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Getting A Job As A Game Designer

Getting A Job As A Game Designer

Harry Ravenswood (Lead Designer, Kuju Entertainment) gives expert video advice on: What subjects are useful at school if I want to work in videogames?; I have an idea for a game, what should I do with it? and more...

Does a game designer need qualifications?

Whether or not a games designer needs qualifications is a tough question, because many people would like to become a game designer and many universities offer courses in game design. When I entered the industry, there were no such courses and basically you needed a broad education. I think eventually the process is going to be such that courses are recommended for game design, but for me, a broad education is important. Actually, a broad range of qualifications is very useful. Game design is not a course. It is a nameless creative job, sometimes having many technical and creative jobs

What subjects are useful at school if I want to work in videogames?

For me, the subjects that have been useful in becoming a game designer, because I can only really talk about my experience, was doing a pretty even mix of science and arts. I did physics, maths and chemistry, and then I did English literature and art history, and then I carried all of that through to the University level. I was one of those people who was kind of hedging their bets, didn't know what they wanted to be, really. I ended up with a couple of degrees - a science degree and an arts degree. I think the gist of game design is a good technical base. Sciences will do that for you, but so will the creative pursuit. Learn to write well, and a good way to get that is through art history and English literature.

Do I need a degree in game design to become a game designer?

I don't have a degree in game design, specifically, and I've become a game designer. However, as a number of universities are starting game design courses now, I think once they've found their feet in those courses, once they understand and liaise with the industry, as well work out what the industry needs from graduates, it's going to be more and more valuable to have a game design degree.

Does a games designer need to know how to code?

A game designer doesn't need to know how to code, but it helps. He will be well-served if he or she understands the technical limitations of what can be achieved with code, and often will require the ability to do some sort of pseudo-coding. When I say pseudo-coding, I mean scripting. Often level designers are building levels, and the logic of the level is built around scripting. So you're saying, “When this happens then spawn these bad guys,” and, “When the player gets to this point I want this cut scene to play.” That's usually run using scripting, which can resemble code. That said, you don't absolutely have to know it. It is something you can learn on the job.

Does a games designer need to be a good artist?

It helps to be able to draw a little bit to become a games designer, but I don't think you need to be precious about it. Games designers are often required to visualise ideas, and if you can sketch even feebly, I think it helps. But you don't have to be a great artist.

I have an idea for a game, what should I do with it?

If you have an idea for a game, keep it to yourself. We get people writing into the studio and saying they've got a great idea for a game. The expectation is that we will haul them in and talk to them about the game and give them a job, and that's not the best way to go about getting your game made, if you really want to have your game made. First thing first is, if you really want that game made, try to get a job in the games industry and then present it formally, internally. If you don't want to do that and it's an idea that might be achieved with a couple of mates, hook up with a couple of mates and see if you can make it together. There are lots of places that are now springing up online to give you the tools to make games, and people are making quite adventurous, creative games with very little background in the industry. You should maybe save the game idea, get that prototype up and running, perhaps, and then present it. It's a far more compelling thing to be showing someone than to be saying, "I have a great idea I'd like to come and talk to you about."