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How to Become a Video Game Designer?

Game development is an industry many crave — most for the sheer love of games, some for the challenge, others for glory. Any reason is a good reason. However, not all those who want to become a game designer really know what the job actually entails.

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In this article, we would like to share our love for games and those who make them. Let’s talk about how to become a video game designer and what to expect on the way.

What is a game designer, exactly?

First things first, we’d like to point out that the term “game designer” has two equally widespread definitions.

  • A game designer is a visual content creator involved in the game industry. This usually means an artist working on visuals for games — characters, backgrounds, animations, etc.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with this definition, per se. But there is a second one, which is also valid.

  • A video game designer is a professional behind the game foundation as well as its execution. This means not always drawing art but instead building the game experience for future users, which includes, among other things:
    • Game concept
    • Plot/story
    • Setting
    • Mechanics and gameplay
    • Characters
    • Levels and rewards
    • Game loop (in the case of mobile games, for example)

Companies that prefer this definition of a video game designer are rarely looking for an artist and more often for a content creator. Though, of course, and ability to at least sketch will always be met with joy as it will greatly help game artists.

What do game designers do?

A game designer is the brains of the game development process, the person who creates the experience for players.

The work is very rewarding but as everything worth doing, it is also quite tough sometimes.

A game designer’s job is to build the game from the ground up and with all the necessary intricacies to keep players engaged. From a rough game idea, our game designers work out whole worlds:

  • Game concept — the core everything in the game revolves around.
  • Game setting — the where and when the game takes place. Steampunk space western, anyone?
  • Game plot and story — the “what is going on” of the game. Modern-day elves rigging race cars with wind magic to win the F1? An Eastern Bunny going on a murder spree during Christmas?
  • Game characters — how they look, how they talk, their personalities and backgrounds.
  • Mechanics and gameplay — the actions a player will be able to perform, like walking, running, picking up loot, fighting, and more. Will it be in a first-person or a third-person point of view?
  • Game levels — how much is enough to clear the level, each level’s objectives and obstacles, difficulty and rewards, and so on.

Together with artists, writers, sound engineers, and developers working on the same projects, game designers build up the whole game experience from launching screen to end credits.

With a job this big, there naturally is a selection of paths to go for those wanting to become a video game designer. What do they look like?

How do you become a video game designer?

There’s hardly a one-size-fits-all solution to build a career in game design, but there are steps you can take to make the road to success less bumpy. Let us give you advice.

Get a degree in game design or related field

This is pretty obvious, maybe, but the reality is that game design as a profession you can get in college or university is relatively new, that’s why we’ve decided to include it here. A degree will open to you better opportunities, mostly because studying means practicing — among other things. Besides the game design as a specific degree, you can also enter the industry from related fields.

Depending on what kind of game designer you are planning to become, the degree might vary. It might be computer science and programming — to better understand how game mechanics work; or it might be an art degree — to become a game concept or character designer slash artist; another related field is creative writing as a means to build story and characters.

It is possible to build your foundation on a high school diploma as well, if you’re determined, but with some background, you’ll most likely have it easier.

Choose your focus

As you saw above, the tasks set before a game designer cover quite a wide field of required knowledge. An experienced game designer can do many things but when you’re a beginner, it’s more sensible to focus on a specific field and go from there. Game concept, visuals, mechanics, characters — build up experience in one thing and then add more expertise to create a solid game designer portfolio.

Expand your skill set both deep and wide

Game industry is a popular field, meaning the competition is sometimes unbelievably high. Here, staying at the same level for a long time will cause your career to stall. It is crucial to evolve as a professional.

Cover all the basics and then build upon them. Examine the game design processes from all sides, start to finish, concept to publishing. Take up professional courses and partake in boot camps.

Learn and skill up. Have a solid grasp of game design fundamentals, and then follow the news, trends, technology. Get to know game engines, emerging game-related software, scripts and languages.

Even if your expertise lies in one focused field, with expansive knowledge you will become a coveted specialist for industry players.

Design a game of your own

This is a step to go if you want to be seen as an obvious asset to a gaming company.

“But how do I become a video game designer via my own game if I’m not a coder?”, you may ask.

Well, even if you’re not a developer, there are resources all over the internet that can help you. It is, in fact, fairly easy to build a simple game solely for the purpose of showcasing your game design knowledge.

If you’re not an artist, asset libraries offer paid and free character models, backgrounds, sounds, and more. It’s also possible to build a game without coding knowledge — to show your skills in scripting, plotting, level design, and character building.

With a game of your own under your belt (or better yet, several), you will be able to “show, not tell” how good you are to possible employers.

Network

The last, but not the least important, step in becoming a successful game designer is to network within the industry. Launch a web page or a blog, share your experiences, successes, and sometimes failures there, take part in forums, job boards, conferences, and meet-ups. Apply for positions regularly. Obtain connections among game development companies — big and small — to be the first name on the mind of people when they start looking for a game designer. Networking is king when it comes to a career in game development company.

 

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