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How to become a video games designer

You want to be a video games designer because you like playing video games right? Well, firstly, enthusiasm and passion are really good things! It is a growing industry and most people working in it are extremely passionate about what they do.  However, designing games is not quite the same as playing games although you will get to play them!

But wait I have this great idea! Okay, that’s a great start! Good ideas are really important. But it’s not just about the initial idea either. Anyone can come up with an idea for a game, but only a game designer knows how to put the game together, from the first prototype to the final release. Games are produced for the internet, mobile phones, PCs and game consoles. Some of them may take several months or even years to produce! You may be working on your own idea or you could be working on someone else’s.

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What does a video games designer do?

As a video games designer, you could be dreaming up the initial game concept, making both paper and digital prototypes, deciding on the rules of the games, scripting the story, deciding on the behaviour of the characters, and fine-tuning all the little details and variables. You may be involved with recording technical documentation and keeping track of financial costs too.

Although you will work on you own a lot, you are likely to be part of a small team and will need to be able to communicate effectively with the other members of the team. You will probably also report to a project manager or producer who makes sure that the finished game is completed on time.

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What would my day be like?

As a video games designer, you could be:

  • deciding what a game should look like and how it should play
  • coming up with your own original ideas or working from an existing concept
  • creating the game’s visual characters, objects and scenery
  • producing concept art and drawings (storyboards) at the planning stage
  • bringing the characters, objects and scenery to life with computer modelling and animation software
  • creating or amending the code to make the game work

What do I need to know?

As a video games designer, you would be required to work with both artists responsible for the visual elements and programmers responsible for creating the code and language.

If you are going to need to communicate with both the artistic and the coding sides, your work will be made much easier if you can understand both elements. You don’t necessarily need to be a qualified coder, but your work will obviously be much easier if you can understand a coding language or have any experience with programming languages and relevant software.

Equally, you don’t necessarily need to be a qualified artist but an interest in drawing and aesthetics in general is essential. Game designing really brings mechanics and art together and you need to be able to visualise what’s in your head.

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Where do I start?

To become a successful video games designer, you will need a good standard of general education, and a degree could be beneficial too, although it is not essential. Most video games designers are qualified in various areas of computer science, technology, art or design.

Choosing Maths and Physics A Levels will stand you in really good stead as Maths will help you with coding and Physics will help you with understanding how things work in the real world.  An interest in the world in general and how it works is fundamentally what makes a good game designer.

Finally, just start designing games – on paper, anywhere! If you can’t code yet, then try board games. You can make a game just using a deck of cards and a pen or even with Lego bricks. Of course, there are lots of free digital tools around to help you create simple games these days. The more practice you get, the better a games designer you will become in the future.

At the end of the day though, there is only so much you can learn. A successful video games designer naturally has a powerful imagination that he can use to tell a story and the ability to construct an alternative world in which the game can be played.

Luckily for you, it’s also really important to keep up-to-date with the latest technology and game releases as well as playing games as much as possible! Phew…!

If you think you’d like to be a video games designer, watch this video!