When you’re just starting your design career the game design interview can be incredibly intimidating.
You’ll most likely be interviewed for an entry level position such as junior, assistant or associate game designer.
However, once you’ve worked as a game design professional in a studio for a couple years, the hiring process is much easier, since peers who have seen how skilled you are will vouch for your capabilities and navigating the job network is much easier.
Until then, think of passing game design interviews as the skill of its own to showcase your process, preferences and potential effectively.
Game designer interview questions are asked for a reason, so stay with us in this article to learn more about this journey through the interview process.
To help you get better at passing game design interviews, I will share with you the different questions and expected answers to help you prepare ahead of time.
- How to Apply and Increase Your Odds (Part 1)
- Game Design Cover Letter (Part 2)
- Game Design Resume (Part 3)
- Game Design Portfolio (Part 4)
- Game Design Tests (Part 5)
- Game Design Job Interview Guide (Part 6)
- Game Design Job Interview Questions (Part 7) – this post
Context: There are so many variations of game design that all contribute to the core loop, and many other game developers who design supporting aspects of the experience, such as music, sound and graphics.
In this article we will be focusing on the general categories of content and systems design with an emphasis on entry level game design positions, which are often generalist positions.
Up to this point it’s mostly mass filtering and majority of the filtering is done by a combination of ATS system, recruiters, and hiring managers before you get to the actual designer later.
- Breaking into the industry
- Your resume/CV, Portfolio, design skill test, interviews, negotiations
- Navigating your current career path
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How do studios conduct game design interviews?
It varies from studio to studio, but the following are generally true for the majority of the standardized studio hiring practice.
So first, if you got to the interview stage, this means that you’ve already passed the following talent filtering point:
Cover letter & resume – These are the initial touch points when recruiters are filtering for candidates.
Game design portfolio – Before you get any reply, your portfolio has to catch their attention and show evidence of what they filter for.
Game design test – Studios tend to send design tests before you even speak with anyone from the dev team.
Up to the point it’s mostly mass filtering and majority of the filtering is done by a combination of ATS system, recruiters, and hiring managers before you get to the actual designer later.
Once you get to the interview, you’re in the fine-combing part of the talent filtering process, which means the studio has to divert dev resources to test the candidates who passed the previous stages.
Before you speak to a developer, your first interview will most likely be with a recruiter or hiring manager.
Keep in mind that they have to filter candidates at scale. The most valuable time is the game developers’ time.
However, it’s difficult for the studios to filter if the candidates are a skill, brand, and cultural fit without the game devs getting involved first hand.
This is why 90% of applications are filtered out before the actual game developers who are working on the game get involved.
Expect the following formats in the sequential order as you move closer to job offer:
- Questions and answers – they ask question, you answer (we’ll get into in a bit)
- Live mock design session – Simulate a scenario where you can demonstrate how you identify and solve design problems. (harder to fake)
- Group interviews:
- Skill fit interview: A group of game devs working on the project will interview you to see if your skills and experience fit their context.
- Cultural fit interview: The game devs your position will work closely with will interview you to see if they like to work with you.
This is something that Richard Carillo also talks about when he is giving advice to the interviewers in his 2018 GDC talk:
If you don’t have clear design frameworks to work off of, here is the one that I used throughout my career.
Checkout these game design interview tips and process overview to help you better navigate the interview process.
Here is an x-ray vision into how the game design hiring process works in most game studios.
Example game design interview questions and answers
While it’s impossible to list every possible game design interview question, as their topics, intents and focuses vary from studio to studio.
We will go over the major themes of different game design interview questions.
My goal is to help you understand what they are filtering for and be able to develop the right answers on your own.
Note: While I may give example answers, if you do not take the time to think through and develop your own responses, you will not be able to “talk the talk” during the interview.
Remember, the video game industry is a business and you need to know your stuff and be prepared. The main questions they are trying to answered are:
1. Soft Skills – Do you work well with a team?
- Communication – Can you communicate your ideas and thoughts clearly and effectively with other dev team mates?
