4 answers

How do I become a game designer? (Might sound silly, but please take a look:))

Updated Haslet, Texas

Right of the bat I'd like to apologize for what is probably going to be a pretty long post.

Hello everyone who looks into this page. I am Alex and next year I'll be finishing high-school. The traditional 12 year grid if you will :D. It is a really confusing time for me now, because I should already know what I'm going to do after finishing school and where I'm going to do it, but unfortunately I don't... At least not entirely.

For about 4 years now I've been really into writing stories and making games, it is a big passion of mine so a thought crossed my mind that I would feel truly happy if I could do that for a living, not just as a hobby. I've been working with easy-to-use programs such as RPG maker XP and VX and even now I am working on releasing a visual novel, so I think it's clear that it's not something I came up with just because I played a really good game or just because I think it's easy. I am well aware that it's a hard, long and challenging process, but despite that, I still wanna do it.

It would mean a world to me if someone could give me tips how to achieve this goal... What kind of college or university should I try to join? What's the first step towards this? And perhaps if I'm really lucky I could even talk privately with someone working in the video game industry... Being from a small country in EU I have no family or friends who are in this field so I am completely blind. And yes, I am ready to start at the very bottom. Heck, I could even wash toilets as long as there is a chance for a promotion into writing a story line, designing "character's character" and quests.

I hope this reaches someone that is willing to assist me and thank you in advance! #career #career-paths #design #video-games #game

4 answers

Warbert’s Answer


Hi Alex! I'm a software engineer at an MMORPG game company. While I personally can't speak for the design side of your questions (being from a different department and all) here is a general tip:

The game industry is very competitive- try to figure out what aspects of game design you are most passionate about and put an emphasis on those aspects to really stand out. Knowing what you enjoy most in designing games can give you a better idea on what college courses to take. From your post it sounds like you really enjoy story-related elements. In larger game companies there are entire teams devoted to lore and narrative design- growing your writing skills both inside and outside of school can give you an advantage for those kinds of positions.

I passed on your question to one of our senior game designers, and here's what he said:

"Best advice: Don’t go to a game design school. They’re ludicrously expensive jokes. I learned everything I know while on the job. The biggest gain to going to a game school is that people to make mods with are readily available. It also helped me get my first internship since I had that tiny bit of credentials over some random dude who didn’t. That said, if he can get his hands on books like Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman or Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design then that should be enough to get him thinking about design principles. If he is going to a regular college/university, I’d suggest any extra-curricular courses he can pick up in basic programming, art, or even game history. I know some universities are offering game courses.

The key to getting into the industry is 1) knowing someone, and 2) bolstering his portfolio with modifications, levels he has designed and artified, or programming code. It really depends what route he wants to take. Designer, artist, programmer. If he wants to get into the systems side then he’ll want to get a lot of math courses in. I know systems guys love math/engineering types when they look at resumes."

If you don't know someone in the game industry, Quality Assurance (QA) positions can be another way to get a foot in the door and are a lot more entertaining than washing toilets!

Thank you for answering this question Alex! And wanted to thank you for this wonderful reply
Thank you for answering this question

Ctsavage’s Answer

Updated Cambridge, Massachusetts

Hi Alex. I'm am definitely confident that you can find a career in the gaming industry. I wanted to at 1 point but had to put those dreams aside. I don't have info but I encourage you to take something like graphic design or something similar in college. Hopefully you can get some notice and experience to follow your dreams. I wish you the best of luck

Colin’s Answer

Updated Nottingham, England, United Kingdom

Just to reiterate a few points made previously...

  • Find what it is you enjoy most and have the most enthusiasm for when making games. These days there's such a vast range of tools and learning material out there that you can try your hand at many different parts of the development process, including programming and art. Unreal Engine for example is very widely used and free, and if you enjoy scripting branching sequences like narratives you might find you have a knack for level design and scripting events in the more general sense.

  • Find extra-curricular clubs and groups who might help. There are CoderDojos and CodeClubs all over the world, and if there isn't one near you, why not start one? I don't think you'd be the only person in your area with an interest in programming or game development.

  • As far as education goes, be wary of online and correspondence colleges selling game design degrees. For one thing they're generally terrible and not accredited, and for another you'll miss out on all the networking and placement opportunities you can exploit to help get a job. Traditional computing science courses are a terrific way of getting in as a programmer, and you'll develop the hard software engineering discipline that a lot of bedroom coders lack, plus a deeper understanding of the mathematics and mechanics involved in programming. You may even specialise in artificial intelligence, machine learning or physical simulation, which translates to being a more sought-after programmer. Talented specialists can earn more money than a generalist.

I didn't really fit into a standard computing science course so did a degree in computer games applications development at Abertay Dundee, where you spend a lot of time honing your skills in team projects, working to briefs from companies like Sony and Microsoft and being in contact with experienced industry people. I'd definitely recommend that sort of course, and it's been around long enough to develop a reputation for producing good graduates, which is a plus. They do additional courses specialising in game design and production management, but I can't really comment on those.

Catherine’s Answer

Updated Nottingham, England, United Kingdom

Games are so much more accessible, and are reaching a much wider audience these days. It's a great time for anyone interested in getting into the industry.

First things first: play a lot of games. Pay close attention to what you like about them, what makes you keep playing them, and what makes you leave them.

Second: think about what you want to do in video games? If you like writing, you can be a narrative designer. Do you like coding them? You could be an engineer. What is it that most interests you on a day to day basis.

Third: Try to get your foot in the door. QA is a great place to start because you are forced to understand how games should work, and communicate to the team when they don't. You can also look for non-profit organizations to find a mentor in games. Here in Oxford, we have a program called CodorDojo. You might be able to find something similar near you, or maybe some online versions.

Fourth AND MOST IMPORTANT: don't lose your positive attitude. It's amazing how far a positive energy and willingness to learn will get you. I am more likely to hire someone with an eagerness to learn and a lot of potential than someone with more experience but less potential.

I hope this helps! You are also welcome to contact me privately if you'd like to know more.