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edwinbradford

Name another industry whose "Designers" are programmers?

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edwinbradford    100
Hi all, Subject matter says it all. I come from a long career in graphic design where of course designers are trained for around 4 years in the faculty of arts. When I first got into the games industry I was shocked to find that games designers, possibly the most important creative role for the team, come from programming courses or are ex-programmers. It lead me to wonder if there are any other industries where the title "designer" is given to someone from a science or engineering background. Product designers, fashion designers, magazine designers, set designers, graphic designers, I can't think of one? Architects learn a mixture of science and art but the emphasis is on art and they're not called "designers". Is it healthy for the creativity of our industry that game play design is being done by people trained to think logically and not creatively? Of those of you who are working in companies commercially, are your game designers from creative or engineering backgrounds? I'm sure the results will make interesting reading. Cheers all.

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mrbastard    1577
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Of those of you who are working in companies commercially, are your game designers from creative or engineering backgrounds?


Mixed.

Surely the title 'designer' applies to anyone who 'designs' things?

In my limited experience, game designers can be anything from gameplay designers (e.g. same skillset as designing pen+paper games) to level designers (basic 3d art skills) to gameplay scripting (simple programming).

It's a catch-all term used for anyone who isn't a c++ programmer or hardcore artist, but who has some creative input.

Why do you find it shocking that programmers sometimes do 'creative' things?

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vchile    122
Game designers aren't all programmers. Many are, and the two go hand in hand, but it's not always like that. Some game designers have creative/artistic backgrounds. I agree that it could be an issue if all designers were programmers and weren't very creative, but those things aren't really mutually exclusive. You can be a great designer, great programmer, and a creative thinker.

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quasar3d    814
Quote:

Product designers, fashion designers, magazine designers, set designers, graphic designers


Those are all visual designers. In games, designers are usually the people who are responsible for the game experience, ie. coming up with what actions and challenges a player has to do, and why that would make it fun.

The people that are responsible for the looks of the game, are generally exclusively from an artistic background, but I don't think having an artistic background would by definition make you a better gameplay designer.

In the end, it just comes down to who is able to do the best job at it, but I don't really think that either an engineering background or a visual design background would give you much of an advantage over the others.

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Telastyn    3777
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Product designers, fashion designers, magazine designers, set designers, graphic designers, I can't think of one?


Bah.

Fashion designers know how to sew. Set designers can use a saw and a paint roller. Aircraft designers have enough engineering knowledge to mock up test models.

Though personally, I believe gameplay design needs to be a non-artistic endeavor. It's mostly mathematics, and needs a scientific approach to understand the feasibility of the idea, how to take a raw idea and translate it into mechanics, and doing the due diligence to make sure the mechanic can't be broken.

The positions often called 'game designer' in the industry don't do that though. Diagramming plot, designing characters, doing level creation, making dialogue... those are artistic endeavors. Rule creation? Not so much.

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edwinbradford    100
Thanks for the quick replies. No-one has another example of an industry where "designers" are not trained in art or design then? Especially in the entertainment industry of which we're a part.

Quote:

Why do you find it shocking that programmers sometimes do 'creative' things?


*sometimes*. Of course they do but you can't equate the level of creativity from a science of engineering background with one from the arts, I think most people would accept that as a given.

Quote:

Surely the title 'designer' applies to anyone who 'designs' things?


If I design a building tonight will that make me an Architect?

Quote:

...but I don't really think that either an engineering background or a visual design background would give you much of an advantage over the others.


I agree and those are broad classifications of course. I cannot see good designers coming any more from Artist roles than from Programming. But the entertainment industry is a lot bigger than just artists and programmers.

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Buster2000    4310
I have a qualification in yacht design and marine engineering and have designed yachts and small boats.
The training for the job involved no design training it was nearly all hands on actually building the boats before you were able to go away and say "right now I know how to build a yacht I can go away and design my own".

In the games industry I've also worked for two companies who simply didn't employ designers at all.

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Is it healthy for the creativity of our industry that game play design is being done by people trained to think logically and not creatively?

Logical thought isn't creative?

Too many artists believe this false dichotomy, and appropriate creativity exclusively for themselves, typically annoying or insulting technical professionals in the process. Worse, they use that as a cover for a lack of comprehensive consideration and mathematically rigid reasoning on their parts, meaning their wonderfully "creative" designs are often barely usable. There is plenty of creative, lateral thinking required in excelling technically, and plenty of technical facility required for top-flight creativity.