- Collaboration – Can you collaborate well with others to show one outcome?
2. Design Skills – Do you have the core design skills and mindset that matches the role?
- Design process – How do you come up with design solutions and new features?
- Analytical ability – Can you recognize the problems outside your own bias player perspective?
3. Background & Experience – Does your experience back the level of involvement in the game development process you’ve claimed?
4. Cultural Fit – Are you aligned behind the value and mission of the studio?
5. Questions for the studio – Is the studio a right fit for you?
However, no one will ask those questions directly. So I’ve broken these questions down into several sections, along with examples.
Soft skills questions:
Soft skills are the most common category of questions. These are common job interview questions because one of the challenging parts of game development is that you need to work with so many disciplines at the same time.
Leaning into one idea or one target audience too heavily will create a culture of single-minded developers who don’t have the diverse knowledge to create new content that breaks the mold.
Question 1: Tell us about a time you had a strong disagreement with someone else who was in charge of a game feature. How did you handle it? What was the outcome?
- “I did what they said without questioning it.”
- “I argued loudly with them and stubbornly refused to acknowledge any of their points.”
- “I ignored what they proposed and just did something else”
These answers are bad because they don’t showcase collaboration, persuasion, cooperation or understanding of the overarching goal.
- “I first understood the goals they were trying to achieve, as well as my own, then showcased other products that achieved similar goals and the unique challenges our video game has and how an alternative would be better”
- “I came up with three different ways to solve the same problem and worked with my team to come up with a counter proposal.”
- “I started playing games that met the criteria established for this situation and came away with these solutions.”
These answers showcase a focus on the problem and understanding the needs of the team.
Question 2: Tell us about how you dealt with a problem you didn’t have the expertise to solve alone. What did you do and why?
- “I didn’t do it. Production noticed and got it reassigned.”
- “I googled a lot, did my best and got it done.”
- “I traded favors with someone who did it.”
In these cases, the job got done, but you didn’t ensure the job was done effectively. Developing games isn’t just about getting the job done, it’s also about making sure you’re an effective team member.
- “I spoke with production and my supervisor to make sure they wanted me learning this skill. They didn’t and reassigned it.”
- “I confirmed they wanted me to learn this skill and worked with more senior designers to discuss the general plan, learned the tools, did a little bit of online search and made a plan to finish it.”
- “I collaborated with someone who was a specialist on this topic, and we wrote up some onboarding documentation to teach others how to do this task in the future.”
- “I communicated to my team that I wasn’t capable of doing the task at the moment and asked for advice on how to address this.”
These answers showcase a team and product centric mindset that both allows you to get the job done, grow and express the boundaries of what you’re capable of on the team in a healthy way.
Question 3: Give an example of a time where you used feedback to change your approach. Give another example of how you handled feedback that wasn’t as helpful.
- “I have really good instincts and just rely on those.” – This shows that you’re self-centered.
- “Most feedback isn’t helpful, so I look for feedback that validates my hypothesis” – internal bias and resistance to change.
- “I ask the most passionate player for their feedback and do exactly what they suggest” – This lacks a deep understanding of player-first mindset.
- “A player suggested that this skill would be more effective in situation X on a different character, which made sense so we moved the skill there in testing to validate it.” – This showcases willingness to experiment and desire to confirm with testing
- “A colleague was suggesting a lot of concepts that didn’t match the fantasy or mechanics we were trying to reinforce on this character. So I first wrote down the ideas in case another situation came up, then ran through the list of goals on this character and asked them to email any that matched those to me later” – This showcases willingness to listen and ability to channel teammate passion into a helpful form.
Question 4: Explain your process for pitching a feature to other game designers. How would your pitch change if you were talking to programmers? Or artists? What about the studio head?
I’m going to skip example answers here because there are so many effective answers here.
The key elements are: do you understand the difference in mindset for each of these audiences?
