Hey this is my first post, just found this site today via a Joystiq post. Gotta say, this site is an absolute godsend, and I'd first like to send thanks where they belong to all the helpful posts on the main site and the forums.
A few questions I still couldn't seem to find however, which I'm sorry if this has been posted before, are aimed at the path of becoming a lead designer.
First off, this is a question that's been on my mind for a very long time - ever since I had started playing the Metal Gear Solid series. Lead designer vs. Director - is there really a difference? From my understanding the term Game Director is more used in Japan, the most obvious example I've can think of is Hideo Kojima (which is where I first heard the term used).
Secondly, is shooting for lead designer too high of a goal? I'm still struggling with the understanding of the inner workings of the industry, so I'm not sure if tons of companies are open to hiring lead designers or if it's something someone should work their way up to, or if most lead designers are lead designers because they started their own team. Which path is more realistic? I assume it also depends on the company, etc.
I'm in my final year of high school, I already know that I probably won't be able to afford to go to a four year university, so I planned on going to a school similar to DeVry or the like. I read the article about why gaming centric colleges (would this count?) usually aren't accepted by small companies, and that I should probably get a degree in something else. What sort of field, other than game design, should I aim for if I wanted to get into lead design? Would these be possible through a JC?
If it helps to apply this to my previous question, one of the things I would really like to master as a game designer is atmosphere. When going into game design, I don't plan on reinventing the wheel - I just want to create, unique, memorable worlds and stories. Of course this would tie with fun gameplay, with unique elements to that world. Is there any way to apply this to a certain field of education?
I'm sorry for the long post and I apologize in advance if my questions have already been answered elsewhere or if I broke some sort of rule, I just really want to get familiar with the inner workings of the gaming industry before I jump in and regret choosing a particular path of education. Lead design has been a dream of mine for close to 10 years and I don't want to screw it up. I might post more questions if I can think of any, but any help at all would be greatly, greatly appreciated.