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How to become a professional Game Designer?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by El Maxo, May 22, 2015.

  1. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    Hello everyone,

    I finished my Degree in Games Design last year (with a First) and have struggled to find work since then. I am working as a Dev at the moment but it isn't something I really want to do. I am looking for advice on how to secure a job in the industry. I know becoming a game dev is hard but I have the skills, knowledge but just lack the experience.

    I would love to hear your advice, maybe even showing a CV or Cover letter.

    Thanks Guys
     
  2. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    Make games.
     
  3. Tiles

    Tiles

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    And Sell them.
     
  4. Samuel411

    Samuel411

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    Also advertise them.
     
  5. Marceta

    Marceta

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    It's easy, just put these three reply's above in infinite loop.

    Well start with small tasks, get games published, that will build your CV. If you are good people will notice that and you will get hired fast.
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2015
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  6. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    Quick question, is anyone here doing it as a profession?
     
  7. Tomnnn

    Tomnnn

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    I want to, but I can't find anything so. I'll probably have to do something else so I can make money now.

    We just gotta keep developing random games until we're good enough to survive on it :D
     
  8. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    When you say Game Designer... based on the context of your post... it sounds like you mean the true definition of Game Designer? As in you are currently doing development work and want to do design work.

    Is that what you are after or did I misinterpet your post? Clarifying what exactly you are doing now and what exactly you want to be doing will help others to provide guidance to you.

    I am a professional developer but not in the games industry.
     
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  9. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    At the moment I am doing dev work, this is very broad but its mainly coding based. I am doing this like Tomnnn said, to keep bread on the table, as Design is my passion.

    As in a previous chat, Game design roles vary a lot although I mainly want to work on mechanics . I am also interested in story and theam, but not as important to me as the mechanics. I would love to work for a larger company, starting down the bottom and working my way up, but feel like my experience would be better used in a indie company.
     
  10. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    What's left to say? The first response nailed it! You have a degree in game design, you can code, and now, you need to improve your game design skills. Be wary of the second response, 'Monetize'. Unless you are trying to build your own Indy studio, it's an inefficient path to success. Since your goal is to get hired in the industry, then build LOTS of games, with no monetization at all. Build a game a week, a game a month, or a game every 12 weeks. The goal is not wild success - it's learning through failure. Try; Improve; Repeat.

    Gigi

    PS - I'm a professional developer, award-winning designer, and game industry veteran of 11 years. Portfolios matter.
     
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  11. cozduin

    cozduin

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    Usually the game designer in indie companies is the multi-disciplinary person. Sole game designers are more common in larger companies, and I have a more bleak view of game designers in AAA companies.

    In these companies, in general, game designers earn less than programmers and artists.

    Most of the time, they have not much more freedom other than tweaking tools that engineering delivers to them.

    Those tools are not idealized by the game designers. The vision is generally dictated by the creative director, and game design in these companies most often refers to game balancing and level design.

    If you still want to follow a career on it, it is not uncommon for MMORPG companies to hire game designers among their players. This happened recently with Hearthstone. Since you'll be tweaking the system, you must play the game very well and know it, so the best players have these areas covered. Couple it with experience in the industry, or an already made game, or a cool mod from another game, and you're attractive enough for them to pay attention to your cover letter. And since you know programming, that is a plus for you.

    Now, if you want to work at something that resembles more like a creative director, what in indie games we call the game designer, then as an entry-point it's often not possible in these.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
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  12. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    Step 1). Make a game
    Step 2). ???
    Step 3). Congrats! Your now a game developer!
     
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  13. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Gigi nailed it best but I'll leave a short life lesson from personal experience -

    Over-rated imo.

    I'm a professional animator going on 15 years - outside the industry and I can honestly say I'm happy with the choices I made to stay out of the industry - and work on games in my own personal time.
    I choose to make money and make games on the side rather than scrape by on a entry level salary, living in large metropolitan areas which I'm at odds with, and working 80 hours per week for 40 hours of pay.
    I don't think that sounds very fun.