- Game designer heavy team will be able to squint past the details of the pitch to understand the general idea
- Compared to game programmers might be more focused on the execution details
- Compared to creative directors focus on the main theme
In general, soft-skills questions are not just about what you do, but how you do it. Most people don’t want to work with a**holes.
You want colleagues who can challenge you and push your product to be better by bringing something new to the table.
Often how easy you are to take feedback and be taught can matter more than the skills bring out the gate.
Hard skills questions:
Hard skills design questions are meant to take a peek under the hood of your design process.
Game development is an organic process, but if a candidate doesn’t showcase an effective process, creativity OR strong analytical ability towards video game design, they aren’t likely to grow much stronger in the future.
If you want to create games, you should have done the work.
If all you can answer is what is your favorite game and what feature would you add in the near future to an existing product, but can’t explain how that contributes to a fun experience for a broad set of people, you are probably not getting the job.
Here are the major categories of design questions, along with a few examples for you to complete on your own and reply in the comments to this article.
Problem solving design questions
These are all about understanding the variables involved, getting to the heart of the problem and then tackling it in a way that is effective for both the development team and the players.
Question 5: The skill X is currently considered overpowered by players playing the game in bronze, but it’s considered weak in diamond. Explain why this might be, as well as several different solutions for handling it.
Question 6: You are out of time to request new animations for a character, but the kit has some obvious flaws. How do you ship the best experience possible with the limited amount of time remaining?
Question 7: A quest in Skyrim is frequently called out as being too difficult. It involves getting a single drop off of a monster which drops it at a 10% drop rate. Is this quest a problem? If not, why? If so, how would you fix it?
Systems design questions
These showcase broad understanding of interactions across the game experience. They are less focused on a single decision, but more on understanding the repercussions of adding or removing features.
Question 8: We are removing the ability to drink to restore mana from World of Warcraft out of combat. What adjustments do you make to the game to make this effective?
Question 9: Games of League of Legends are taking too long. How do you adjust the level design to ensure games finish more quickly?
Question 10: The gaming industry is moving more and more towards user-generated content. How would you encourage your company to handle this in a free to play game?
Question 11: If you had to add a single talent to Tomb Raider, what talent tree would change and why? What talent would you replace?
Player experience questions
These focus on an empathetic understanding for the moment-to-moment experience of the game and an ability to understand multiple experiences within the same content.
Knowing when to change values, versus improve visual effects, clarity and feedback is an essential skill for game designers.
Question 12: You’re turning Mario Kart into a mobile game. What changes do you make to preserve the best parts of the experience? What about the opposite – what do you remove?
Question 13: Design a level for Breath of the Wild that both your little brother can finish and your big brother would be challenged to complete to 100%.
Question 14: You have a heavy punch attack whose numbers seem balanced correctly, but players seem to avoid using it. What other things would you look into adjusting to encourage players to use the attack more often?
Game loops questions
These showcase an understanding of the desire to chase a goal, achieve it, then set new goals.
Similarly, they showcase a macro-level understanding for why players interact with multiple parts of a game.
A common game loop is
core-gameplay -> get resources -> return to town -> spend resources -> gain power -> resume core gameplay.
Question 15: Why would a player replay the same level multiple times? How would you approach designing the level to encourage this?
Question 16: If you had to block out the four major elements of the super mario series’ game loop, what would they be?
Question 17: Mobile games tend to be structured differently than PC or console games. Why is this and how would you expect them to be approached?
Question 18: What incentives keep players returning to Genshin Impact even after they’ve finished all of the content?
How to answer these hard skill questions:
Ineffective way to answer: Anything that implies or directly says that you only focus on your own play style, or providing critique without solutions.
Decent way to answer: Anything that implies or directly showcases your objective understanding of different player archetypes and your ability to practically address the design problems.
When you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to admit it. Simply ask for help with where to start breaking it down, then show your approach for how you would attack the problem.
This especially applies for entry-level game design positions such as junior, assistant, or associate levels. You’re not expected to know everything.
Pro tip: These hard skills are often vetted through a live simulated design jam session, where you and the interviewer (often the lead designer) will riff ideas and solutions.
