Hello folks! I thought I’d take a moment off from work while the programmer finishes implementing some tools I requested.

It’s been a while now since I graduated from University of Skövde, with a Bachelor’s in Game Design.  That was back in the summer of ’09, when the recession was raging hot.

But what did I care? I had a brand new Bachelor’s Degree: proof of my abilities as The Best Game Designer Ever. All I needed was a job to prove that title. So with starry-eyed hopefulness I sat my ass down and started spamming every studio I could find. Not just in Sweden either, I thought my chances of employment would be a lot greater if I ventured out into Europe as well. The world was at my feet!

Or so I thought. Now, about two years later, I look back at this time with some afterthought. I may be employed in my own game company, but the road sure as heck wasn’t straight and there were a lot of insights to be had before finally turning up in this place.

So I thought I’d share my most important insights to anyone who’s currently educating themselves, or have graduated, to become a game designer.

1. Design skills will only get you halfway

This is a pretty crucial point, because this is probably the most glaring problem with anyone who thinks that they will become an employed game designer right after graduation. Because anyone can design, anyone can come up with ideas; you aren’t special. Not in that regard.

However, if you have design skills as well as other skills, you will become a heck of a lot more versatile and independent. It doesn’t have to be programming skills per se; drawing skills or even musical skills will also get you a long way. Just please don’t rely solely on the belief that you are the Best Game Designer Ever because you have ‘a lot of ideas’.

2. Make games

Sound like a no-brainer? You’d be surprised (and probably aghast) at how few people in my designer class, myself included, who made next to no games during our spare time. Sure, games were made in design and game mechanics classes, but seeing a classmate showing a game he/she made on her own was almost a sensation. I’m ashamed at the fact that it took me a graduation and a period of job rejections to make me realize I didn’t have jack squat to show employers what I was capable of. No wonder I didn’t get any job offers, I myself didn’t have anything to offer! So please, at the very least go and download Game Maker and start reading up on the tutorials. You will never get better at anything unless you practice.

3. Start small – finish it

One of the worst things you could do to a promising game idea/project is to stop right in the middle of it because you got bored. Decline of interest is a natural thing when it comes to making games, but that final push is damn-near always worth it. Not only do you get to add another game to your personal catalog of productions, you also get to enjoy seeing the fruits of your labor.

4. At the very least: understand programming

Knowing how to program is probably the most powerful skill a game designer can possess, but it’s also the hardest. If you’re like me and have the hardest time learning programming, or for that matter can’t calculate beyond simple addition in your head, then at the very least understand programming. Nowadays programming languages have a lot in common, so it’s a lot easier to see mutual structures shared between these.

What I mean by this is that if you can describe a function within a game the way it’s supposed to be implemented in code, then there’s a lot less of a risk that the programmer you’re talking to won’t hit you with his Razer keyboard. You don’t need to know how to write the exact code (because then you would be doing it yourself) but at least having a clue as to what is required for your function to work will help a lot.

To help yourself understand coding a lot better, I suggest starting out with Game Maker and move up from there. If you can take a programming class, do it, but be prepared to put in the hours. It’s hard to breeze through a programming class.

5. Party hard, study harder

There’s nothing wrong with taking the opportunity to blow your brains out at a college/university party (there’s also nothing wrong with not blowing your brains out at a party, either). First of all, you’ll probably have a lot of fun and let off some steam and second, you’ll also meet other people. Some of these people might someday be people you team up with and start a company, some of these people might set you up with that perfect job you want. Networking is crucial.

But don’t go too far. Don’t let fraternity life get the priority; don’t sit through classes thinking about the weekend and what parties are available then. You’ll learn nothing, you’ll do nothing. That’s not going to be a good way to start your career with.

 

There. Five things I wish someone would’ve told me as I was getting into game design education. Now that I think about it, I probably have more than five things, but I’ll share those as soon as they solidify.

Thanks for reading this far! I hope I have at least made someone reflect upon their view of themselves as future game designers. I am by no means an old sage with a lot of wisdom; quite the contrary. I still have much to learn and I will share those lessons with you in the future!

Back to weapons design!

- Marcus