The next few months we’re taking part in a number of talks and events (or at least it seems so!) Some of these are focussed on basically what it takes to get into the games industry, and build yourself a career doing what you love. So to in keeping with the theme, I’m going to dish out some advice on those looking to get into game design.
I published an ebook in late 2011 called Breaking Into Video Game Design: A Beginner’s Guide. The book is actually a little outdated now from my perspective, but there is some timeless advice in there for anyone looking for a job designing video games.
The main problem with game design, unlike programming and art, is that it can be very difficult to prove your ability. The main way to do this is to have a track record of shipped titles, but of course this first requires you to get a job designing games, so we hit the industry catch-22 that we’ve all heard before…
So how do you get around this? Well there’s no doubt it’s a problem, but there are several things which stand out to me as extremely important.
Firstly, get some experience working in video game testing (QA). You don’t need a degree as such so you can get summer jobs during university holidays, for example. At Guerilla Tea, we see QA as the most important foundation for games designers; it is a subdivision of design.
We also don’t currently do the “programmer-designer” or “artist-designer” thing. A game designer is a vision holder for a project, working with documents, spreadsheets, bug trackers, and good old fashioned verbal communication. So it follows that getting some experience working in the heart of a game company is very valuable indeed, and QA is a first port of call for this.
Secondly, look for any and all opportunities to build games in teams. There are lots of different ways you can go about this. A university course may give you this, or maybe you can team up with an artist and programmer friend (people you might meet by getting a job in testing!) and put together a simple prototype. If you can show some type of playable artefact, where you worked with other people, then you’re very much on the right track.
Lastly, go live. Strange one this I’ll admit, but whatever you do, don’t only play videogames in your spare time. It seems obvious but there are plenty of people who stick to the stereotype far too closely… If you’re in charge of creating experiences for players, then having some yourself is pretty important, right?
Above everything, it’s all about working your ass off. Put in the hours early on, and the rewards come later, honest.