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Help Needed from Game Designers for College Project

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My name is Jamie Guy, a college student at George Mason University in Virginia. For a senior project we are required to make a multi-page brochure concerning a field of design. I have selected Game Design, as the creative side of the game field is where I’d like my career to eventually lead me. The reason for my posting is to request that a few of you game designers answer a few questions for my pamphlet. The assignment requires a Q&A interview style section with a practicing designer in the field we have selected. If you are interested in answering a few simple questions about game design field and your experience with it I would be very much appreciative of your time. If you could spare a few moments to help me out with this please drop me an email at jguy@gmu.edu. Thank you in advance! -Jamie

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You will get a better response if you post the questions here, especially if you hope to get answers from professional designers. They are generally busy and unlikely to spend time emailing you to get back a set of questions that may not actually apply to their particular area of expertise. If you post here they can see immediately and answer if applicable.

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Ah, makes perfect sense ok, I’ll post the questions below. If you do take the time to respond could you please state your name, job and years that you have been in the Game Design field. I’d appreciate any input available.

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1:In your opinion what are the traits that employees look for in Game Design students for employment?

2:What skills do you posses that you believe makes you a good candidate for Game Design?

3:Which schools do you consider to be ideal for students wishing to get into the field of Game Design?

4:As a designer, what projects/jobs are more appealing to you? Which are those that you’d prefer not to work on?

5:As a Game Designer what sort of interaction do you have with other teammates working on a game? (animators, texture artists, software engineers).


Thank you again for your time. -Jamie

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Hi Jamie [smile]

My name is Mike Lewis. I'm primarily a programmer, but a fair bit of my work involves gameplay design and interface design. I've been building games of various sorts for over eleven years now, and doing it professionally for about three years.


1. This depends a bit on the employer and the structure of the team. However, in general, there are a few things that are highly sought after, more or less in order of decreasing priority:
  • A solid grasp on gameplay mechanics and how games work

  • A deep understanding of player behavior and how players respond to games

  • Good planning and prioritization skills

  • Ability to think "big picture" and consider a design from many perspectives

  • Flexibility to adapt one's plans; it is dangerous to develop emotional obsession with a particular design

  • Creative and original ideas




2. My main usefulness, as I mentioned earlier, is programming. This is one of those cases where one's useful job skills vary depending on the team one is working with. In a lot of modern game development teams, designers don't write code, and programmers don't do design. In my particular situation, my programming skills are useful because they allow the entire team to realize the design more fully. Because of the nature of the games we work on, there are many more possible design concepts than time to implement them. (This is true for all games, really, but because we do a series of games, it's more pronounced than in other cases.)

Outside of programming, I have a tendency to tear apart a plan and consider it in the light of many various contingencies and possible scenarios. This is immensely useful when designing games because every player will be a little bit different. Figuring out what players will do with your game, and what they want to do with it, is a core part of game design. It's also important for the types of games I work with to be able to let the player do things that we couldn't have predicted - and when players do them, the game has to respond in a sensible manner. Being highly analytical and more than a bit cynical helps a lot.


3. I'm not personally a big fan of game schools. They certainly do teach good, useful skills, but in my opinion they are too myopic, especially for design positions. A good designer needs a very broad and sophisticated education. Study philosophy, religion, writing, psychology, mathematics, the hard sciences - anything and everything you can. The more areas a designer is familiar with, the more interesting their designs can become. A broad education gives designers a big pool of ideas and thought skills that can be used for their designs.

My recommendation is to pick a field that has nothing to do with computers or games, and study that. Pick diverse electives when possible, especially favoring subjects that you're not interested in. Stretch your mind and take advantage of the secondary educational system to give you access to things you can't easily go back and learn about later.



4. Simulations and freeform ("sandbox") games are my vice of choice. I like the freedom to do whatever I want as a player, and as a designer, I'm fascinated by the challenge of trying to build a world that lets players do as much as possible. In general I could probably find a niche in any game development, and a lot of other types of software development, but that's my favorite (at least for now!). I think if I had to work on sports games I'd probably kill myself.



5. Designers have to interact with everybody, and they have to understand everyone's job. Design has to be molded to fit what the team is capable of producing. If your design calls for a huge 3D world but your artist only draws cartoons, you're in trouble. Quite possibly one of the single biggest misconceptions that most people have about game design has to do with who is "in charge." A lot of people think of the game designer as the guy with the vision, who makes the team go off and bring that vision to life. This is partially true, but also very false. The designer has to know what the realities are; what his team can do, how much time they need to do it, and what it will cost.

The design I do is primarily gameplay related and interface related. In a lot of cases the lead designer has already put together artwork concepts and I turn those into programming code that makes the game run. Most of the team will get together and discuss the concepts, whether or not things need to change, etc. Occasionally we'll get really low on time or money, and have to rework a design so it is more practical.

Since I'm primarily a programmer, I interact very heavily with the other programmers on the team. Usually we will identify major areas that have to be worked on. People are assigned to these areas depending partially on who wants to do what, who is familiar with certain areas of the game, and so on. Once assignments are handed out, we figure out how to make all of the pieces interact with each other. From there we largely work independently until things are close to finished, and then integrate all of the different pieces and see how they come together.



Best of luck with your project.

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Mike,
Sorry it has taken me so long to check back at this forum. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, it really made my project. Best of luck with all your future endeavors and thanks again.
-Jamie

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