Game design expands a game concept into a set of interesting mechanics for players to master and make choices with that give rise to dynamics that make the game more than the sum of its parts and aesthetics that make the experience memorable and emotional.
Becoming a game designer
Most aspiring game developers start out wanting to be a game designer. Many branch into other game skill specializations like programming and art, but the dedicated few become game designer specialists.
Game design involves a lot of creativity but it also requires solid technical ability to expand ideas into implementable design docs and a thorough and wide knowledge of all the other areas of game development that a design incorporates.
Specializing in game design as a career
Game design can be hard to get a job doing at first, which is why many game designers also learn programming to get into the more numerous programming roles.
So you want to be a game designer?
Watch James Portnow’s Extra Credits: So You Want to be a Game Designer?
To summarize, a game designer needs a lot of skills.
Essential game designer skills
- Technical writing skills (grammar, punctuation, etc.)
- Solid grounding in logic
- Basic psychology
- Understanding of the game medium and computers
- Math skills through advanced algebra to define definite mechanical rules for how systems work
Great game designer skills
- Knowledge of literature, philosophy and myth
- Understanding of world religions
- Basic basic programming scripting language knowledge to build prototypes
- Understanding of art principles, storyboard level drawing
- Basics of audio design and music principles
- Practical knowledge of graphical design to build interfaces
- Thorough internal library of games played to reference
- Life experience: You cannot craft experiences without having some of your own.
- Make games! Start with whatever you know how to do such as pen and paper or a game engine you can learn quickly.
What game designers do
- Learn to develop ideas into reality with detailed game design documents
- Analyze existing games to reverse engineer the design, mechanics, math and intent
- Game testing with people who can give you feedback to the ideas you’re too close to
If these sound like things you are good at or willing to learn, you might have the inclination to become a game designer. And the best way to find out is to make a game.
Game Design Books
Game Design Heroes
People you can learn from by watching their talks, playing their games and engaging with their community.