    But I'm having fun tonight! Animating a creature that was created by an awesome artist, envisioned by a kick butt game designer, and will soon be in a game that is looking as good as any other game from a small commercial game company.

    Breaking-in is kind of blurry when you look at it from an indie point of view. :)
     
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  14. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    Thanks for the reply, was nice to hear it from someone with experience behind them (no saying others don't, but they haven't stated there background). I am quite interested to know your story if that is possible. I want to know how you got into the industry and when. Also do you happen to have a website or any portfolio that I can look at, just to get a feel for what I should be aiming for.
     
  15. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    What should you be aiming for? Yesterday, when I spoke at the local high school, the students had the same question. I'll share with you, the same answer I shared with them. The easiest ways into the industry are: knowing someone at a game company, living near lots of game companies, and building a port folio of released titles. The one you can best control is "FINISHING GAMES!" Whether that means one a week, one a month, or one every three months, that's how you Try, Improve, and Repeat.

    Gigi

    (PS - My Background? Google Curtiss Murphy, Why Games Work, or Good Games By Design).
     
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  16. McDev02

    McDev02

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    As Gigiwoo said, some of the advice is targeted for indie-developers. But you want to be a hired GameDesigner.
    Aside from building a portfolio you must sell your soul, work and apply for (free or low payment) internships. This is equal if not more valuable as having some, most often dump, games on your website. It shows that you know how the industry works from the inside and that is what counts in a commercial environment.

    You are already working as a developer in the industry? Then is there the chance to switch that position internally? Start as a Level designer or some other kind of position (there are so many meanwhile) which is closer to a game design position.
    I believe that getting the foot in the industry is more important as to have games on a personal portfolio. Portfolio only really matters for artists. That was my experience. Degrees matter as well of course.
    But what I also experience is that once people are in an industry position they struggle to really level up. Don't forget about your goal.
     
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  17. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    Again thanks for the replies,

    Well I work in a company that isn't exactly games, but I develop in house applications, where I am geographically placed doesn't help, but I am willing to move. I am hoping the experience that I have is better than none at all. As this job gives me GUI, UX and level design work, while working with VR tec.

    I do feel like it is a real struggle to get any form of recognition from these larger companies, as they rarely reply and often hire lower positions internally . I just wish I knew how to grab some more attention from them. I know you can scream BUILD GAMES till your face turns blue, but I personally feel like I am not getting to the stage that they may even view what I have done.

    I am a very ambitious person in general with high goals, just looking for some advice, thanks for the replies. I would Love to hear some more suggestions.
     
  18. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    The only way to get anywhere is to make games! Im sorry but there is no quick fix in this case, you cant get hired unless you can show games you've made. In fact, in that aspect its easier to set up your own company, on your own you can make one game, sell it and break bank (fingers crossed), whereas a company will expect you to make a lot of games.

    If you are right about companies not viewing your completed games at all, then I can tell you there is nothing you can do to get in with them, no amount of attention grabbing can do that. If you are right, I say the only way is to go it alone, or set up a team with other developers. Both these options also need you to build games
     
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  19. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    While catching up on Gamasutra yesterday, the "Types of Designers" article reminded me of this thread. Maybe some of the alternate roles of game designers will give you new ideas.

    Don't expect any recognition from your current large employer. Instead, since you're an ambitious person, participate in every game jam you can. Online jams are fine, but it's hard to beat in-person events. You'll get great experience of all kinds -- teamwork and management, design, development, etc. -- meet other people who can give you leads on game design jobs, and come up with lots of ideas for games. Employers want to know that you can work well in a team and can actually complete a project.
     
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  20. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Reminds me of talks and reads on how Valve is setup as a company. It's been said they don't hire you into a position, you are hired and work on what you want, what you think you can help out on. You don't have a title, your not the artist or the network programmer. I think thats pretty cool, if the right people are hired.
     
