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  • So You Want to Be a Game Designer

    [09.15.06]
    - Marc Mencher
  •  Game designers—like the legendary Sid Meier or Will Wright—seem to have that one fantasy job. They formulate cool ideas, then build on them accordingly. Unfortunately, the chances of a person coming up with a new idea, writing a game design, and then selling it to a publisher are less than one in a million. Further, very few people are hired as game designers. Rather, most earn their way into that position through other jobs, like QA tester, producer, or programmer.

    What does it take to become a game designer? To be a likely success, you must start by being an avid game player. Ideas and inspiration are spawned by playing games. You will often discover that the answer to a design problem has been dealt with before. It makes more sense to tackle a design issue knowing how others tried to handle the same or similar issue rather than re-walk the same path.

    A successful game designer should also have been exposed to art, literature, philosophy, and history. After all, how can you create a game like Civilization without knowing anything about history? Even the study of psychology bears relevance on game design. Because games are made to be played by people, studying the mind and how people react or interact provides valuable insight for good game design.

    Not all game treatments can be executed due to current limits in technology, the goals of the game company, and the amount of time you have to accomplish those goals. Assessing the proper tradeoffs is a significant part of a game designer’s job.

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