In the latest feature for Gamasutra sister educational site Game Career Guide, veteran game designer and SMU Guildhall level design teacher Michael McCoy offers advice
about school and course options for aspiring game designers wanting to join the Cockroach Club of industry survivors.
In his introduction, McCoy says the key to joining and staying in the Club -- a rank achieved when someone has enough broad experience to weather any industry layoffs -- is to study everything from modeling to texturing to scripting and design:
"As our industry matures, so does the talent pool and the expected skill level of new employees. Gone are the days when you could walk off the street, show enthusiasm, and break into the game industry. With so many industry veterans out there and wonderful new schools dedicated to preparing people for game development, you’ve got to stand out of the crowd.
So, what should you study? Unfortunately, the answer is everything! Designers, both game and level, are jacks-of-all-trades and must know a little about everything in order to excel at their jobs. During my 12 years in the computer industry as a game designer, I’ve performed in the role of producer, game designer, systems designer, interface designer, level designer, scripter, writer, and even sound designer.
Level designers must be competent game play designers, level builders, both model and texture artists, event and cinematic scripters, and extremely skilled researchers covering architecture, geography, historical time period, lighting and textures. If that’s not enough, small companies often require you to wear even more hats!
A wide variety of skills also makes you an indispensable addition to any game company and guarantees a place of honor in the Cockroach Club: a term derived from the fact that cockroaches can survive a nuclear blast... the occasional layoffs of the games industry. Don’t you want to keep your job when companies inevitably downsize and layoff personnel?"
You can now read the full Game Career Guide feature
on the subject, with more from McCoy on what courses to expect to study in undergraduate programs, and how to pick the right game development school (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).