GameDev Thoughts: How To Be A Well-Rounded Game Designer

Being a well-rounded game designer, like anything else, takes immense practice, knowledge, and experience. It’s simple: the longer you have been a game designer or working alongside them, the better and the more apt you will be at being a good game designer yourself. However, there are a few core competencies you can work on now to be proactive about your career. They are communication, humility, being well-rounded.

In game design, communication is key. With your projects, your goal is to build a game that that involves real-world consequences: whether or not it ships and whether or not it is successful. If you cannot communicate with members of your team, your fans, and external groups (think accountants, marketers, etc.) — your chances of developing a successful game are slim to none.

Communicating with respect to all members involved in the launching and shipping the game starts with knowing how to communicate with people who think very differently than you, as well as individuals who each have different motivations for the game being a success. Take a game artist for example. That artist’s primary content might be just creating beautiful sprite art. That’s it. They may not so bogged down with the inherent mechanics and technical aspects of the game. If are thinking about communicating with someone whose forte is outside of your immediate wheelhouse consider what their stakes in the game are — what do they seek to get out of this experience? You will get a lot more of their respect by simply understanding where they are coming from and attempting (if you can) to facilitate whatever concerns or issues they may have either now or in the foreseeable future. Structure the project around their best interests. It’s best for you to work around their strengths when it comes to working with them.

Communication is paramount to facilitating teamwork but humility is crucial for building camaraderie. Team members need to see that you are hum. That means being to feedback when it is presented and adapting to other people’s perspectives when valid points are presents. Your team should know that you are flexible. Not so caught up in your own game that you completely ignore other people’s idea. Even worse, you do not want to be perceived as someone who judges other people’s work too harshly and unwilling to take on new challenges as they arise. How you treat people, judge their work, and respond to feedback could be the differentiator between a team that is fully focused and has a good team environment and one that is toxic and completely unwilling to up new ideas and concepts. A fruitful game development team is one where there is respect for other people’s work, team members feel equally challenged and each person works at their maximum to achieve preset goals.

Humility also means knowing when to let go. All ideas are not meant to succeed and as a game designer, it will be your job to know when to pull the plug on a certain idea. There might come a time when that idea that you have to pull the plug on is your own idea. Perhaps working on the idea will push the ship date back for way too long and that is just bad for business. By outlining the most important priorities and having a relatively unbiased eye for ideas (this is very hard to do), you can showcase some humility to your teammates while also keeping to your core design principles on what the best for your game is.

Lastly, being a good game designer is all about being as flexible in your learning journey as possible. The more you know, the better. Just think that you can never have too much knowledge and you are on the right track. Good designers do not just play games. They attempt to understand the logic behind them, the implicit formulas and equations, and psychological factors that go into building a game that is both fun and interesting. A solid basis for being a designer is having decent knowledge of world cultures, history, psychology, logic, gaming software, computer science, and advanced algebra skills. And if you are running or thinking about running your own indie studio, good knowledge of entrepreneurship, marketing principles, and deep market knowledge are a must.

Important Takeaways: Being a game design is quite complex. It encompasses a whole world that focuses on having insight into a plethora of other areas. It can take more than a lifetime to become an expert in this field because there is always something new to learn. You’ll learn and relearn the crucial aspects of being a game designer with more hands on experience and knowledge. If you practice being a good communicator by being open minded and being respectful of your team’s individual perspective, you will go a lot further at creating a good team environment. Finally, be humble. Humility teaches you to not be so controlling of the direction of the game by being less biased and by being more free to explore different options during the project’s lifecycle. Genuinely listen to feedback and constructive criticism. This goes a long way.