So make sure you can at least verbally showcase that you can theoretically implement existing frameworks that have a proven track record in game studios.
Background and experience questions:
In addition to your ability to understand games and game problems at a theoretical level, hiring managers also want to know what you have done personally, as well as what kind of experience you have in tools and technology.
Question 19: What kind of game engines are you familiar with? Why did you learn those?
- “I only coded my own projects from scratch” – This indicates more interest in development than design.
- “I only used what they assigned us in class” – This indicates lack of curiosity
- “I use Unity because it’s the best and all other engines are inferior” – This indicates mental in-flexibility and tendency towards golem-like group-think.
- “I tried Unity and Unreal because those were the most common and there wasn’t enough documentation or Tutorials for Godot, so I stuck to those.” – This indicates valid reasoning behind sticking to a limited toolset.
- ”I only had the opportunity to learn (C#/C++), so since I was already strong there, I stuck with (Unity/Unreal ) to best showcase my skills.” – indicates intent behind your decision.
- “I really love mobile games and since a lot of game studios shy away from unreal for mobile projects, I learned Unity first.” – This indicates research, understanding and intent.
- “I’ve used these six engines a little bit, just an hour or two a piece, so I could get a feel for them. I mostly stick with game modding, so I worked a lot with games with custom editors.
From using Unity or Unreal, I realize that neither has the best tools for making games on its own, and that means the key is not the engineer, but building the right tools in whatever engine you have.” – I wouldn’t expect this answer from a junior designer, but if my Sr. technical designer didn’t give this answer, I would be fairly wary of them.
Question 20: I see that you worked on the Hello Kitty Island Adventures project with your school team and volunteered on Murder Death Ball after college for a few years. Can you compare and contrast those two projects and explain what parallels existed in both?
- “Almost nothing was in common. HKIA was a town building simulator game and MDB was a violent rocket league.” – showcases lack of nuanced understanding of games in general.
- “Murder Death Ball had a bloody aesthetic while HKIA was a cute and cuddly game of picking up shells at the seashore.” – This focuses entirely on visual presentation, not gameplay.
- “I worked on both, so did Joey and Samantha.” – This focuses on the team, not the project, missing the question.
- “We used unity for both, but MDB we spent a lot of time on the gunplay and more time on dialogue systems for HKIA.” – This showcases specific implementation struggles.
- “I personally implemented all of the dialogue for Hello Kitty and Retsuko. I focused on creating distinctly different personalities despite their similar visual design.” – This showcases your personal responsibilities, as well as a challenge due to the character content.
- “Murder Death Ball was a PvP competitive game with fast pacing. As a result, we doubled down on controls and responsiveness, with a focus on quick matchmaking time, even if matches were somewhat lop-sided.
For Island Adventures, we wanted players to cooperate, so we focused on existing social circles and letting players help each other out by donating different shells the other player needed on their island.
I personally focused on gunplay in the first and switched gears and did UI for the second.” – This showcases a personal understanding of the goals of the projects, and flexibility in skill sets as well as a willingness to adapt to the project’s needs.
Question 21: We need to design an economy for a children’s game. How would this be different from the economy you design for an MMO like Final Fantasy 14?
- “I would make the icons for the items you pickup brighter colors” – This showcases thematic connection, but not understanding of the audience mindset.
- “Kids love to do things over and over, so I would make them pick up 100x as many items per quest” – This shows a shallow understanding of the project goals.
- “I would develop fewer resources to collect, with a broader focus on visually distinctive items created for a children’s game.” – This shows a good understanding of the complexity level needed.
- “Can you explain why you need an economy for this game?” – This showcases digging for motivations behind the question.
- “What kind of actions is the economy designed to encourage? Are we trying to get children interacting with their parents or each other? What are your goals?” – This shows insightful questioning of the purpose and desire for clarification.
Other example questions:
Question 22: What skill would you add to character X?