  21. RichardKain

    RichardKain

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    This is very similar to my own circumstances. The area I prefer to live in (and that my family predominantly resides in) has almost no game development presence. While I love game development, getting a job in the industry would have required that I relocate to somewhere I would probably not like, and force me to spend far less time with all of my family and friends. I also had an experience earlier in my career with an employer who forced me to put in crazy amounts of overtime. Excessive unpaid overtime is extremely detrimental to your quality of life.

    I transitioned into web development instead, and it pays quite nicely while allowing me to broaden my technical skills. And with the free time I have I get to work on game development at a relatively steady pace. It's sad that many developers have to choose between the work they love and having a decent life outside of work, but that's the current state of the industry.
     
  22. LeftyRighty

    LeftyRighty

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    this line bothers me... the "games industry" in inherently "insecure" if you want to "do things your way". I've lost count of the number or times you see studio devs/designers getting laid off after a release, during development or collapsing outright. You can probably get "just a job" doing "something" in a large studio/publisher but that's dancing to someone else's tune and by the sounds of it that's not what you're looking for.

    If you want to make the games you want to make you "just" need to make them, over and over and see what gets traction with your players and build up from there.
     
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  23. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    Thank you @LeftyRighty

    I believe that some people here are thinking of a slightly different subject here. Between large and small scale companies (or self employed). I do appreciate the advice but I have worked in both a large and a smaller company, both using game technology yet not directly in the games industry. as it stand I do prefer working for the larger company, on a whole I just enjoy the structure a lot more than the smaller one (again this will differ on a company bases). I Like the ability to climb internally within a company, something that will be limited within a smaller company.

    My current issue is I am in a 2 man team, making simulation software for a company that is specialize in something else, where are department is a gimmick, and other than killing my boss, as it currently stands there is no way I can "climb the ladder".

    I do appreciate your advice guys and please don't read my comment above in the wrong way. Working in a large company isn't for everyone but I like it, maybe I should of stated it above, but I like it.

    But please do keep up the advice, even if it isn't tailored to me, you may be helping someone else who reads this.
     
  24. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Hey El Maxo - when you eventually get to the large size company you want to work for (personal lesson learned to pass along) don't cross train anybody. Try to make yourself in-disposable with the tasks you perform and the knowledge you have. Because unless you wear a suit to work every day and get holiday pension bonuses and quarterly stock incentive awards - you will always be disposable - unless they NEED you.
     
  25. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    @theANMATOR2b That is hopefully the plan, aiming to be indisposable, just need to get through the door first.

    What are your guys opinions on recruitment agencies
     
  26. ostrich160

    ostrich160

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    Wanting to work for a large company is even bigger reason to make games, in fact they expect more games. So the advice still stands, best thing you can do is make games, lots of them
     
  27. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    In a large company especially, you should crosstrain other people.
    1. It makes your team stronger, able to produce better games faster, and more likely to remain financially healthy (i.e., keep paying you).
    2. It reinforces your own understanding of the material. There's no deeper way to learn than to teach.
    3. It shows you can communicate with and direct other people, setting you up for leadership roles such as lead game designer.
    4. It prevents you from being pigeonholed. Say you're the only Blender expert, and the company decides to switch to Maya. All of the sudden, you're obsolete and expendable, easily replaced by a Maya expert. But if everyone on the team is equally familiar with Blender, they'll just send you all to training for Maya.
    5. Managers don't like employees with indispensable knowledge. It makes them feel trapped. If you're out sick or decide to leave the company, they're stuck. Instead, be an indispensable employee -- someone who's invested in the project, always shows up for work on time, always gets their work done on time, gets along with others, and is willing to learn new things. It's also more fun to be this person than to be the hoarder of a secret skill.
    I've worked in large and small companies, and I like both. Large companies have better benefits -- health insurance, etc. -- which is nice peace of mind that frees you to think more about actually making games. And there's usually a lot going on, so you get to do a lot of different things with lots of like-minded people.
     
  28. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    This is flat out wrong. Nobody is indispensable. Somebody who doesn't play nice with the team is even less so. You would be surprised how much knowledge a company can do without if they achieve the culture they desire.
     
