Game design is becoming an increasingly specialized role—not everyone is cut out for the gig. To follow in the footsteps of Shigeru Miyamoto, Will Wright, and Brian Reynolds takes someone of uncommon artistic talent, technical proficiency, and imaginative vision.
Under the supervision of the creative director and lead game designer, the design staff is responsible for conceiving of all gameplay essentials and detailing those elements in design documentation. During the development phase, game designers begin by fleshing out initial character art, levels, and story. Next, the team must envision the player experience by outlining the user interface, missions, combat systems, artificial intelligence, and game modes; these are the nuts and bolts that provide the operational foundation of the game.
Development studios are not uniform in their process; these tasks may be divided among several departments of specialists like level designers and combat system designers, or be handled by one staff of generalists. Based on the completed design documentation, the team oversees the implementation of assets by the animators and programmers. The game designers will perform a first pass review of finished segments and work closely with quality assurance to identify bugs and amend documentation accordingly.
Skills & Education
There is no standard path to becoming a game designer, as long as you have that inherent creativity. A college degree in game design is especially useful, but also important is a broad education in fine art, humanities, and computer science. In this position, you must understand the technical limitations of the platform’s hardware, processing power, and functionality, but also how animators, character riggers, and artificial intelligence programmers can implement your design concepts. Proficiency in 3-D modeling software like 3ds Max or Maya is an added value, as is scripting with C++, Python, Lua, or other language.
What to Expect
This is easily one of the most sought-after jobs in game development; therefore, it is one of the most difficult to get. Studios look for candidates who are experienced, well-rounded, and passionate. Whether your skills are stronger in programming or in animation is less important than the level of your talent and a boundless imagination. You can get your foot in the door as a game tester or texture artist, but from there, you should take every opportunity to display the breadth of your skills and greater ambition. Game designers with at least two shipped titles under their belt are qualified to pursue advancement as lead designers and start eyeing the creative director’s job.
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