It’s common to hear children say that they want to design video games for a living when they get older, but do they really know what tasks are involved? Do we as adults even know? Yes, it sounds like a fun job on paper because you get to design something you enjoy playing. But once you dig a little bit deeper into what the game designer job description is really like, you might be somewhat surprised. It takes a lot more than just using your imagination to think of a story line and a few characters. Depending on their specialty, game developers are generally skilled programmers, software engineers, animators, and writers.
Most video game designers have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering. Having one or two years of some type of computer programming experience is important. Some people possess a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, which increases their chances of landing a job. There are also technical schools that offer degrees in Game Design or other similar majors. Employers prefer candidates to have knowledge in multiple programming languages, but it’s not mandatory.
Since designers usually work in groups, it’s important they have good communication skills. Developing other areas such as writing, visual arts and music is also beneficial.
The salary of a game designer varies dramatically on several factors. This includes location, type of platforms you are developing for, your role within the company, and company size. The salary for an entry level designer is around $45,000 annually, but can grow to well over $100,000 per year as they gain more experience and tenure.
It’s worth mentioning that designers are not paid based on their creative ideas, which is a common misconception. Designers usually work in teams, and therefore come up with great ideas for their game as a group.
As a game designer, you are responsible for constructing different computerized games, or video games. Ideal candidates are comfortable working in a fast-paced work environment and are excellent with problem-solving. Expect to work hard and long hours, as you will have to meet deadlines for game releases and updates. It also doesn’t hurt to be passionate about playing video games.
Game Designer Roles
Game Designer –Responsible for creating highly detailed design documents which contains a blueprint for the entire game’s design, gameplay and interface. Designers follow the build of the game very closely by working with everyone else in the team and makes decisions about what to implement and remove from the game.
Writer – In charge of writing the game’s story, dialogue, menu text, narration and cut scenes. Writers are known to work closely with other designers so they can stay on the same page during development.
Mechanics Designer – Designs the rules of the game and makes sure that everything is balanced carefully. Sometimes the level may be impossible to pass or the main character is too strong which can make the game less enjoyable to play.
Level Designer – Creates the missions, levels and environment aspects. It’s important that everything matches up evenly with the gameplay and storyline.
Game Development Process
The process of developing a game as a designer can differ from every individual or team, but there is a foundation that most developers follow in order to produce a quality product.
The first step starts off with translating raw ideas into a concept document. The document is to describe the basic idea of the game. This is when the team discusses what type of technology is needed, the costs, timeframe, and development process for the game. The concept document is only the beginning, as the finish line is still far away.
The next step involves turning the concept document into what is known as the game bible. This massive document is responsible for detailing every small aspect of the game. It acts as a reference for everyone involved with developing the game and should answer every question anyone has. Usually one person is in charge of managing the game bible.
Once that is complete, next comes the creation of the prototype. This is a way for game designers to try out and show the basic mechanics of the game and to grasp an understanding of where the game is going. Basically, the idea of a game doesn’t become real until it’s prototyped. The first prototype can be non-digital as well in order to build a prototype from scratch in an efficient way. It’s usually iterated constantly until the game mechanics work effectively. Game designers will self-implement new solutions and ideas by themselves during this stage also. This process can take some time, and sometimes even as long as the entire development cycle of the game.
Scripting tuning are other key stages that begin during this time of the development. There will usually be a few designers in charge of using script language or a visual editor to work on aspects such as character behaviors, game levels, and the setup of the actual gameplay How fast can the character run? How much damage can the boss deal? These values will usually be inputted into an excel spreadsheet so the designers can easily change them and run simulations Once that is completed, it’s up to the developers to fine tune the game to make sure everything runs smoothly. This means checking for coding errors, bugs or any other issues causing the game to crash.
Try Designing A Video Game Yourself!
If you’re interested in designing video games, learn how to create your own game without having to do any coding. All you need to use is Flash and your operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) development tools and you can be on your way to designing your first ever video game. Who knows, you may eventually want to pursue a career as a game designer!