Welcome to Game Design Skills!
If you either have the ambition to design video games for a living or are already currently doing so, then you’re at the right place.
This guide is to help you better navigate this game design knowledge base and community to help you through the rough stages of learning your craft.
(And if you’re not here to learn or teach game design, then you’re probably on the wrong site)
Below I’m going to recommend some resources based on where you’re at on your journey on turning game design from a passion to a passionate profession:
You love to play video games, so you thought to yourself:
“Maybe I can make them, and make do it for a living!”
Great …now what?
First you need to figure out if the game design profession is right for you,
Make sure the following are true:
✓ You’re willing to treat it like a profession
✓ You enjoy the design craft and process
✓ See yourself doing this long term
Follow these 3 steps to figure out if you are a right fit for the game designer role:
Step 1: Confirm if enjoy game design as a craft.
When you do game design as a profession (for studios), you are
- Executing their ideas, not just yours
- Design for all different player archetypes, not just your own
To further clarify, ask yourself the following 3 questions:
Question 1: Are you willing to play games outside of your player archetype just to study the market, trends, and techniques?
- My mentor Tom Cadwell told me that it would make me better faster here is how much I played:
- 0-5 years after I was hired: 80 hr/month (20 hrs weekly)
- 20 years (current me): 28 hr/month (14 hrs bi-weekly)
- My fellow designer Richard Carillo also mentioned that he filters for people who has a habit of playing all the 90+ rated games.
- My mentor Tom Cadwell told me that it would make me better faster here is how much I played:
Question 2: Do you see yourself enjoying the process of analyzing and considering other player types’ perspectives?
Question 3: Will I enjoy executing other people’s ideas?
Step 2: Confirm if you enjoy the process of making games.
Game design is a maker’s role, which mean you mainly participate in making games.
And the best way to see if you like is to experience it first hand, just like trying new food.
Here are some low commitment ways for you to “dip your toes” into the game design profession:
- Build a game challenge – Build a playable prototype in 5 days, 1 set of instruction and action per day. You can take the challenge here.
- Game Jams – here is all the active game jams you can participate in.
- Mod your favorite games – Modding is low barrier to entry do what the game designers do, with the native design technology of the game. Check out Nexus Mods.
- This is how I initially got hired by Blizzard.
If it turns out that you don’t like game design after the challenge of a game jam or building a playable prototype, then stop and try other maker disciplines such as game art, programming, or writing or even outside of maker roles:
- E sport
You’re not limited to being a designer to participate in the game development process and make a living doing so.
Step 3: Understand what a game designer does, here are some recommended readings to help you clarify the profession:
- What is game design?
- What does a game designer do?
- How to become a video game designer?
- Types of game designer roles, disciplines, and hierarchy (career paths)
“When should you start learning coding?”
Coding is a valuable and useful high lever skill, whether you want to make games or not.
However, you should learn solid foundational game design skills so you know why you want to code something.
Coding: How to implement
Design: What and why you should implement
Don’t leap into code until you know your why.
Also keep in mind since you’ll most likely use a game engine nowadays, you’ll more likely to be scripting than coding.
If this is a skill you know you want to double down on, Chris De Leon has a great free low barrier to entry game programming course for complete beginners.
Here is a breakdown on different game engines you can start with along with their pros and cons.
Once you read all the above, and if you have still have any questions, apply for the Funsmith Club Discord, which is a free private community where you can get direct feedback and question on anything you need further clarify.
If you decided you want to pursue the game designer path, then continue reading ↓
You are a serious beginner if you already have a rough idea what needs to be done and are currently doing them.
Meaning if one of more of the following are true, then you’re a serious beginner:
- Constantly making games, participating game jams, project with colleagues, etc.
- Consistently and actively apply for entry-level positions.
- Have or (is in the process of getting) one of the following degrees with the intention of starting a career in gaming:
- Game design
- Game development
- Game art
- Computer Science
- Consistent self learning such as
- Online courses
- Read game design blogs
- Participate in game dev communities and activities
However, no matter what you do, somehow you just can’t get hired.
You’re stuck most like because you’re lacking on one of these points:
✓ Clearly understand how the game studio hiring process work
✓ Can communicate your skills and how it fits the hiring sides’ context
✓ Have the actual design skills
Follow these these 3 steps to figure out where you’re stuck.
Step 1: Make sure you understand how the hiring process works.
Trying to get hired without understanding the hiring process, is like trying to get to a destination without knowing where it is.
