Thursday, July 22, 2010

Conversation: What is a Game Designer?

Tonight I was randomly thinking back to my time at GDC 2010. I'd see a lot of people with the "Game Designer" title on their badges. Every time I saw that it had me thinking, "OK, what exactly do you do?" I mean, I've been in the industry for a decent amount of time and it's still a guess as to what a "Game Designer" actually does from developer to developer. So imagine what an Outsider, someone not in the industry, thinks when you tell him you're a Game Designer.

Below is just me basically talking to myself. The conversation doesn't really have a structure to it and it kind of just ends. I just went with the flow.

Outsider: So what do you do for a living?

Game Designer: I’m a game designer.

Outsider: Oh, cool. You design board games?

Game Designer: No, video games.

Outsider: Ahh. So you program them?

Game Designer: No, not really.

Outsider: Oh! You must draw them then.

Game Designer: Uhh, not really. I kind of make rules. I mean there’s some “programming” involved but I don’t “code” you know?

Outsider: Oh.

Outsider: I don't think I can ever be a game designer. I suck at drawing.

Game Designer: You don't really need to know how to draw. Can you draw stick figures?

Outsider: Yeah.

Game Designer: If you can communicate your idea to someone using just stick figure drawings, then you have done part of your job as a game designer.

Outsider: Do you have to be good in math?

Game Designer: Did you take any kind of math in high school?

Outsider: Yeah.

Game Designer: Then that's a good start. Any other math you may need can be found on the internet.

Outsider: Oh.

Outsider: So you must play a lot of video games then.

Game Designer: I do sometimes. I mean, I used to. But now as I've been in the industry longer, I'm trying to become more balanced in how I spend my time: movies, books, travel, random road trips, driving schools, people watching. Anything to broaden my mind and my experience with the world. Sometimes I feel playing video games stunts my growth as a game designer. Does that make any sense?

Outsider: Kind of.

Game Designer: Does any of this interest you?

Outsider: Yes, very much so.

Outsider: Hmm, what about writing? Do you have to be a good writer?

Game Designer: Well...