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Before a game starts being developed, some extremely creative individuals come up with its storyline, rules and gameplay. Those are the Game Designers!
15 Mar 2018
Any new game being released, either as a smartphone app or as a console major production, has its own storyline, rules, gameplay and objectives.
It’s the Game Designer’s job to define all of these variables in order to develop the whole “game experience” before the production theme starts working on the actual playable version of the game.
What is the Job?
Games designers may work on an original idea or develop on an existing project with already determined elements.
They have to come up with:
• The rules of the game
• The storyline and its developments
• The setting of the game
• The characters, if there are any, including deciding on which are playable and which are just external elements
• The vehicles, weapons, tools or objects that characters can use
• The gameplay, including possible multiplayer modes, online versions etc…
Once the designer has put all of these elements together, he/she presents them to the rest of the team in a “concept document” in order to get approval for development.
A prototype is developed upon approval, to test if the original idea will actually work. Meanwhile, the designer starts working one the “full game design document”, describing in detail every element of the game. This document is likely to change in further stages of development.
The designer is also responsible for training testers to play the game, and making sure that the final results meets the original concept it was developed upon.
Being quite a creative job, the required skillset is various, and includes creativity, imagination, storytelling abilities, but also technical knowledge of software packages, console hardware, basic 2D and 3D design, problem solving skills.
An essential trait of a successful Game Designer is a clear vision of what gamers like and what are the latest trends in the gaming industry, in order to be able to come up with original yet appealing ideas.
How to get to work as a Game Designer
There are no specific requirements for this job, but most Game Designers have a degree.
Some experience in the gaming industry is necessary for this role, previous jobs as tester in the quality assurance department are common, as well as apprenticeships and work experiences in the field.
It is advisable to build a portfolio of completed game projects or game design documents, as it is often required by employers.
Education and training
Most degree subjects are acceptable with the right background, however a degree in a Gaming-related subject (Game Development, Digital Arts, etc…) as well as one in the Marketing field seem to be more appropriate to start a career in Game Design.
Most of the training eventually takes place on-the-job, with mentoring from more experienced colleagues and direct experience. It is fundamental, though, to constantly keep up to date on the latest trends in the industry.
Where can it take you?
There is no formal promotion route for this kind of role, obviously it is possible to progress from Junior Designer to Designer and subsequently to Lead Designer. Demonstrating talent and skills can make your work valuable to high-profile employers like big production studios, or you can start working as a freelance on a contract basis, which can be more profitable if demand for your work is high enough.
Optionally, it is also possible to transition into management or marketing positions.