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BSG

Need help with career path in Game Design

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This may or may not be in the correct location, but is very pertinent to game design specifically, so I decided to put it here. This also requires a lot of back story for you to get the whole idea. If you REALLY don't care (Don't post in this thread anyway) then skip down to the dotted line. I'm an 18 year old college student that grew up in Duluth, MN, but moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University's CTI School in hopes of getting into the game design field. I was instead greeted by the harsh reality that Chicago isn't home (Believe it or not!) and that I hate programming and everything associated. I also feel like I'm wasting my time in a career field that pays slave wages with little to no creative expression involved. More on this later. So I'm moving back home to go to a public college (SO much cheaper. Free for "smart" people, it seems.) While perusing politics in my home town, something I've always been a part of, and have been nominated to run in since early high school. I'm well known in my home town, and am pretty much slated for a city council position. These things are amazingly rewarding, and are the biggest reason I'm going home. But my interest in Video Games has not wavered. I may not like programming, but I am definitely interested in game, level, and story/character design. I was actually going to DePaul for game design as well as English writing teaching, something I've been doing my entire life. I am also an artist, and will soon be starting up a small web comic project. (And alas, it isn't anime. That'll probably win me points on its own.) I've also been level editing in the SITH engine behind Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2. (You can see my work on the 8 year old engine here: http://jkhub.net/project/show.php?projid=272 My layout, design, and bones; my friend's lighting and texturing.) I have the desire to use Video Games as educational tools, as well as mediums of art instead of ones of just entertainment. I have visions of teaching math, physics, English, and other core educational needs of early high school through interactive Medias such as videogames. I also want to provide people with games that have a much deeper sense of emergence in them. No, not realism. Immersion. I find the literary capabilities of a videogame to be at a level beyond any other media, yet horrible underexploited. I can obtain a studio building in my home town for relatively cheap. I have several businesses/fellow friends within the city that are willing to back me, and invest into my dream. I have several connections with several different companies, people, and fellow entrepreneurs that can guide me on this path. Here come my questions: ------------------------------------------------------------- I want to some day start my own game development studio. This is my ultimate goal, pipe dream or no, take it or leave it, it is precisely what I want. My questions for you brilliant people are as follow: 1. Is the Game Designer role realistic? It seems that game design is a very unrealistic job. No/little programming and low level artistic abilities!? It seems like it's the cake-walk job, and that its pretty much reserved for only the best of the best, and those people probably spent lots of time in the programmer's chair, or at the modeler's desk, working as the assembly line of videogames. Is it realistic to shoot for a role in the industry? 2. What kind of a non-technical degree(s) does a game designer take? I'm not talking about totally awesome neato game design degrees. I'm talking about traditional degrees that can be applied to more than just game design, that way I can take my skills elsewhere if the market of games crashes, or I'm just not good enough. 3. Ignoring the possible naivety of my "dream," how realistic is it, really? Pretending I can secure a space, how difficult or unreasonable is it to make the goal of starting a design company? I grew up an entrepreneur, and ended up running what was originally my employer's business only after 2 years of working there, and ended up making it into a company that merged with another for a very nice lump of money. I'm not at all a bad businessman. I want to know if, assuming my money works for me, my “Dream” will be successful. I appreciate your patience, and would like to thank you all in advance for your suggestions, advice, and ideas. I'm really not looking for your "Stupid idea, give up kid." posts. That's a waste of my time. I'm a "Go big, or go home" kind of a person, and if I end up failing at this, then I will have given it a better chance than most people. Thanks! [Edited by - BSG on November 8, 2006 3:26:17 AM]

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Well, after our discussion in #gamedev, it seems that you have your priorities laid down well and you realize that game design is not something you start overnight.

Considering the above, the dream of doing game design as well as having your own company are realistic enough if you work hard enough. It will be extremely difficult for you as you currently have not much technical or artistic skills (pertaining to game development). But you DO need to have these skills and a whole assortment of others as game design is a sort of a multi-disciplinary field.

As far as degrees go, I would've recommended a programming degree as programming IS a sort of designing (And almost all existing designers were/are programmers). But it seems you have no interest in it whatsoever. A management degree will of course help you with your company. As for the other degrees, it does'nt really matter. Because as i said, it is a multi-disciplinary field.

Anyways, best of luck in your ventures!

