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Skye Veran

Game Design Education?

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At 26 years old with nothing going on in my life, I decided recently that I'd like to pursue video game design as a potential career choice, or at least figure out more about it! The problem is, I don't have much experience or education in the field - the most I've done related to game design is a single standalone class at my community college and a long, sporadic attempt at making an over-ambitious video game in Yoyo Games' Game Maker.

 

Researching Game Design options for education is a weird grab bag. Most of the results are just summaries of game design jobs, but these summaries are unspecific, saying that game designers can take a wide array of helpful education including arts, computer sciences, communication and business, etc. Some of them are programs from art universities like Art Institute and Full Sail University, but I've never been sure if those schools are legit. The presence of actual programs designed specifically for game design seems rare at best.

 

While I continue digging through this, I wanted to see if anyone had some actual experience that could help me out or at least point me in a good direction to get more info. I'm trying to distinctly look into "design" over "development," as I'm more interested in putting a game together than creating one of the individual systems. But, as it's probably very clear, I don't really have a good idea on how these things actually work when you get into the real process of game creation.

 

Where should I start? What are my actual team position options? Any information would be helpful.

 

Thank you!

 

Edit: I absolutely thought I was in the Beginner's forum when I posted this. If someone could move it for me, I'd appreciate it, since I can't see a way to delete it. Sorry about that.

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First up: 

Game Developer - anyone who works in games development (including designers, artists, programmers, etc).

Game Designer - someone who designs game rules and mechanics (mostly). This is a very rare job (e.g. one designer per dozen programmers) so is usually a pretty senior role.

 

On large titles, there will be a lead designer who oversees the work of several other designers responsible for specific systems (e.g. combat, movement, etc). On very large titles there would be multiple lead designers (e.g. lead combat designer) laugh.png but this is the top end of the AAA scene, which is already the top end of town. There's also level designers, quest designers, etc, etc... every studio and game is different in it's needs and organization of work (and job titles). On small titles there might just be a single designer, working with even a few dozen other developers. Other times there's no dedicated designers at all, and other developers such as programmers simply work with the producer to figure out what to make! ohmy.png

 

The focused game design schools (which teach just design specifically) are extremely predatory, so it's a good thing that they're rare. It's like running a school for kids who want to be President one day, without telling them that 99.99% of them simply can't. As in, even by no fault of their own, there's simply not enough presidential terms in their lifetime's for them to all get that job. Sorry, but thanks for your money and shattered dreams.

The more responsible schools will still take your money and promise to make you into a game designer, but will also do the right thing(tm) and try and teach you some other peripheral skills, such as 3D art and programming, so that maybe you can at least get a job where you get to sit next to a game designer.

 

IMHO if you're keen on being a designer, then that kind of all-rounder game-dev education is probably not a bad thing. You're not going to get a game design job straight out of college, because as above, it's typically a senior role that requires you to have a lot of previous experience... catch-22 right?

Well that's where your other skills come in. You need to gain game design experience somehow, to become an experienced game designer worthy of that senior position at Big Game Company(r), so... easiest thing is to simply make your own games, by yourself... and to do that, you need to know how to perform every game development job at least a little bit.

As well as making your own video games though, you should also make card / board / tabletop / sport / live games too smile.png in depth critiques of other games is also a way for you to demonstrate the depth of your understanding in their mechanics and the likely thought processes used by the designers who created them.

 

Alternatively, you can get a focused education in another field, and study/practice game design on the side, so that one day maybe you can move out of your day-job into a game designer job. Getting a non-design job at a games company will teach you a lot about how games are made, and give you unfettered access to professional designers/developers for 40 hours a week wink.png

Even as a programmer, I learned more about the realities of game development in one month of my first job than in a whole year of university laugh.png

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One possible way of entering the industry is level design... While game design itself seems to be a senior role in most studios, level design seems more common to be staffed with junior applicants.

 

This could be something to concentrate on. Which of course means more "development" than "design", and working on individual levels instead of the whole game. But to be honest, most of the time that seems to be what game designer do too (if you are one of a team of designers, you probably get the task to "find a way to change System X so it doesn't Interfere with System Y anymore").

 

If you don't want to be a cogwheel in the machine, you will need to go the Indie route (or hire as part of a small Indie team)... also feasible, if this will ever pay your bills though is questionable (many fail as Indies).

 

 

As for education, what Hodgman said. Be aware that many "Game Design Schools" do not prepare you well for the realities of game development... and it seems some studios are aware of that and look for more than just a degree.

A degree is still a necessity, but something like a CS degree (if you want to become programmer OR designer), business degree (if you want to become producer OR designer), Math (if you want to become data analyst OR designer), and so on will both look better (more "serious" degree with less chance of a school that doesn't properly teach people), and give you more options outside of the game industry (in the likely event that this isn't the industry for you... most people seem to leave after some time).

 

You might have noted that I wrote "OR designer"... from what I have read from multiple sources, there is NO real singular way to become a good game designer. Common wisdom is a Game Designer needs to have some knowledge in ALL the other professions... some programming (so he can test things without having to wake up the programmers), some art (so he knows what the hell the artist is talking about, and is able to visually communicate his ideas), a lot of math (because that is what a lot of deisgns in the end come down too... Excel seems to be the most important tool for designers), a lot of knowledge in about all the different aspects of history, literature, and social sciences (psychology comes to mind as being very important)... the more the designer knows about EVERYTHING, the better he can adapt to what the current project asks of him (maybe its a military shooter and he needs to know WW2 history well... maybe its a city sim, and he needs to know a lot about architecture, politics and resource management).

