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Educational Feature: ‘Designer Advice’

Educational Feature: ‘Designer Advice’

February 7, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

The job of video game designer is one of the most sought after professions in the game dev industry. has a new beginner article on the subject, designed to educated young students and their parents who know very little about the job, but are eager to learn.

The following excerpt from the article states plainly what game designers do and don’t do:

“Designers don’t just sit around and come up with game concepts either. Usually, they spend the bulk of their time carrying out ideas that have already been given the go-ahead, or green-lighted, by company executives.

How do they do this? ‘The main duties a designer can have at a company include writing the design documentation, developing and maintaining the game database (charts and tables), occasionally writing dialogue, assisting in level creation, and testing, testing, testing to balance the game,’ explains Michael Moore, chair of the game department at DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Mencher says game designers also spend a lot of their time creating ‘massively detailed documents detailing every part of the game imaginable. This requires the ability to visualize the game you’re designing. … It’s not enough to write, ‘Pressing the jump button makes the player jump.’ You must be able to effectively describe to the programmer, via the document, how the player will jump. How fast? How high? Can the player perform actions during a jump? What happens in condition X? What happens in condition Y?’

Sometimes a project can have just one game designer, but often there are several who perform all these different tasks as a team. ‘For example, role-playing games or large MMOs tend to need larger design teams,’ Mencher notes.

Another misconception some people have about professional video game development is just how or why an idea gets a green light. For a video game idea to move forward into being a project in development, the game development studio usually wants to first find a publisher. The publisher funds the project; because games can be multi-million dollar ambitions, studios usually don’t want to begin building a game until after the a contract is secured.

Although money is a major factor in determining whether a game idea will move into production, it’s not the only one. ‘Not all game treatments can be executed due to current limits in technology, the goals of the game company, and the amount of time you have to accomplish those goals,’ Mencher says.”

To read the complete article, which includes information on the skills needed to work as a video game designer, visit

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