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What Does a Game Content Designer Do? And How to Become One?

video game content designer
Alexander Brazie

Alexander Brazie

Alexander is a game designer with 25+ years of experience in both AAA and indie studios, having worked on titles like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Ori and The Will of The Wisps. His insights and lessons from roles at Riot and Blizzard are shared through his post-mortems and game design course. You can follow him on Twitter @Xelnath or LinkedIn.

Game content designer is the catch-all role for the video game designers who fill in the game focus on the quality of an individual piece of the game experience after the core systems are already built including quests, spells, enemies, levels, cards, weapons, non-player characters, etc.

Digital game content looks very different in each game studio you work for and the type of games they’re making – because each game is its own unique beast.

Examples of different types of game content designers

Now let’s take a quick look at examples of game content designers on various games from different studios I worked at:

Studio: Blizzard Entertainment

Game: World of Warcraft

    • Exterior Level Designers
    • Quest Designers
    • Raid Designers (end game content)
    • Class Designers
    • Item Designers
    • Combat Designers (spell & monsters)

Game: Starcraft

    • Level Designers
    • Combat Designers (units & abilities)

Game: Overwatch

    • Level Designers
    • Hero Designers

Studio: Riot Games

Game: League of Legends

    • Champion Designers
    • Skins & Personalization Designers

Game: Valorant

    • Level Designers
    • Agent Designers
    • Weapon Design

Game: Project L (Fighting Game)

    • Champion Designers

Studio: Moon Studios

Game: Ori and The Will of The Wisps

    • Level Designers
    • Puzzle Designers
    • Enemy Designers
    • Boss Designers

If we were to add some additional genres:

  • Puzzle Games
    • Puzzle Designers (e.g. Match 3 levels)
  • FPS Games
    • Mission Designers (single-player quest/level mix)
    • Level Designers
    • Enemy Designers
  • Racing Games
    • Track Design
    • Vehicle Design

As you can see, there are many different expressions of content design. While the game developers for World of Warcraft initially treated vehicles as systems design, as the tools became more available, it opened up to content design for quests.

By comparison, the cars in Forza were almost certainly content design from the very beginning.

While systems designers will generally define a game’s mechanics, a content designer expresses those specific mechanics in the form of a specific spell, skill or monster ability.

The development team is a full range of different skills, professional experience, personalities and ideals who work closely together to bring the game to life.

And so on.

By the way, as you read this post, feel free to join #career-guidance channel in Funsmith Club Discord where you can seek advice from game devs of all levels including me on

  • Breaking into the industry
  • Your resume/CV, Portfolio, design skill test, interviews, negotiations
  • Navigating your current career path

You can also get notified each week on the latest game design job listings and actionable tips here 👇

Content designers vs systems designers

What makes content focused design work distinct from systems focused design work, is that content is focused on a single piece at a time.

The game systems designer is thinking “what can ALL quests do?”

The game content designer is thinking “what will THIS quest do?”

There is a razor sharp focus on quality, clarity and a bug-free experience.

Online multiplayer games in particular have a strong contrast between system designer and content designer roles.

The design skills needed to create coherent systems and user friendly content can be at odds with each other.

Here is how these 2 roles collaborate: The systems designer creates the systems that content designers build their content on top of.

In a studio setting, the senior and lead designers help these 2 types of game designers work together in harmony.

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There are many examples of different kinds of systems designer and their paired content designer counter part.

For example:

  • Level designers (content) build a single pvp arena, while multiplayer designers (systems) are thinking about all of the different features that are available in all pvp arenas
  • Game economy designers (systems) are making sure various forms of currency are available and balanced, monetization designers (content) are setting exact prices and release dates for each item.

Note: Systems designers are relatively rare compared to content designers, so these ratios won’t be 1:1 on most teams.

The ratio shifts from studio to studio, but on average it’s somewhere between 1:3 to 1:10.

The studios responsible for these games are creating these positions as they recognize the need for each, so it’s common for smaller studios to develop these roles over time.

What skills does a game content designer need?

Game content design demands creativity, work ethic and the ability to fill in the gaps.

Often content designers are given an incomplete picture or empty space that they need to fill in the details.

This demands a strong level of empathy for the player, as what you create is exactly what they will experience and an awareness of the game design pillars set by the lead designers.

As a result, a high degree of polish in execution and attention to those details is what will create the best result.

However, the trick here is that content designers have to produce a volume of content in a period of time, working in a complex collaborative way across many disciplines.

Getting art, design, programming, QA and production to all fuse together to form a cohere experience demands a collaborative spirit and ability to pick the best ideas from the team, not just telling the team what THEY want to create.

