Career Day

Career Day
How to Become a Game Designer

Ryan Shwayder | 4 Sep 2007 13:21
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Another wonderful learning tool in the world of game design is modding games like Half-Life, Quake, Unreal, Neverwinter Nights or the Elder Scrolls. Each of these games provides a scripting language and tools to help you mod, which can teach you a thing or two about scripting, an invaluable skill to pick up.

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Congratulations. You're a lean, mean designing machine. Now it's time to get a job! But it's probably not going to be as a game designer. The best way to begin your trek is to start in another department, such as quality assurance, customer service or technical support. It's generally not too difficult to get your first job in one of these departments. What, there aren't any game developers in your area? Ah, yes. I forgot to mention, you'll need to be willing to relocate. Game development is still relatively focused, with concentrations in places like southern California, Austin, Seattle, Boston and a few other areas in the U.S.

Now that you have that first industry job, you are well on your way. All you have to do now is prove you are better than the 50-plus other people who want that same design position, and they've all been at the company longer than you. But don't despair.

All you really need to know are a few things: Get over yourself. Work your ass off. Don't complain.

You aren't a better designer than the designers on the project you're testing. You aren't more knowledgeable about games than everyone else at the company. You aren't the only person being underpaid and overworked. You don't deserve that coveted game design position more than the next guy.

Those first three points are really the most important. You need to work extremely hard at whatever job you managed to pick up. Try hard, don't slack off and focus on quality. If you're writing bug reports, make sure they're concise and detailed. If you think something sucks, send along a suggestion about how it might be even better. But, remember, get over yourself. Never speak in a negative tone about someone else's work. Always be constructive. Don't patronize.

Remember that the very people you think are completely stupid and worthless designers are the ones who you need to get along with if you are ever to become one of them. Things are often harder than they seem; there are time crunches involved and there are half a dozen other factors you aren't aware of that make something stupid more understandable. Make friends with the designers and other developers you meet, and it will help you toward your goal.

No matter what, don't lose hope. One thing game companies love to do is promote from within and reward people for their hard work. Keep at it, and you'll go far. Take it from someone who started this exact journey not too long ago.

Ryan Shwayder has been named Community Relations Manager/Designer at 38 StudiosGMG and will be working to establish the company's presence through the web and other media. He volunteers his time for local IGDA chapters and is well-known for his game development blog at Nerfbat.com.

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