 

 

Important thing is to go above and beyond what you do in school. Don't show your future employer a degree and expect them to believe you to have the skills they need. Show them your skills with an awesome portfolio, show them that you arleady ARE a good <insert your profession of choice here> and that they need you... then provide them with your degree to satisfy HR, as by then the devs themselves should no longer care about your degree. They have already seen what you can do, and want to hire your for your skills.

Make sure you understand that you are trying to push into one of the most competitive careers you can in this world. You need to work hard to make it. And you will most probably have to live with lower wages, at least until you made a name for yourself.

 

 

There is one forum moderator, Tom Sloper, who has a very good page about all the questions you might have. Search for his topics in the forum, find the link to his page in his signature, and read it well.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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While I continue digging through this, I wanted to see if anyone had some actual experience that could help me out or at least point me in a good direction to get more info. I'm trying to distinctly look into "design" over "development,"

Moving you to the Game Industry Job Advice board.
You should read the advice FAQs: http://www.gamedev.net/page/reference/faq.php/_/breaking-into-the-industry-r16
And you should read/view:

and
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson14.htm
and especially
http://www.sloperama.com/advice/designprep.htm


There is one forum moderator, Tom Sloper, who has a very good page about all the questions you might have. Search for his topics in the forum, find the link to his page in his signature, and read it well.

Tanks, Gian-Reto!

Edited by Tom Sloper

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Just noticed these from the OP:

What are my actual team position options? Any information would be helpful.

 

Read FAQs 7 and 10:
http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson7.htm
http://sloperama.com/advice/lesson10.htm

Edit: I absolutely thought I was in the Beginner's forum when I posted this. If someone could move it for me, I'd appreciate it, since I can't see a way to delete it. Sorry about that.


I found this in For Beginners, but that's not where this needed to be. I moved it to the Job Advice board, and this is where you need to be.

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Thank you everyone for your answers so far. I really appreciate all of them. From what I've read here and elsewhere, it sounds like the best plan might be going to school for a subject related to game design ( probably programming in my case ), keep any eye out for anything related to game design while I'm there, get some real-world experience until I can apply to a game development company for an entry-level job, and work up from there. Or find a niche anywhere along the way that suits me. Not having been to school in a while, that still sounds pretty daunting, but it's a good place to start looking.

 

@Tom Sloper, I've bookmarked your FAQ and am going to read through them all over the next few days/weeks, very good compilation of practical info. And uh, sorry about my post moving through the entire forum.

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Hey Skye.  It seems like you got your answers, but I wanted to add my 2 cents just in case I could help.

 

There's a few things I tell everyone about game dev and going to school for it.  

 

1.  Don't go to school for game "design" until you're either working professionally int he industry or you've already got a degree somewhere in game development and want to learn more.  

2.  Before contacting any schools learn as much as you possibly can all by yourself.  Learn to make games with an engine like Stencyl.  Design them, do the art for them, do the "programming" (Stencyl doesn't require you to know code to create games.  Just logic).  Once you've literally learned everything you think you can doing it on your own with Google and YouTube, then start looking into school for the field that interests you the most.  Either art or programming.

 

You already got an earful about why game design is a bad career decision right out of the game.  The short and sweet of it is that everyone wants to eat the bread but no one wants to put in the elbow grease to bake it.  So learn all the roles before you try to manage them.

 

As far as schools, for-profit schools are almost always frowned upon, but the hard truth is that if you really want a focused degree on games you might end up at one of these institutes.  In the end if a studio hires you based on the school you attended, you probably don't want to work for that studio.  You want to be hired based on your portfolio, which means that unless you get your degree from the alley behind Best Buy, you're going to have the chance to put in what you want out of your education and build your portfolio as you go with extra projects and not just your class assignments.  

 

I started Full Sail University Online nearly 2 years ago now for game art.  I've never loved drawing and I'm still pretty bad with a pencil and paper, but 3D art and sculpting somehow just called to me.  I learned as much in Maya and Zbrush as I could before attending school and because of it I basically breezed through my first year with a 4.0.  I was doing a lot of extra work to push myself as I went, too.  Finally I'm to the point where I'm learning a lot of new things and I'm finally really being challenged.  To be honest the best thing about finally going to shcool for game art is that I'm able to ask questions to people who work and have worked in the industry.  There's a lot of unspoken rules in 3d art that never made sense to why I was following them until I could finally openly speak to a professional.  You can do this without paying $60k if you can manage to find a mentor somewhere, but I like the idea of having that shiny degree to at least get my foot in the door at a studio in the future.

 

Anyway.  If you're really interested in games and making them, start with Stencyl.  I just did a tutorial series (my first series, so it's not exactly professional) proving that with a little bit of knowledge in Stencyl you can make a game from scratch in 30 minutes or less.

- Hope I can post this here.

 

Also I'm currently looking for more game dev friends for game jams (mine suck and always bail on me.) So feel free to add me on Google Hangouts or Facebook (Michael Kocha) and I'd love to teach you anything I can.

 

Good luck!  Welcome to the wonderful world of game development!

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