Most importantly, content designer needs to understand how the content they create affect the players’ interact with the game and have a knack for making the right design decisions, since the studios are basically hiring you mainly for your decision-making skillset.

Content designers should be familiar enough with the fundamentals of most game engines, such as Unreal Engine and Unity.

They should be able to spawn, tweak and create basic content, but still be flexible to use the custom tools that are inevitably made by each game team for the unique game context.

A game designer with technical skills who can do basic scripting, such as Blueprints, Lua or C# will be able to create more content and be better able to understand technical jargon and design systems more efficiently.

A game designer with art skills, will be able to evaluate art assets and provide feedback to other teams on how to better capture the player’s imagination.

Do you need a degree or other qualifications?

If you don’t you have a degree without a portfolio to showcase your experience and skills, you definitely won’t get hired.

While no specific degree is required, the ability to synthesize highly complex information, work with software, artists, engineering teams, animation teams and other product teams is absolutely essential. The game industry is looking for creative, passionate collaborators.

Content designers in gaming can come from creative writing, game design, world building, and many other backgrounds. I’ve worked with content designers who used to be chemists, teachers, dancers and even sculptors. As long as you bring skill, passion and a good understanding of player psychology to your position, you’ll be in great shape.

How do you become a game content designer?

So, you want to be a content designer?

Well, you’re in luck, as content design is the majority of game design positions in the industry.

However, you also have your work cut out for you, as this is the role most game design applicants want to do.

Your portfolio and proof of past work mean more here than anywhere else in the industry – what you have done showcases the quality of work you are most likely to do.

How do you get started?

Well, you start by creating content, one of the easiest ways to do this is to mod your favorite games.!

Build a Portfolio

Turn the content you’ve created into a strong portfolio specifically showcasing what you can create well is the line between getting an interview or getting overlooked in the hiring process.

You should use all the things you learned in your life and feed those into ideas for your portfolio.

Take a look at the studios you want to work for:

Want to make warcraft quests?

Write example quests and text. Create a simple flowchart walking through the stages of the quest.

Want to create levels for Call of Duty?

Build some levels in a tool like Unreal Engine or Doom’s level editor.

Want to create champions?

Write simple skill descriptions combined with drawings of how the skills work and play. Bring unique characters to life.

Give effective feedback with both problems and multiple solutions.

Pro tip: You can build D&D campaigns to showcase a broad spectrum of content design skills – you can showcase level design, monster design, quest design and item design in a single place.

Similarly, you can use video game engines without coding requirements such as RPG Maker to practice and create examples of content.

As a general piece of advice, stay away from specific numbers. No one will care if a skill does 8 vs 10 damage, nor will they know what the right values should be in a portfolio. When developing AAA games, specific numbers come last.

Game Jams, if available near you or online, can be a fantastic place to practice your skills, develop connections and create content for your game design portfolio.

Apply to entry-level game jobs

Now, armed with that amazing portfolio, you’re ready to start applying for content roles. Find your niche within content design and apply to jobs in the game genres you want to work on most.

Keep in mind, your first two years will be mostly implementing other people’s ideas as you develop the skills, experience and trust to eventually begin developing your own.

If you think game content design is for you, consider signing up for my game design course, to learn more about how to get into the players head.

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See How You Can Learn the Gameplay Design Abilities Game Studios Are After To...

☝️I created this to help build a mental model for approaching each piece of content in a way that creates strong experiences, more memorable gameplay and fantastic content.

Final thoughts…

As a final word, as a content designer you will be asked to collaborate with and create content experienced by players with a broad spectrum of cultural backgrounds.

Your own work needs to be conscious of those experiences as you create it since you’re responsible for giving them a place to play.

I wish you luck in your journey ahead.

Feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

By the way, whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways to help you start or level-up your game design career:

1. First Principles of Game Design: Skill Development Program: Join game devs who got hired or promoted across 51 AAA and Indie game studios including Riot, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and etc.

Improve player retention and word of mouth by learning to accurately diagnose why the players are losing interest in any game and how to adjust accordingly – one of the main skills studios hire for.

2. Game Design Mentorship – Get access to live weekly video calls and chat feedback support directly from veteran game designer with 25 years of industry experience (see example sessions).

3. Game Design Career Goal Strategy Workshop: A live workshop to help you figure out exact action steps to reach your goal, whether you aim to

  • Break into the video game industry
  • Get promoted (or pivot) from your current position
  • Ship a successful Indie game

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EXPERIENCE & BACKGROUND:

[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan