In one day of work, a computer game designer might invent another planet,
build a race car, design a personality for an evil villain or create a flying
dragon. Game designers take an idea for a game out of the world of fantasy
and make it reality.
"This is the person who designs the game-play and the game's original ideas,"
says Naomi Kokubo, a game designer in California.
"A game designer mostly comes up with ideas about game content, storylines,
genre and original ideas for the game," says Jeff Jam, a computer game designer.
There are many different game genres, such as role-playing, strategy, real-time
strategy and first person shooter. Trends determine the popularity of a specific
genre at any time. However, the consensus in the Internet gaming community
seems to be "if you build it, they will come." Many online gaming experts
urge those who are new to the field to stick with what they like to play in
their spare time.
Game designers compile their new ideas in a design document. This document
is the most important ingredient in creating a new game. "It's similar to
a screenplay for a Hollywood movie," says Kokubo. "The design document outlines
how the game will function, what the rules will be, how the players will interact
with the game and the story behind the game."
All other artists, writers and programmers use the game designer's document
as a blueprint. "It's very similar to shooting a script for a Hollywood movie,
except that it has to detail the interaction between the human and the computer,"
Once the designer is happy with the general concept of the game, other
people get involved in the production. "At this point, a team of artists,
writers and programmers are brought together, led by the project's producer,
to draw up a complete design of the program and begin to work on it," says
Rick Marazzani, a game designer in California.
A designer can't simply come up with an idea they think people will like
and then ask the company to create it. The producer and others working on
the project must think it's a viable idea. A game that is impossible to create,
painfully difficult to understand, expensive to make, and that will never
sell will never make it past the design stage.
"Marketers use data and opinion surveys to get a feel for the pulse of
game players," says Marazzani. "Even if you think the game is fun, you must
convince them that everyone will think it's fun."
Once the company decides the game should be produced, the designer's work
is usually passed on to a producer, who will oversee the building of the game.
However, the designer is often called on to help in this stage, and in smaller
companies may actually produce or program the game. "Some companies don't
make the distinction between designers and developers, and simply allow developers
to design and program their own games," says Jam.
Game designers can work for computer game and software companies, or they
can work out of their home and pitch ideas to production companies. Most of
these companies are in larger urban centers. With the advent of faster and
more efficient communication technology, it is now often possible to work
from home for companies located in a different city.
Designers generally work from 8 to 5 and act on inspiration whenever it
strikes. Marazzani says computer designers don't usually have to work overtime,
but they have an incentive to work hard because of financial bonuses if a
product is designed, produced and shipped on schedule.
Game designing doesn't take much physical strength, and the physically
challenged could find work within this field. "With determination and persistence,
everyone has the ability to become a game designer, whether they program with
a keyboard, or they use a mouse to draw pictures, use GUI [graphical user
interface] renderers or they create theme music with a synthesizer," says
John Cooper, a game designer.
Because game designers often spend long hours sitting at a computer, there
is the risk of related injury. Repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel
syndrome are common. Other physical problems often found in this career include
eye strain and neck or back problems. One piece of advice is to invest in
a good chair and keyboard!