Ahoy! My name is Lisa Brown and I'm a designer with Insomniac Games
1) What initially interested you in game design?
Though I've always loved playing games, I didn't figure out I wanted to do game design until well into graduate school, after I'd done some design as part of the projects and classes I was involved in. I made some games and discovered that I REALLY liked the problem set. I got that far because I have a background in art, computer science, and theater, and I was looking for something that would use my skills from all of those. Game design ended up being a perfect blend for me.
2) What is the education/training needed?
I think the education side of things is entirely personal. I went to a liberal arts college and double majored in art and computer science, and I found studying the liberal arts to be invaluable to my work as a designer. Later on in graduate school (Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center) I was more narrowly focused on game design. This isn't to say I think people need to go to graduate school to get into game development at all, I just think everyone's educational path is going to be very personal and very different. Some people go to games-specific schools like Digipen or the Guild Hall for their bachelor degree, some people study more traditional disciplines in things like computer science, art, communications, psychology, etc. Others don't pursue higher education at all, but are self taught.
The thing is, getting into game design is very much about having a strong portfolio. How you get the resources and knowledge to create a body of work is variable. I will throw in that I think nowadays having some ability to script or code will really help you get started in design.
3) What are you responsibilities as a game designer?
This varies from company to company and project to project. My own responsibilities have included level design, systems design, creating design documentation, team management, leading brainstorming sessions, implementing setups via scripting and proprietary tools, prototyping mechanics and features, organizing and running playtests, and so on and so forth. Your responsibilities also vary depending on what stage the project is in. In preproduction I do way more prototyping and visual documentation to try and convey ideas from brainstorming. Late in production is more about implementation, fixing bugs, etc.
4) What are the advantages of being a game designer?
I touched on this before, but for me the biggest advantage to being a game designer is that the problems I have to solve as part of my day-to-day work are incredibly diverse and broad in the topics they touch. One day I might be tackling a very technical problem about my level not fitting into memory at a certain point and figuring out how to divide up the regions so we can get the framerate back up. On another I might be trying to figure out the visual red herrings that are getting a player lost in one area, and coming up with other ways to visually guide them on the correct path. Another day I might be messing around in Illustrator trying to put together a visualization of a feature idea I'm pitching. Or I might have a day of playtesting where I have to observe players and identify causes and solutions for frustration. It is constantly shifting and changing, and I really enjoy that sort of problem solving.
5) What are the disadvantages?
At times you can feel like a jack of all trades. Your responsibilities can be so nebulous that you have a difficult time explaining what exactly you DO for a living to other people. So, it can be challenging to figure out exactly how to measure yourself, since a lot of design skills are soft and tricky to pin down.
6) How do government laws / regulations effect your career?
I wasn't sure on this one. I guess working as a game designer is no different than working at a normal office, so those sorts of rules and regulations apply. There are also non-government regulations that we have to contend with. For example, making sure the game meets a certain ESRB rating, or adheres to certain rules for international releases.
7) Any advice you would give for someone trying to become a game designer.
Make games, even simple ones. Being able to show that you have made a few simple games from start to finish carries a lot more weight than a giant epic game idea that is only half realized. Get involved in the community - participate in game jams, see if there are local IGDA chapters you can get involved in, volunteer at conferences, etc. The network of game developers is a great resource if you can get involved with them. I'd also recommend Game Mentor Online for one-on-one mentoring with an industry professional.
WertleSaysHelloMember Since 08 Dec 2012
Offline Last Active Feb 20 2014 04:17 PM
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