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Who designs at your company?

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When I worked as an intern, the lead programmer did most (all) of the design work, and then most of the coding. Is this typical of most companies? The company I worked at wasn't a game company, it was a regular software company (www.deterministicnetworks.com). I got to do a little bit of design from the QA department (I called bad design a 'bug' and got away with it. :) ) but I'm afraid that if I get a Game Design degree, people with CS degrees and 5+ years of programming experience will get hired instead of me. Is it typical that the lead programmer does the designing, or do I have a chance as a designer with a game design degree from UCSC? I want to start as an intern designer (hopefully while I'm still a student) and then move up the design ladder to regular designer, then lead designer. (Hopefully) Do these positions exist in other companies? Or does the lead programmer do all the designing? I read through some previous posts and found mixed answers. So I'm hoping to generate some discussion on the topic. What do hiring people think about hiring designers? Are some people more creative than others? I know most people that claim to be designers are actually just crappy programmers or uncreative people that really shouldn't be designing - will I get lumped in with them? How do I prove myself as a game designer, good enough to get hired as one?

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What kind of "design" are you talking about?
It's typical for a lead engineer to design the architecture of a software system, and it's typical for a game designer to design the game that will be built on top of that software system...

A company won't hire a game designer to make architecture decisions, and they (usually) won't hire a software engineer to make game-play decisions.

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That wouldn't be typical in games, though not unheard of. Generally there are two types of designers: The Designer who only does design, and the Designer who learned to program so that he could make his visions a reality - typically, the second variety own or co-founded their own company and found success at it.

On top of that, there are usually underling designers -- level designers, art directors, multiplayer designer, campaign designer... Lead designer is typically in charge of the whole product, commonly called "the vision".

The business of game development is largely removed from other software in many respects, for better or worse.

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There is such a position as Game Designer, so yes, it is possible to have a job doing that. See this recent discussion and Tom Sloper's FAQ #14: Working As A Game Designer for a bit of information. Some companies employ people specifically for design roles, others have the job done by programmers or other team-members.

Quote:
I'm afraid that if I get a Game Design degree, people with CS degrees and 5+ years of programming experience will get hired instead of me.
They probably will, the majority of companies tend to prefer a candidate with a 'real' degree (even in a less related field such as math or physics) over those with a 'game' degree. Entry level design positions can also be quite hard to come across, it would be very beneficial for you to have some solid technical skills as well.

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I am a game designer at a 3rd party Nintendo developer. I didn't get a degree in Game Designer, Creative Writing, or CS. My degree was in Computer Graphics Technology. My boss chose to hire me due to me not only being able to write clearly, but I had a proven track of teamwork and knowledge of graphics. On the other hand, the designer who was hired in before me spent some time as QA at the company and that was why he was picked.

The only way to prove yourself as a designer is to actually design and make games. It is simple as that.

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