5 Ways Game Designers Communicate [10.28.08]
- Tim Lang
Great ideas are useless without great communication.
Great game designers will tell you that ideas -- even the great ones -- are a dime a dozen. Creating a great video game is not just about the quality of the idea. It's also about the execution of that idea. And the quality of game designers isn't based just on their designs. It's also based on their communication skills.
A huge portion of being a game designer is communicating your ideas and designs to other members of the development team. As development teams continue to get larger and larger, the importance of communication becomes greater and greater.
There are several ways designers can communicate their ideas to the rest of their development team.
5 Ways Game Designers Communicate
1. Conversation. Conversation is probably the most basic way to trade ideas back and forth. It's great because it's cheap, easy, and allows for dialog between all parties. Everyone knows how to talk.
However, verbal communication can be a double-edged sword. Some people have the ability to talk a good game about a bad idea. Others say more than they need to, giving their ideas credence simply by wearing down the other parties. And some people use volume to beat their listeners into submission.
Another downside to conversation is that there isn't a permanent record left behind of what was discussed or decided. While impromptu design meetings are great and should happen as often as necessary, having no record of what was discussed can cause huge problems later on.
Despite its pitfalls, verbal conversation remains a valuable, and most frequently used tool for game designer to communicate their design ideas. Break out a public speaking handbook, or join Toastmasters if you need to. It's worthwhile to learn to speak well, because as a game designer, you'll be doing it a lot.
2. Writing. Along with conversation, writing is probably the most common method of communicating design ideas. Most aspiring game developers have seen or heard about game design documents ("the GDD"), the infamous 400-page tome of knowledge that contains every bit of the game in minute detail.
There are a few great things about using the written word to communicate your ideas. It's cheap, and fairly quick and easy (compared to prototyping, which I'll discuss). Designers love it because they can sit at their desk, headphones adorned, and jam for hours cranking out game designs.
There are a few substantial drawbacks to the written word, though. For one, you have to convince people to read it, and some people just don't like to read, especially if the material is unwieldy. People are often intimidated by something that's 150,000 words long. If it looks too big or isn't organized in a way that's easy for the team to find the information they need quickly, they won't bother to read it at all.