Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Game Designer Reel

I was asked an interesting question today by an Art Institute of California – San Francisco student: “Do you have a [designer} reel?” The student wanted to get an idea of my involvement in the games I’ve worked on. At first I was a bit taken aback by the question because I never really thought much about having a “reel.” What actual material would I put in this reel? Design documents? Level walkthrough? Emails? Notes? Transcripts of conversations? Of course when you think of traditional game industry reels you think of animation or art reels. In an animation reel, you see, well, animations. In a concept art reel, for example, you obviously see concept art.

But what should be the contents of a game designer reel? Do designers even need to create a reel to remain a competitive commodity? Will future employers, the gaming public or even fellow co-workers know exactly what you had a hand in creating if you don’t have a designer reel? Is it enough to be credited on a game as a “designer?” How does a designer “prove” he spearheaded/owned a certain game mechanic or created and maintained certain game systems?

Unless you are Miyamoto, Molyneux, Jaffe, CliffyB, Kojima, etc, many game designers aren’t a well known commodity outside their current employer, even though many of them are instrumental in executing the vision of these high profile names. So, are designer reels necessary to further establish yourself as a game designer if you haven’t reached a certain level of high profile and reputation?

I’m not sure if they are necessary per se, but I don’t see how they would hurt. It seems logical if other game disciplines have reels, why not design? So, if I was to create a designer reel, I would essentially create a personal post mortem with the following:

  • List of all of the game elements I was responsible for concepting/brainstorming/designing/testing/implementing/tweaking
  • Video walkthrough/deconstruction of the final product showing the examples of the elements detailing your design intentions (yes, this will be time consuming)
  • What went wrong/hurdles
  • What went right
  • Details: Did I design and implement?; day-to-day duties

Basically, this reel is a resume on steroids that would hopefully give the person(s) watching a better understanding of your worth to the game you had a hand in developing.


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