need to make sure that your mechanics can be implemented and be fun. This is where prototyping comes into play. A prototype is a small chuck of your idea implemented in some medium that represents an experience in your end product. Some people prototype in their tools, others on paper. It doesn’t matter what you choose so long as your game’s mechanics can be evaluated and iterated upon.

3. Iterate, Iterate, Iterate!

Nothing you will create will be right the first time. As a game designer, you have to be willing to take the extra step in refining your game. To understand why something doesn’t work, what’s missing, etc., and applying that into a better version of your product. A game designer that does not understand or value iteration will be an amateur at best.

2. Have A Thick Skin

Game designers tend to be thrown under the bus more than other areas of development because design is a tricky balancing act between being a science and an art. Because of this, your ideas, mechanics, suggestions, etc., may place you under fire from other disciplines, gamers, and even fellow designers.

It’s important to take any comments you receive in stride and with a grain of salt. Your work is not you, and any comments directed at your work should not make you feel like a terrible person. Listen to feedback carefully, improve, and keep on moving.There’s no time for brooding.

1. Be Yourself

This can apply to pretty much everyone in any field, but I want to stress how key this is in game development. Fortunately, we’re allowed to have quirks and be eccentric. Putting on airs is counter productive and will make you stand out in the wrong way. I suspect this is why people from other industries may feel out of place at the relaxed nature of the game industry and the implicit level of respect people give each other.

But I digress. As a game designer, knowing and learning about yourself can only make you better. Tapping into your perspective and personal experiences can give your games the extra edge the “secret sauce” that makes them feel unique.

And when you aren’t yourself, it’s very hard to tap into your pool of experiences. Be proud of yourself, don’t be a jerk, and you’ll be amazed at how fast you’ll grow.