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Should I Know 'X'? | So You Wanna Be A Game Designer? (#2)

A lot of times I get asked if one needs to know one particular field or another to become a Game Designer. In general, the question doesn't have a simple and straightforward answer, but we'll try to discuss it here.

Stanislav Costiuc

November 11, 2019

4 Min Read


Before we begin, I have an announcement to make. As of release of this video, my channel is getting rebranded into Farlands School of Game Design, with the main focus on helping aspiring and junior designers to better understand the profession, the design mindset and processes (though this can be helpful for more senior people too).

This also means a change to the Patreon rewards, which you can check out on the newly updated page at patreon.com/farlands. Reward tiers include things like a special newsletter, early access to videos, and providing feedback on your work in progress games. Check the Patreon page for more information and consider supporting my campaign! Thank you!

Now, let’s get to the main topic. Today, we will talk about what kinds of knowledge a video game designer needs to have or amass over time.

One of the most common questions I get is, ‘Do you need to know how to code if you want to become a Game Designer?’ Well, the short answer to that particular question is, at the very least take some basic tutorials to get a foundational understanding of how programming works and make a simple game yourself. The long answer though is that’s not the only thing you’ll have to learn in your career.

As mentioned in the last video, game designers work with people from all other disciplines - programmers, writers, sound designers, artists, animators, among many other professions. To successfully collaborate in bringing a game to life, a designer doesn’t need to be an expert in any given field other than their own of course, but they do need to understand how every area works to be able to talk on the same language.

Which means that you do need to know the algorithmic mindset of coding, to provide technically reasonable designs and solutions. You need to have an understanding of color theory and how to get the eye’s attention, to collaborate with UI artists in creating good HUD and interface. You need to know the concepts of character arcs and narrative structure paradigms, so together with the writer you would come up with how game mechanics and story complement each other and how both would progress together. And so on. Don't be afraid to ask directly other people in the team to tell about something from their profession, and for example on your search for articles and videos on the Internet, don't focus on just game design.

But this is a two-way communication, which means that other people in the team also should have some basic understanding of design, and you should be able to explain the principles if necessary. It’s a constant process of sharing and learning so you as a team could utilize each other's strengths and skills to create a better game together.

And note, you don’t need to have all this knowledge from the get go before becoming a designer, but you should be ready to learn about all those things over the course of your career. Ultimately, it is beneficial for you, as the more you understand how every other field works, what is important and what should be taken into account, the better designs you will create.

That said, there is one important thing to note - the smaller the team is, the more hats you will wear. Naturally, if you have a one-person project, you need to be able to do everything yourself, from design to programming to UI. 

In a large team, you usually will be focused more on design, although you should still have some technical acumen as you will need to make certain types of changes in the game directly, and some basic or intermediate scripting, without asking somebody else to do it.

And in everything in between you will wear several hats depending on your skill set, with game design being only one of them.

In addition, regardless of team structure, your seniority, and the project you’re working on, it will be extremely beneficial to also not focus on just game development.  Learn and search for whatever else that fancies you that is not related to games at all. Dancing. Film theory. Cooking. Mythology. Travel. Korean dramas. Cats and dogs. Everything, absolutely everything, is a potential inspiration for creating great design solutions, so in the end - the broader your worldview will be, the better designer you shall become.

Thank you all for watching. In the next video, we will talk about the foundation of the design process - how designers actually utilize their knowledge in their day-to-day work.

A special thank you goes to my patrons! If you’d like to support my channel, feel free to do so at patreon.com/farlands. And be sure to like, subscribe, and click on the bell button to know when the next video comes out! Thank you very much.

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