Game Design in India, where do I begin? When I decided to be a part of the game industry 7 years ago, the word ‘Game Design’ was pretty rare, almost non-existent. Which frankly would explain the skepticism and the fear when my family learned of what I wanted to make of myself.
Now, after roughly 6 years and 3 months of being a Game Designer, I wanted to share my experience as a designer and hopefully it helps others find their way!
What kind of work do I do?
As a mobile game designer, most of my work revolves around working with excel/google spreadsheets and documents. There are several types of documents that a game designer is expected to maintain, a few important of them being
- Game Design Document (GDD) – This document is the holy bible of everything that relates to your game. A Game Design Document is very important for games that are being made from scratch (I’ll explain later why) as everyone from your team will be referring to this document while the game is being made.
- Content Management Sheets (CMS) – These sheets are almost always spreadsheets as they mainly deal with all the important numbers in your game. Things like all stats, economy, projections etc. Content Management Sheets are mostly used after a game as gone ‘live’ for the players. They are used to fine-tune the game based on analytics and player feedback.
- Spec Documents – A spec document is everything outside a GDD and a CMS sheet. Usually spec documents are focused on new features or content that will go out in the game post launch. Sometimes it is easier to main a separate document than to infinitely append the GDD, for which reason a spec doc comes in handy for both the designer and the team.
The reason why I listed the above information is to have a smooth transition to the meat of the matter, which is the desirable skills for a designer. By sharing what is expected of a designer, it will be more clear why I have listed the skills in the order that I have.
So, what are the desirable skills ?
In my personal opinion, here’s what I think are a list of the desirable skills in no particular order.
- Spreadsheet management/knowledge – Spreadsheets are your bread and butter. If you do not learn to be efficient with your sheets, there’s going to be a lot of trouble for you in the future. In my opinion, this is one of the most important skills a designer must have to do well in this field. Fortunately, getting good at using spreadsheets is only a matter of practice and learning. Anyone can learn it. There are SEVERAL avenues to learn from Youtube to online courses from Udemy or Lynda.
- Document writing/articulation – Having the ability to write pages and pages of documents will not particularly be of any help if nobody understands what you’re trying to convey. A good document will convey the message to the reader with the least possible amount of words used. Which leads to my next skill,
- Prototyping/Mock ups – This might sound complicated, but I’m talking very basic mock ups/screen prototypes. Using images sometimes reduces the need to write 2 pages, and especially during production when time is of the essence, people appreciate any extra effort put in to convey the idea faster, like drawings, flow charts etc. There are awesome free online tools that can help you with this, namely Google Draw, GIMP, Photopea among other things. For UI prototyping, you can always try paper prototypes if you’re not much of a coder. There will also be several apps which can help you do the same.
- Verbal Communication – I cannot stress enough on how important it is for a designer to be able to convey his ideas not only through his documents, but also by word of the mouth. Good communication is pretty much the norm for most IT roles these days, but even more so for designer. Because you’ll be spending a lot of your time speaking with teammates.
Other Good-to-Have skills
I am listing these separately because they are not absolutely necessary, but do make your job much easier and profile more attractive to potential employers.
- Programming/Scripting – Yes we have developers in the team to take care of the tech stuff, but it is an indispensable skill if a designer has the ability to make simple prototypes using free game engines to demonstrate and also test certain parts of a game before sharing it with the team. There are also other many uses to scripts. Scripts can be used in all your CMS sheets to make them more streamlined and efficient, and your team will absolutely love you for that.
- Creative Writing – Another part of being a designer will be to sometimes to some creative writing. For games where narration is not the primary focus and doesn’t need a full time writer, it is usually the designer’s job to come up with the narrative, and so creative writing comes in handy here. Also sometimes it might be your job to write posts/teasers for social media. So this is always a good-to-have skill. For certain narrative driven games it is must-have.
Besides all this, there’s always the ‘trait’ which I consider to be one above all that I’ve listed so far. Which is, attitude. Game Design is not easy or fun all the time as people peg it to be. Sure, you might be getting into this field because you love games. But playing games and making them are two very different things. It can be equally frustrating and rewarding at the same time, which is what I think makes this job great.
So, always have an attitude to learn more, do more and grow as a professional in this field and sky will be your only limit!