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  • Sponsored Feature: How to be a Game Designer Right Now

    [07.22.09]
    - Michael Dawson

  • Going Digital

    You can learn a lot about design by working with analog games, but if you want to create digital games, you should definitely work in that medium. Luckily, there are a number of powerful yet easy-to-use game-making software tools that let you do just that - and at no cost to you.

    All of the following free 2D game-making tools have a drag-and-drop interface and allow you to share your creations online. Best of all, each lets you open and modify anyone else's game. This provides a great opportunity to change an existing game's mechanics before you create an entirely new game of your own:

    • Popfly (http://www.popfly.com/). The system provides a variety of built-in game templates to get you started. You can also "rip" existing games and modify them. Of course, you can always start with a clean slate when creating games of your own.
    • The Sims Carnival Game Creator (http://www.simscarnival.com/view/create/gamecreator). The Game Creator comes with a large collection of images, animations, and sounds you can use. Like the other tools listed here, games are published online and anyone can open a game to create a new version of it.
    • Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/). A visual programming language where you drag and drop pieces of code, Scratch allows you to snap programming statements together to form new actions. Although it was designed for young people, it's powerful enough to be used to make many types of games. Creations are shared online and can be "remixed" by anyone.


    Going, Going, Gone

    While I started out by saying that a game designer doesn't need an advanced degree in computer science or killer art skills, having some experience in the other disciplines - such as programming and art - can go a long way to help a designer realize his or her designs on a computer or console. It can also help a designer to better communicate with other members of a development team.

    My final bit of advice is simple: Start designing right now. Create new gaming experiences that will engage, surprise, entertain, and even move people!

    [Michael Dawson has produced and designed games for both computers and consoles. He currently teaches as part of the Game Production program at the Los Angeles Film School (www.lafilm.edu ). For comments, questions, and game invites, he can be reached at mdawson@lafilm.com.]

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