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That link is amazingly informative. Thank you very much for posting it, even though you didn't have the time to say anything else ^_^

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Heres my advice as i was in a similar situation to you a few yrs back

start small and work your way up, focus on one area (the industry doesn't need a jack of all trades anymore) ... design in your case
(however having a good back ground knowledge of art (modeling, textureing, animating, lighting) and programming is more than useful

I had a quick look at your site and thats very impressive

so my advice to you is to work your way up from the bottom basically

- personal level design
- modding level design (possibly modding game design even)

- put together a portfolio
- throw together a CV
- type up a cover letter

(don't be afraid to ask for feedback on these things, as its only going to improve your chances of selling yourself)

- look for a job as a Jnr Designer / level designer (don't expect too great of a wager for the first few yrs)

there are plenty of sites out there with game industry jobs, also ALOT of recruiters, also don't be afraid to advertise yourself like the plague, send to literally everyone and anyone that you feel would suit you as a potential employer. Its only going to increase your chances of getting a job, also new jobs are advertised every day so keep coming back to the same sites for a month or so, and don't stop looking just because you have an interview lined up. saying that, for your first job, don't get too confident and postpone an offer too long just because you have a few other interviews lined up or just sent your CV to your dream developer


- work your way up (may take a few yrs) to Designer/Level Designer/Snr Designer

- go for a Lead position, spend a few more yrs at that, then go for a Game Designer or Lead Designer position

from here i'm not too sure what happens... I'm still working my way up as a Designer but.. thats kinda the route I'm planning on taking

hope that helps

as far as education goes... design has recently became a stand alone position within the industry (where as an artist or programmer would design games/ levels), theres now a space for just design , my only advice for this is playing games , trying to find out what makes parts fun / not fun, and game / level design related books and articles floating around on the net.

that and getting your hands on a level editor which your already doing ^^

personally i feel if you presented yourself well enough, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting into the industry without further education

also check your PM

Chris


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Thank you all for your replies.

Perhaps this would receive more attention and criticism in the beginners forum? I see 78 some people have looked at it without posting (Probably a good thing. tl;dr posts grind my nerves), and I'd like to get a cultured opinion, and perhaps solidification of already established opinions.

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Quote:
Original post by BSG
Perhaps this would receive more attention and criticism in the beginners forum? I see 78 some people have looked at it without posting (Probably a good thing. tl;dr posts grind my nerves), and I'd like to get a cultured opinion, and perhaps solidification of already established opinions.

Don't worry about the ratio of views to replies; that seems about normal for the forum. Part of the problem with this particular question is that it crops up in a variety of slightly different forms all the time on this board, so many people might be suffering from "posting fatigue" from having answering too many similar questions.

I recommend browsing through Tom Sloper's Sloperama advice site from the link above, since it's a good resource for most of those questions and I agree with nearly all that's written there.

For your specific questions, here's my thoughts:

1. It's fair to aim for the game designer's job, but it's not realistic to think you can start in that position; pretty much the only way you can start the game designer is if you start up your own company (which is very risky with no experience) or have some very close friends or family already working there. It's incredibly unlikely that you can get hired into the game designer position at a company without some background experience within the industry; companies would prefer to either hire someone with a track record or to use one of their own employees (as many people want to be the designer). It's best to plan on working your way up; either as a programmer, artist, level designer etc.

2. Game designers can and have come from pretty much any background. Programmers are probably most common, but designers can come from any walk of life; artists, business managers, historians, education, anything really. Personally I'd recommend getting a broad education if you can, as you can use everything a source for game designs.

However, I would recommend getting a basic understanding of programming, as it helps enormously if you can keep your designs in the realm of what is possible to turn into code and to be able to communicate with the techies. Art skills are also a plus, as you can sketch ideas in a way to communicate. A reasonable amount of math skills is also good, especially probability. Writing, communication and management skills are essential. Note also that in many smaller game companies the designer is not a full time job and so the designer needs to multi-skill, also acting as a manager, manual writer, programmer, tester or artist.

3. I'm not sure what you mean by "starting a design company". If you mean acting as a consultant that sells design ideas to computer game companies, then your chances of success are practically nil. The only way I can see you being able to work as a freelance designer that companies would be willing to hire is if you already had a fantastic track record - i.e. you were already as famous as Will Wright. Otherwise game developers would vastly prefer to design their own games, as that's the most fun and satisfying part of the job.

However, it is possible to go indie and make your own games, however you'll need some development skills as either a programmer or artist to be able to work on your own or hunt down other indie developers (it's nearly impossible to form a team if you're not a programmer or artist as you need some ability that can complement another developer's skillset in order to get them to want to work with you). You could also work on non-computer games; board, card and pen-and-paper games don't require any technical skills. However I'm not very knowledgable on how to market those.

Best of luck!

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