2 answers

What is the daily life of a video game designer?

Asked Richmond, California

I am interested because it seems tiring. I know nothing about designing video games but it looks fun. Do video game designers get a lot of rest?

#video-games #video-game-design

2 answers

Christy’s Answer

Updated San Francisco, California

Hi, Jeremiah. There is no one answer to your question because it depends on the culture of the game company, the attitude of management, the type of game project, and so on. And there are many different types of designer jobs. Unless you're working on your own solo game or for a tiny company, there can be any number of designers performing different tasks on a game, such as a level designer, systems designer, feature designer, and so on.

As Mark said (in a previous answer), game design isn't physically demanding. In fact, it's the opposite --you spend too much time sitting at a computer, which can be unhealthy in itself. I personally know of one person at a game company who was diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency from never getting outside in the sun. Game designers have to learn to lead a healthy lifestyle, but many don't.

Mental work is still work, though. It burns up energy and can make you tired and stressed if you don't practice the routines of a healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, it's up to you to make sure you get enough sleep, the right kind of food, and frequent exercise, regardless of what job you do.

There are some companies that have poor management and will run you into the ground. It's called "crunch" or "crunching". It's an old practice in the game industry, and a bad one that needs to be stamped out. A well-run company with good management will schedule a game properly to avoid crunch time. A badly-run company can be notorious for crunch time. Some less savory companies love to hire young, eager, new designers straight out of school that are so desperate to work in game design, they'll work any kind of hours, to the point of abuse. Beware of companies that have crunch time.

Doing research into various game companies might help you to avoid crunch time should you go for a career as a game designer. I worked at Zynga and never once had to worry about crunch time. Zynga made casual games, which is an entirely different type of company from one that makes AAA console games. The size and make-up of the teams is different, the scope of the projects is different, the timeline is different -- that's why I wrote up front that there's no one answer to this.

Christy recommends the following next steps:

  • Go to gamasutra.com and read articles about the different types of game design. Figure out what type of game design appeals to you.
  • There are schools that specialize in game design. Investigate those schools to learn more about the different types of game design. Three prominent schools are Digipen, SMU Guildhall, and Full Sail University.
Christy- Thank you for your answer. We need more advice like this, now more than ever! There are more than 1k unanswered questions on CV right now. Hoping you'll answer a few more this week!

Mark’s Answer

Updated Frederick, Maryland

Hey Jeremiah,

The answer to this question is strange.

Game Design isn't a physically demanding job in the traditional sense. So, it's not tiring, as such. However, the hours can be long, particularly if you are working on games where the deadline is fixed. For example, game that are timed to release when a movie comes out have to ship on a specific game, so you usually end up working a *lot* of overtime for the last few months. It is not unusual for teams on these games to work 60, 80, or even 100 hours a week, sometimes for several months.

The flip side to this is that, if you love making games, the hours fly by quickly. You will be physically exhausted on projects like the ones I mentioned above, but you will also be doing a labor of love. It's hard to explain. Some people bond as a team in these moments, and there is no other feeling quite like it. Others hate it, and they get out of the game industry as soon as they can.

All I can say is, if you think you might like it, try it. You won't have to worry about long hours if you are making your own games. Do as much or as little work as you want. If you fall in love, you will naturally start spending more and more time building games. If not, you will have learned "the easy way" that making games probably isn't for you.

Best of luck!

Mark recommends the following next steps:

  • Research Construct 2, ClickTeam Fusion and GameMaker to see if you are interested in building a game with one of them.
  • Try building a simple game and see how you like it.