Put it to rest. You'll be better at what you do, regardless of what you do, for it.

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Sneftel    1788
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
*sometimes*. Of course they do but you can't equate the level of creativity from a science of engineering background with one from the arts, I think most people would accept that as a given.

hahaha. where do I sign up for creativity school? My massive left brain is causing me neck problems.
Quote:

If I design a building tonight will that make me an Architect?
If you're consistently paid to do so? Yes.

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theOcelot    498
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Quote:

Surely the title 'designer' applies to anyone who 'designs' things?


If I design a building tonight will that make me an Architect?


No, it just makes you an amateur building designer. [smile]

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Oluseyi    2103
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Quote:
Why do you find it shocking that programmers sometimes do 'creative' things?

*sometimes*. Of course they do but you can't equate the level of creativity from a science of engineering background with one from the arts, I think most people would accept that as a given.

Most people are also drooling morons, and don't know anything about what programmers actually do.

Nor, I suspect, do you.

Quote:
Quote:
Surely the title 'designer' applies to anyone who 'designs' things?

If I design a building tonight will that make me an Architect?

Yes, if your building is structurally sound, incorporates heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical requirements, meets building code and includes a budget analysis with costs of materials and a building schedule. A design for a building is a lot more than a drawing. Resolving the overlapping constraints placed on an architectural design project often requires a fair amount of creativity - oh, and sometimes the client also wants the building to be pretty or make a statement or intrigue the public. "The Gherkin" comes to mind.

Quote:
I cannot see good designers coming any more from Artist roles than from Programming. But the entertainment industry is a lot bigger than just artists and programmers.

So... what's your point, exactly?

The "entertainment industry" is a lot bigger than just games, and the non-games parts typically don't hire programmers as designers, either. But maybe, just maybe, the reason that video games hire people with some exposure to programming and computer technology as designers is because their final product is a computer software program?

In most industries, designers have a complement of artistic and technical skills. You simply fail to view some of those skills as technical because they don't necessarily require comparable investments of time and equipment in acquiring them. You hire people with a baseline of facility in the means of production of your final product, but also with a familiarity with the diverse social, economic, political, psychological and other factors that will influence the final product.

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HeWhoDarez    140
I also hail from the land of graphic design and should probably point out that graphic designers are often asked to be programmers (to some extent) when transferring a brand to the web.


However, game design (not just video games) seem to be a very interesting area for discussion based on my experiences with the subject at university. If this is something you are thinking about moving into, and speaking from a similar viewpoint, I would recommend reading "Rules of Play" by Salen and Zimmerman, if you havnt already, and the follow it up with the "Game Design Reader" which I found slightly esier to digest as a wannabee video games developer.


For consideration by all: I have been following the discussions regarding Mathematics in video games, ie. why the player has to do so much number crunching, and is it possible to hide the maths from the gamer completely, and am wondering if this subject might overlap a little?

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WavyVirus    884
Quote:
Original post by Oluseyi
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Is it healthy for the creativity of our industry that game play design is being done by people trained to think logically and not creatively?

Logical thought isn't creative?

Too many artists believe this false dichotomy, and appropriate creativity exclusively for themselves, typically annoying or insulting technical professionals in the process.


Exactly.

Programming definitely offers the opportunity to be creative, even if you are working towards a known goal.

Creativity isn't strictly limited to art, and in fact the type of creativity nurtured by programming is often more relevant to the design of games - you are designing rules and mechanics with logical interactions. You have other people (artists) to offer visual design input.

EDIT:
In addition, there is a huge benefit in a game designer being able to prototype mechanics themselves and develop them in their own time - In the same way, a fashion designer might make a mock-up of an item of clothing as a proof-of-concept.

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quasar3d    814
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Thanks for the quick replies. No-one has another example of an industry where "designers" are not trained in art or design then? Especially in the entertainment industry of which we're a part.


And if that would be the case, does that mean we should put different people on it, just to make the label fit? Or maybe it's just the label that is wrong, and we should've called it gameplay engineer instead.

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WazzatMan    102
Quote:
it healthy for the creativity of our industry that game play design is being done by people trained to think logically and not creatively?


You're obviously not a programmer.

Being a programmer takes a lot of imagination, it's not just a process from A to B (Logic), a lot of time and energy is spent on figuring out what the hell B is (Imagination).

Believe it or not, even business programmers need a lot of imagination, even though they're never trained to be 'creative'.

But I wonder.

How is someone 'trained' to be creative?