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  29. GarBenjamin

    GarBenjamin

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    I think there is importance for crosstraining / knowledge transfer for sure. Too many times over the years I was in a company where a main developer had left and when I asked about this thing or that thing "I don't know" was the response. So I asked well where do you keep the documentation for these areas? "There might be some but I wouldn't count on it." So I then asked how in heck did you build all of this with no idea of how it works or any real knowledge of it?! Of course, by the second time I knew the answer already.... "well Tim [Bob, Sandez, whoever was the developer primarily reaponsible for that system] had all of the information. He basically built it all and when he left so did all of the knowledge and any documentation that he may have had. So... that's why you're here. Figure it out so we know what we are dealing with" LOL Is a crazy situation but happens way too often.

    On the other hand the @theANMATOR2b has a valid point too. Generally it only is an issue at companies where you really don't want to work anyway. Still sometimes you work your ass off, train someone else (usually a fresh out of college or other new person) and find yourself out of a job when it comes time to make some cuts. It is simple (although shortsighted) math. If they pay you $50 per hour and they pay this junior level person $20 per hour the view is well if we keep junior he will still be able to get some work done and we will save a lot of money by letting so-and-so go.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
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  30. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    I completely agree with TonyLi and BoredMormon about the benefits of cross training - however GarBenjamin got the jest of my guarded advice.

    Bust your butt to build up a team and you will see a lot of the benefits from that hard work. And when it comes time inevitably in large game companies - usually around release of an iterative product - to reduce staff because the release didn't meet executive expectations - you will find yourself receiving your release package while the people you trained stay on to do the work your were responsible for at half the price, but in triple the amount of time. So there logical cost savings isn't so.

    Maybe not great advice for El Maxo but definitely something to watch for.
     
  31. Deleted User

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    Well I think most have clocked on to training costs years back, if you have a decent coder or artist that as @TonyLi says doesn't guard, is helpful and can speak in a professional manor / work well with others then they're worth their weight in gold.

    The super mega awesome lone wolf coder, generally finds himself a first class ticket out the door.
     
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  32. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    My employer and I came to a 'mutual decision' that I should no longer work for the company, as of tomorrow. I'm pretty sure that if the decision was not mutual my employer would have made it on their own. My point is I have a ton of specific technical knowledge that will walk out the door with me. But the technical know how on its own is not enough to save me. Ultimately not being compatible with the work culture is one of the key reasons I'm leaving.

    I've also been on the other side, been the one left behind after specialist knowledge and skills has just walked out the door. You find a way to deal with it and carry on. No one is indispensable.
     
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  33. theANMATOR2b

    theANMATOR2b

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    Sorry to hear that - it's tough leaving a place knowing you helped build what you are leaving especially after a long duration - unless you already have something better lined up - in which case congratulations!

    Have you ever considered WETA? I'm thinking chemical engineering isn't something they deal with as often as crowd sims.
     
  34. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    I've toyed with the idea of jumping from chemical engineering to full time programming or game development. Its a significant jump to make. WETA would be amazing, I hear its pretty competitive to get into. Since LOTR its become pretty much the biggest creative studio in the country.

    Getting back to the OP, if I do make the jump to game design I will post back here and let you know how it goes. Not promising I will, its a pretty risky move, and I tend to be pretty risk adverse. But its something nice to dream about.
     
  35. El Maxo

    El Maxo

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    Sorry to hear that, please keep us informed.
     
  36. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Sorry to hear it @BoredMormon. Good luck on the next leg of your journey.
    Gigi
     
  37. TonyLi

    TonyLi

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    Sorry to hear it. Perhaps this is an opportunity, like you said. Best of luck!
     
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  38. Haseeb_BSAA

    Haseeb_BSAA

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    Indie developers with some good luck can make hundred times more than developers working in an industry. So yeah ,
    get a team and start making game with your best efforts! It is practically impossible that you publish a wonderful game somewhere and you don't get attention. Without good advertising , it'll take longer but eventually you'll get what you have worked for :)