5 answers

How to become a game designer?

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First off I'd like to apologize for such a long post.
Some info about me; I live in Malta (in the EU) and I am 16 years old. I am currently wondering what to take at A-level and Intermediate level to be able to achieve my dream job.

So far I've registered myself for; Art and ICT A-level and; English, Philosophy and Pure Maths Intermediate.
If I am not chosen to go this particular school then I shall attend another school which will have a 5 year course which first focuses on art and later focuses on graphic design.

My art skills aren't THE BEST and I know naught about programing. ( I am aiming to improve over the choice I shall make now.)

Also, If I do choose one of the options, Are there any side things I should do? Read a particular magazine? (My fave right now is ImagineFX)

Any help?

Thanks! #game #designer

5 answers

Dave’s Answer

Updated

As other posters have pointed out, there are a lot of different roles involved in game design. I would suggest creating some small games on your own and deciding what part of the process you enjoy the most. Is it creating the storyline and the quests/puzzles? Is it creating for the art the characters? Writing the game code? You can download a free tool like GameMaker (http://www.yoyogames.com/studio) to get started.

At 16 years old, I wouldn't worry too much about whether or not you have chosen the right courses to achieve your dream job, because I suspect that what you consider to be a dream job will probably change quite a bit as you start your career in the game industry.

Cody’s Answer

Updated

Hi Alain!

To add to what Eric said, it's definitely important for game designers to get exposure and at least have an understanding about how the engineering layer of a game works. Intro classes are fantastic, but if that's not offered at your school, CodeAcademy is great. There's also other free online sources such as CodeSchool, Khan Academy, and Udacity, to name just a few. They all offer various CS classes that are free to take and are really phenomenal. Web design is also a good idea to look at, to get your mind started on the ideas of User Interface and User Experience (UI/UX). I also would actually recommend taking a psychology class. The role of a game designer is to design enjoyable experiences for players. To make something people enjoy, you have to understand how their mind works!

If you're interested in looking more at Game Theory or thinking about some game design principles, I'd definitely recommend looking at a few books. Rules of Play by Salen and Zimmerman is a little on the dense side, but it's really the game design omnibus, in my opinion. Theory of Fun by Koster is another nice one to look at. Easier to digest and gets you looking at really high level design questions like "What is 'fun'?", "Why is this thing fun/why do I enjoy this?", etc. Those questions are really great exercises. Instead of just saying a game is "fun", really break it down and try to find what exactly you're enjoying. The controls, the narrative, the combat system...

In terms of magazines, Game Developer Magazine is unfortunately no longer in print, as of a few months ago. However, there's a lot of fantastic articles that would appear in the magazine on Gamasutra.com, which is a great website to look at if you aren't already. Make it your homepage! Really! There's also things like GDCVault.com that has talks from professionals in the industry about various topics.

Hopefully this helps. Feel free to comment and ask any additional questions you may have, and I'll do my best to answer them.

Best of luck!

Whitney’s Answer

Updated

I would like to add that in addition to the great answers provided regarding the types of courses and skill sets you should develop through education, in order to be a great game designer requires you to know the industry as well. I would also advise you to expose yourself to various sorts of games in different countries, using different consoles and devices, in order to get a sense of how games are played and how they have progressed throughout history. This will really help you to analyze what works best in game designs, and allow you to draw from a greater variety of inspiration when thinking about your own game designs.

Follow up with news from sites that do a lot of game reviews, like Kotaku. You tend to find out what people like and what they don't like about games, and will be able to learn to develop and design better games from absorbing that type of knowledge.

All the best!

Scott’s Answer

Updated

I'm not 100% sure about where you live, but I actually majored in Game Design at my University here. While my degree was technically a Bachelor of Science in Game Design (I'm a scientist! A video game scientist!), I studied all aspects of making a game; from developing the art, learning useful software like Maya, the Adobe Creative Suite, and of course the Office Suite. You are going to be using PowerPoint, Excel, and a word processing program a LOT as a Game Designer. I also dipped my toe into programming, sculpture, psychology, creative writing, and of course you dive deep into Game Theory, analyzing games, deconstructing games, working out game concepts, working out paper prototypes, and finally getting together with other students and actually creating original games and game mods. Studying game design for me was valuable not just because I was getting a crash course in the trade, but I was also meeting other people going into the games industry, and most of the instructors were either still in the industry or recently left. My instructors became valuable contacts for me after I graduated and it became time to find my first job.

Hope this helps!

Eric’s Answer

Updated

Hello! I am not a game developer by trade, nor am I in the EU so I'm unfamiliar with the specifics of your school system, so this advice will be more general.

As you seem to have realized, the first thing you have to decide is what exactly you mean by "game designer." Writing a game is a complicated, usually multi-person process, with different specialties involved (I talked about this a little here: https://careervillage.org/questions/1885/do-i-have-to-be-good-at-art-to-work-in-a-game-company ).

You would likely only need to be particularly skilled at both art and programming if you try to make a game with a very very small group of people, or possibly just on your own, which is generally called being an independent (or "indie") game developer.

Unfortunately I cannot give much useful advice on if you focus on art, but I can tell you about programming.

In terms of classes, if there are any "introduction to programming" types of courses, definitely take them. Web design will help as well, because while writing HTML doesn't add much in terms of programming skill, it can get you used to displaying things on a computer, and then when you start to want to make fancier and fancier Web pages, you will likely start to explore JavaScript, which is programming.

Programming makes use of a lot of concepts from Computer Science (they are not technically the same, though I got a degree in Computer Science in order to be a programmer), so any classes relating to that can be helpful as well. They are usually college-level courses in the USA (so likely to be taught when you are 18 years old or older in our school systems).

In my personal experience, the things you do on the side are equally important to the classes, if not more, for becoming a game programmer, if that is what you choose. Really, if that is the direction, you want to become a programmer in general, and most of the programs you write can be games.

The great thing about learning to be a programmer is that it doesn't require you to be learning it in school, and while it does require a computer, once you have access to one, particular with an Internet connection, you can start to gain the skill on your own. There are websites, like http://www.codecademy.com/ , where you can start to teach yourself to program. You might not see much of a connection between "Write a loop that counts from 1 to 10" and creating, say, a video game where penguins swim around, catching fish, but all the skills are layered. After all, the way the computer would move each penguin in turn, in such a game, would be a very similar loop to "count from 1 to 10".

I apologize in return that this was an even longer answer. In short, though, determine what part of game design you do want to focus in, and if it's programming, start learning on your own. This is likely true for art as well, come to think of it.

Good luck!