As far as I know, artists only learn [insert art medium] techniques.

As an aside: A lot of creative games were created without the use of trained visual artists, they just don't look pretty, but then neither does a book--Unless you keep staring at the illustration.

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Army of Zin    122
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Is it healthy for the creativity of our industry that game play design is being done by people trained to think logically and not creatively?


Yikes. Up until this point I thought you were just starting a healthy debate. But this statement just screams ignorance. You have NO idea what programming is about.

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Army of Zin    122
And for the record, a great game designer can be anyone who can vividly visualize a fun interactive experience, has an outstanding ability to communicate, and has the sincere modesty to admit when he/she is wrong. It doesn't matter what their background is IMO (although it often helps).

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Tom Sloper    16040
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
I was shocked to find that games designers... come from programming courses or are ex-programmers.

Your finding is wrong. Not all game designers come from programming. If this is your finding, you need to broaden your sampling. Your statistics gathering technique is hugely flawed.

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Hodgman    51231
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Subject matter says it all. I come from a long career in graphic design where of course designers are trained for around 4 years in the faculty of arts.

Of those of you who are working in companies commercially, are your game designers from creative or engineering backgrounds?
When I worked in Gambling, the *game designers* mostly had actuarial/finance/mathematical backgrounds, though I did know one who did computer science.

However, the *graphic designers* there did have art backgrounds...

I also know of one hand-held games company that is currently looking for a game designer, and they want someone with a background in "information design" (i.e. NOT programming OR art).

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Daerax    1207
Quote:
Original post by Hodgman
Quote:
Original post by edwinbradford
Subject matter says it all. I come from a long career in graphic design where of course designers are trained for around 4 years in the faculty of arts.

Of those of you who are working in companies commercially, are your game designers from creative or engineering backgrounds?
When I worked in Gambling, the *game designers* mostly had actuarial/finance/mathematical backgrounds, though I did know one who did computer science.

However, the *graphic designers* there did have art backgrounds...

I also know of one hand-held games company that is currently looking for a game designer, and they want someone with a background in "information design" (i.e. NOT programming OR art).


information design? what is that like a propoganda minister or someone for marketing or something?

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Hodgman    51231
Quote:
Original post by Daerax
information design? what is that like a propoganda minister or someone for marketing or something?
It's the study of how to present data to a human in a way in which it can be easily comprehended.

http://www.informationdesign.org/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_design

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Buster2000    4310
Not only do I think the OP doesn't understand what programmers do but, I also don't think he understands what a designer actually does.

Many people seem to think a designer gets to think up new game ideas, produce some kind of documentation and then leave it to the programmers and artists to create a game.

This isn't the case. There are many different types of designers and it can vary from company to company.
You may be a level designer in which case having a working knowlege of artists tools will help (Max and Maya etc are still used for level editing by some companies).
On the otherhand working as quest designer for an RPG is going to involve a lot of programming.
Modern games are data driven and employ scripting languages as designer tools so that designers can create content without having to get a programmer to do it. Whilst scripting languages such as Python, Lua, Tcl, UnrealScript and so on arn't as complex as C++ to use they still involve having a working knowlege of writing programs. Even graphical tools such as Unreals Kismit still require some understanding of how loops work, what a variable is and other programming concepts.

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ambershee    532
The argument is completely moot. A job title is just that - a job title, and it serves only the purpose of being recogniseable in that trade.

I mean, if you work at Subway, you are a Sandwich Artist - that is your title. Does that mean you have any artistic ability? No. It just means you can make sandwiches to a specification.

Edit: Also, there are such things as Software Designers, and Product Designers.

I'd anciticipate, that the product design would be far more involved in engineering, than it would in being specifically 'art'.

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Hodgman    51231
Quote:
Original post by Buster2000
Many people seem to think a designer gets to think up new game ideas, produce some kind of documentation and then leave it to the programmers and artists to create a game. This isn't the case.
Yeah, it's always different.
Some places that I've worked, half of a designer's job would be project management (keeping the implementation on track, after designing). This same place had a team of "Games Executives" (from many backgrounds, including art or maths) who were basically QA for game ideas.

Another job title to look out for is "Creative Director", often these people do the arty/linguistic design work, and then the "Game Designers" do the mathematical and game mechanic work.

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WazzatMan    102
I've never actually worked in a professional game development firm, but from what I read, a healthy design is gathered from everyone in the development team (Or at least, the seniors in each branch). Which makes sense.


All the elements in the game need to be in perfect harmony.

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