Here is an insider’s peek on how the hiring process works and how you can get hired without “trying to get lucky.”
Step 2: Improve your ability to communicate your capabilities and how it fits the hiring side’s need.
“Getting hired” is a skillset of its own, which is essentially the skill to communicate what you’re capable of clearly and efficiently.
Here are all the hiring touch points, where communication happens:
1. Cover Letter: This is one of the initial touch points, which is reviewed by the recruiter or hiring manager.
Make sure you constantly iterate and improve your cover letter.
2. Resume: This is one of the other initial touch point, which is reviewed together with your cover letter.
Make sure you constantly iterate and improve design resume as well.
3. Portfolio: This where you can showcase what you’ve done, once your resume and cover letter capture the hiring sides’ attention.
Make sure you build a game design portfolio that’ll get you hired.
No portfolio = No interviews
4. Design tests: This is where they test your design thinking skills to filter candidates before the interview stage.
Here is a guide breaking down how to approach design tests and many examples of game design tests you can practice on.
5. Interview: This is where the hiring side do more serious due diligence on whether your skills, background, and value fit their context.
You’ll speak to the actual game devs who are executing on the project your position will work on.
If you’re stuck here, checkout these game design interview questions and tips.
Join our Discord to get feedback and troubleshoot where you’re stuck from game devs of all skills levels (including me).
Step 3: Acquire the design skills the studios are looking for.
This is the core of what the Studios’ entire hiring process vets for.
Remember if you can’t operate the way game studios expect in the role they need, then no amount of “get hired” skills will make a difference.
Here is how you can learn the thinking process and skills the studios are looking for.
Here are the principles I used to approach game design and here are some post-mortems of award winning video games.
↑ Here is the skill development course I’m currently teaching to speed up the development of these design analytical and decision making skills that studios hire for.
If you’re here and you’re also a non-designer game dev, you’re probably wondering
“Why should I learn game design if that’s not my role?”
The answer is simple, it’s to acquire these two skills:
Skill 1: Understand the context of what you’re making as a whole so you can collaborate better in a professional team setting.
For example, when if you’re a 3D Modeler a character, you’re just participating in one single aspect of an entire dev process and experience for that character. You’ll collaborating with:
- Concept artists to make sure the character concept works
- Animators to create cut scenes.
- Narrative designers to create branching dialogue systems
- Systems designers to create the mechanics and rules that character is capable of.
Understanding this will help you work better with the other complimentary dev roles.
Skill 2: See through different types of player perspectives and deduce what experience they really want and communicate back to the players through the gameplay.
Ultimately whatever game dev role you participate in is for the players’ experience.
How do you learn these skills?
Here are the player centric design framework that will help you with the above goals.
Here is a skill development course to help you instill the frame into practical design analytical and decision making skills.
For those of you are already working as a professional game developer, here is what you can do:
Novice professionals are a junior developers in an entry level maker’s role and your goal is to level up your skills and experience faster so you can get to the senior roles.
Here are how you can speed up your learning
- Play a lot of games – This is pattern recognition exercise. I use to average 20 hours of play time on all different types of games on my mentor Tom Cadwell‘s recommendation.
- Here is the framework to help you level-up your design analysis and decision making skills.
- Improve and learn – Checkout the post-mortems of my designs from Blizzard and Riot. If you have any questions reach out to me on our Discord.
- Teach and share (One of the best ways to learn is to teach):
- Provide portfolio and hiring feedback for those who are at where you’re at 1-2 years ago.
- Share design feedback based on what you’ve so far with your peer’s designers
- You can do both in our Discord.
Also if you’re interested in getting quoted in our articles and contributing to our blog, please reach out here.
If you’re looking to level up your design skill or train your team, see if the skill development course is the right fit.
We are looking for experienced designers and developers ranging from mid to senior & director level to share their first hand experience and lessons to help the upcoming talents.
We are currently focusing on game design content.
Note: All contributed content created are attributed to the contributor’s authorship.
You can participate in the following ways:
- Get quoted in the upcoming learning content that’s relevant to your expertise.
- Guest contribute as an author & practitioner.
- All contributions are publicly available for free.
- Guest live AMA in our Discord.
Reach out here if you’re interested in sharing some knowledge and get your name out there as one of the experts in game development industry.
We are currently still growing the game design knowledge base, here are some of the upcoming posts.
If you have any topic requests (or feedback), use this form.
-Alex aka Xelnath