This kind of specific question is usually done only if you have a strong familiarity with a piece of content and is done to draw out your level of nuanced understanding of the game as it is.
Question 23: What kind of tools would you build for level designers?
This question is more technical design focused, the real question here is “what are their needs?”
Question 24: How would you approach a game genre you haven’t worked in before?
Honestly, this is too general for most design interviews, but in this case, it’s leading you to think about where you’re weak and where you’re strong and how you would play games to become familiar with the unfamiliar.
Cultural fit questions:
Cultural fit questions are a sensitive spot these days.
You want to hire designers who are aligned behind the mission of the studio and want to make the game project as awesome as possible. At the same time, they can also be used to instill subconscious bias into the interview process.
Most of the time this is unintentional, but can still have a strongly negative impact on creating a design team with highly diverse and inspiring game concepts.
Let’s go over some examples of healthier questions that focus on developing games:
Question 25: Do you play X (the current popular game from their studio)?
There’s two different ways this could go – the first could be a shortcut to see if they can use a common language to discuss the game with you, the other could be to filter out people who don’t already play their games.
- “Yes, I do. X is OP, Y is nerfed and you really shouldn’t be so shitty at balance?”
- “No, I don’t. I’m here to fix your problems”
↑ Both of these answers show callousness towards the studio and the challenges of game development.
- “Yes, I am a Yasuo support man, so I tend to focus on bot-lane gameplay.” – This showcases specific applications and connections to the game.
- “No, I do enjoy action games as a whole and have played God of Heroes, War of Queens and worked on Sam Smart Ace back in 2015.” – This showcases similar interests and skill sets.
- “No, I played for a few hours this weekend though and have some questions.” – This showcases the effort to understand the game.
- “No, I am fairly familiar with the lore due to the book series though and would just need to catch up on the game specific details to fulfill this narrative design role” – This showcases familiarity with the skills actually needed for the job.
Question 26: What is your favorite game and why?
This question is highly personal – and it’s usually asked as a softball question to make you more comfortable during your interview, as well as reveal the type of games you enjoy.
Try to throw a curveball in here and surprise them.
List both well-known games in your genre and also a game they wouldn’t expect you to have loved. This will showcase your desire to play things outside of your niche.
Question 27: Are you more chill or uptight? We’re very loud around here.
This is a pretty big red flag. If you get a question like this, expect a setup of some kind.
Teams that try to couch their cultures faux pas out the gate are often highly resistant to change.
Remember interviews are as much for you to interview the company as for them to screen you.
Question 28: What kind of mindset do you bring to your team?
This question is trying to get a sense of your self-awareness and tendency to fall into various roles. I personally tend to be a driver of specific goals, who focuses on problem solving over team harmony.
As a result, I tend to be most effective when paired with people who are steady workers who focus on keeping the team looped in on changes.
Your own answer will vary. Be honest about who you are and where you fit into teams.
Question 29: What’s your biggest weakness?
Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t about reframing your weaknesses unless you’re going for a sales job.
It’s about self-awareness, knowing who you need to support you.
- For me, I tend to be really good at shaking things up, which means I need a team that makes sure the core audience and quality bar are hit before we do more eccentric ideas that excite me.
Question 30: Tell me about a time you messed up and how you remedied that situation.
Guess what? Creating games is hard. No one expects you to be perfect. However, people do not expect you to leave others to clean up after you.
Being able to admit when you were wrong and how you fixed the situations, be it technical, social or otherwise, is a huge plus.
Question 31: What’s one thing about our game that you really do not like, and what would you do to change or fix it?
This question invites critique – and how you handle this invitation says a lot about you and how you communicate.
Do you get aggressive? direct? cocky?
Or are you humble, subtle or do you back down too easily?
This seems like a content question, but it’s actually a question to reveal who you are and how you work.
Big picture and brand questions
I wouldn’t expect to see these questions in the interview for a junior or mid-level designer. They just aren’t relevant to most designer’s day to day work.
However, when hiring for senior, lead, and director level roles, I would expect someone to be at least familiar with these concepts and have a few ideas about how they would approach it.
