Many people new to the gaming industry have a warped idea of what being a game designer actually is like. First off, game designers don’t just orchestrate the entire creation of their games. In fact, most of the time, most of the ideas that go into a game don’t even originate from game designers, but rather the others on the team. In reality, a game designer’s job is to recognize those good ideas from the team and then expand upon them. Game development is a collaborative effort, and that’s something that you need to understand.
Next, adding onto the collaborative effort point, try to be a person that’s enjoyable to debate with. Debates and iteration on ideas are healthy for development, and will greatly improve the final product with enough of it. On the contrary, if your debates just upset people, you break your team’s bond and ensure that you’ll never enjoy the benefits of debate in the future. These spirited conversations are good for your game and for your thoughts on game development in the future — try to encourage open lines of communication.
In addition to being a person open to debate, you should try to be an accepting person. If someone comes up to you with an idea and you shut them down for the idea being “stupid,” nobody is going to come to you for advice in the future and your game is going to fall short in the end due to lack of feedback. Whenever someone on your team comes at you with an idea, even if it’s an idea that you don’t particularly like, you should salvage all of the good bits and come up with something even better. Be a person who likes brainstorming, as other members of the team love to be around a source of new ideas. Even the worst ideas have good elements to them, so be open to them.
Now, it’s time for something unrelated to the previous points; get some programming experience. Game development is a slow process with lots of iterations. If you have some personal programming experience, you can immediately create iterations based on your ideas to see if they end up fun or not. Without this experience, you’d have to pass ideas along to the team first, and that middleman slows down the process substantially. With faster iterations, you can work on previous ideas instantly without being disruptive to the overall development process.
In addition to that programming experience, you should also get some design experience. A game designer with game design experience, crazy right? Well, without that experience nobody will hire you in the first place. Go create some small-scoped games in Unity or another free game engine and get that experience to secure your position in the future. With every game you make, regardless of how small, you’ll slowly acquire the skills needed to succeed in larger projects in the future. You can’t just become a great game designer without designing games. Work on some small projects in your free time, learn a new programming language, do anything! You can’t gain experience without experiencing game development. If this is something that is off-putting to you, game development might not be for you. Becoming a great game designer is a matter of dedication, practice, and learning from others.
Important Takeaways: New game designers often don’t realize what they’ve gotten themselves into. First off, understand that you are not the conductor of an orchestra, but rather just one of the players; you don’t run the show, you work with everyone to get the job done. Next, make sure you can debate without angering others or you won’t be able to reap the benefits that debate brings when they inevitably avoid you. In addition to being a friendly debater, try to be an accepting person in general; don’t just shut down ideas, but rather try to salvage any good parts of those ideas for use in improving your game.
Find out how to program in at least one language so that you can create iterations yourself, greatly speeding up the development cycle and allowing for iterations that would otherwise be too troublesome to try and create. Also, obtain some game design experience by creating some smaller games so that you can actually find a job as a game designer in the first place; nobody wants to hire someone with no experience, even if they have great potential. Remember, it takes a lot of time, practice, and patience in make it as a game designer in this industry.