Game Design Career: A Beginner’s Guide

By Rupali Sharma

The Video Game Craze has broken record levels these past few years. From here on, this sudden surge will only grow. Luckily the gaming industry envisages experience over qualification, and recruiters pay close attention to your talent and portfolio. So it is now crucial to learn in a way that helps you in overall knowledge building in the gaming industry. 

As a result, to enter this elusive sector, skilled people are required who can compete in the market. Today’s youth are moving away from traditional education and moving towards designing, animation, programming, and arts. To become a professional Designers, there are certain DOs and DON’Ts that need to be kept in mind.

Let us go over these together, and start by understanding the roles and responsibilities of a Game Designer, and get to know some interesting facts about the same. Let us begin.

Table of Contents

What is Game Design?

Game design is designing all the aspects of a video game, before a single line of code is written. These include the documentation, genre, environment, story, characters, gameplay systems, mechanics. objectives, user experience and much more.

With the arrival of new sets of platforms and formats like consoles, mobile phones, handheld devices, educational games, virtual reality among others; game design has become a very sought after career in the Gaming Industry. No knowledge is a waste when it comes to Game Design. Each video game varies in terms of feel or target audience, similarly each Game Designer differs in their approach to construct a video game from the ground up.

Types of Game Designers

Depending on the size of the studio, the roles and responsibilities of a Game Designer are divided. Smaller studios who can’t afford multiple people, resort to using a single Game Designer for all their design needs. Such studios are amazing for designers who are just starting out their careers, as working in a variety of roles, they inadvertently become good at many things. This also helps them decide where their area of expertise lies, and can specialize in that field.

Bigger studios usually have multiple designers working on the same project. Here each designer needs to be a master of their expertise, and put forth their best work. 

  • Game Play Designer: They are responsible for designing the core mechanics of the game, and work closely with the game play engineer.
  • UX Designer: They have a close understanding of UI and HUDs. They work  with 2D artists, UI engineers and animators. 
  • Level Designer: They work on spicing up levels, by adding creative and challenging obstacles.They work closely with environment artists, game artists and animators.
  • Scripting Designer: They create code scripts that can automate certain aspects of the game creation. They use scripting language and provide the bridge between design and engineering. 
  • System Designer: They build complex systems like the progression or metagame features. They work on spreadsheets and work closely with system engineers.
  • Mobile Game Designer: They work on developing retention and monetisation aspects in the F2P mobile space. They heavily use analytics and constantly review data to optimise the game.

Eligibility to Become a Game Designer

Unlike other competitive careers, getting a Degree isn’t a necessity, although having one surely increases your knowledge and experience. The one thing you absolutely need to enter the gaming industry, aside from a creative mind, in-depth research and understanding of games is: A PORTFOLIO.

Here are 5 Tips to get you started in creating an amazing portfolio:

  • Start by reading several books on Game Design Like Level Up and A Theory of Fun among others.
  • Deconstruct your favourite games to understand the core game loop. This skill will help in understanding the basics of games.
  • Research and stay up to date with the latest Industry and Market trends. Talking specifically about India, having in-depth knowledge of Monetization and the F2P (Free To Play) Model will help you stand out from the crowd.
  • Not just games, many Game Designers take inspiration from the real world. Psychology, Human Mind, Political Affiliations, History; these are some of the areas a Game Designer should be familiar with. No knowledge is a waste if you are a Game Designer, and you should constantly look at ways to improve yourself.
  • Learn the basics of any Game Engine. Only to create a prototype. Game Engines such as Unity and Construct are very user friendly and have a lot of documentation and tutorial videos to get you started. Using these engines, start creating new and innovative prototypes and create an amazing portfolio!

Responsibilities of a Game Designer

Before understanding the responsibility of a Game Designer, you should know about Game Design Document (GDD). A Game Design Document a living document which is highly descriptive of the design for a video game. It is created and edited by the production team as the production goes on. 

Game designer responsibilities and the kind of work they do is quite salient to know. They usually require several things while making or modifying a video game. 

  • They use mockups and flowcharts for the end users to plan and design the game levels, missions, and all the possible outcomes.  
  • As a lead game designer, they may coordinate and lead the different teams and ensure that the production process runs smoothly.
  • In addition to maintaining the GDD, they need to implement mechanics, design guidelines, and mission outcomes. 
  • Staying on top of the latest player trends and incorporating them as necessary.
  • There needs to be an overall storyboard, role plays, and a body mechanism for each character.

DOs and DON’Ts of becoming a Game Designer

  • When you’re confident in your core, keep it simple and add to it later. This is because if your first feature turns out to be dud, it would render the other features pointless.    
  • Consider how to onboard the players in your game because new players might not get the mechanics of the game in their first play through. 
  • Know when to hold and unfold your idea because an idea might seem good on paper or while brainstorming but might not work on execution. 
  • While creating open world environments, offer secondary and tertiary paths through gameplay, and avoid overly rigid design by using real-world physics.
  • Gameplay aspect should be the first priority in the game and story is secondary, unless you are making a visual novel.

Hideo Kojima the designer of Metal Gear, Sid Meier the designer of Sid Meier’s Civilization, Hironobu Sakaguchi the designer of The Last of Us and Gabe Newell the designer of Dota 2, are among the best known Game Designers in the world. Their journey was not easy but their hardwork and dedication paid them off.

Don’t let anyone stop you from learning!

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