Question 32: How would you define and protect the core design pillars of our game?
This question is HIGHLY variable from studio to studio and game to game. The best answers will showcase personal experience ensuring consistency and design fit across multiple disciplines.
Question 33: In your opinion, what is the most successful game when we look at the last 12 months and the game that flopped terribly? Can you define why one was successful and the other failed to succeed?
This question is sussing out if you’ve stayed in touch with the market – and most importantly, do you play failed or niche games as well as popular ones.
It’s very easy to fall into the habit of only playing highly curated games as time becomes more limited. However, playing weaker games will remind you of the fundamentals you need to nail in your game.
Question 34: How would you develop a new IP for our studio?
This question is one I wouldn’t expect except when moving to a new studio establishing a new project, or an extremely senior member launching a team in a large company.
Either way, you want to establish a connection between the goals of the company, the desires of the target audience and your ability to execute here.
Question 35: How would you lead a monetization and in-app purchases team for Project X?
Again, something so sensitive would never be handed off to a junior designer, but a sr designer might be needed to take over this key area and be trusted with it.
Be sure you understand both cost center, income and different incentive models and the impact they have on gameplay, design and content creation.
Questions for the studio:
Remember, that an interview is not only for the company to learn about you, but also an opportunity for you to learn about the company.
Take the time to ask questions that will give you information about if they are a place you want to spend years of your time.
Question 36: What do you most like about working there?
This is generally a softball question, and it invites the interviewer to open up.
There’s a vast variety of reasons people join a company and it can be encouraging to see what they love about the workplace.
At the same time, if someone hesitates or needs to carefully phrase their answer, then that should be a yellow flag that maybe there’s more than meets the eye and you should be wary.
Question 37: Are you excited for (upcoming thing they just announced)?
Keep in mind, even if you signed an NDA, they will be tight lipped on details, but in general if you can geek out together about the latest announcement or trailer, you’ll get a better sense of the team chemistry.
Likewise, if all you get is a flat response, you may have signs that the team is burned out or dealing with a lot of churn.
Here is the caveat: In very large studios, people may be working on projects that are not their preferred style or genre, so a negative response is an invitation to curiosity, not judgment.
Question 38: How is QA integrated into your process and into the development team?
This is a fantastic question to see how seriously the team treats bugs and values quality.
A studio that treats their QA team as expendables, subhuman or completely isolated from development won’t hesitate to treat you the same way.
A strong answer here should show that the studio treats their QA as a full discipline, along with experienced members integrated into the development team.
There may still be external QA or a separate department for hardware and end-user testing, but if no one in QA is in any development meetings, then be wary.
Question 39: When was the last time someone raised their voice in a meeting and how was that handled?
This question is poking into the management practices of the company. Surprisingly, the best answer isn’t “never”.
Humans are going to be human, be upset and make mistakes.
Denying that happens is more likely to come off as deceitful than an answer like
- “It’s been a while, but when someone did, we just put the meeting on pause/split people up for a bit” or other de-escalating responses.
Knowing how to de-escalate is a strong sign of a healthy culture. Immature and weak cultures rely on either ‘don’t get involved’ or ‘let them bicker it out’.
Most people won’t expect a junior designer to be well informed on studio best-practices, so asking a question like that can both throw them for a loop and catch abusive companies off guard.
In addition it can imply that you are a good talent, because you care to pick the right place to work, rather than just desperately join any studio.
Final thoughts on game design interview questions…
As you practice with these example game design interviews questions, just keep in mind that in the end of the day, the entire interview process is designed to vet for your skillset and whether it’s a great fit for context of the studios’ games.
This means you have to have the actual skills, even if you somehow faked your way in (which is very rare), you won’t be able to stay.
See How You Can Learn the Gameplay Design Abilities Game Studios Are After To...
So focus on learning all the skills you need for the game design positions and use these 39 interview questions to self-test your ability to articulate your answers.
Hope you pass your upcoming game design job interviews.