Monday, November 17, 2014

Are You Game? Start a career as a Game Designer!

All of us love playing games – be it on our mobiles, PCs or PlayStations consoles. Regardless of age/gender, everyone enjoys gaming no matter if the person is child, adult, women or old. Games are one of the sources of entertainment, relaxation and enjoyment in our hectic lives.
Gaming Industry has gained immense popularity ever since smartphones came into existence. But have you ever wondered how such a complex piece of software is made? What kind of knowledge and skills are required to make a “good” game? Well, if you have ever wanted to get into the game of making a game, maybe you would want to look at game design as a career. Ever thought of becoming a Game designer? Interested? Read on!

What it is, what it isn’t

Let’s take an example of a popular game Angry Birds to understand game designing. Game design is the art of knowing how hurling disgruntled birds on a stack of pigs can actually be fun for millions of people on the planet while making a franchise worth billions of dollars. Well, kind of.
Game Designing is the art of visualising the storyline, characters and rules of a game; while it is the science and art of examining the psychology of the player and his relationship with the game. In short, game design involves figuring out what will get a player hooked to a game and what won’t… and creating games that will work. There are so many games which are successful and there are many which are failures and that’s all because of the art of designing.

So who is the mastermind that uses game design theories to create a successful game? the Game Designer!
A Game Designer is someone who has a vision of what the game is as it goes through iterations during its development cycle.
Any game you play on your phone, PC or console are result of the brainchild of various game designers. A game designer is to a game what a director is to a movie—he can make or break a game concept. Game designing involves working on video games for all kind of devices like PC/Console/Smartphones.

Game Design isn’t Programming. Game designers don’t do the programming in anyway, so don’t confuse game designing with game programming. Both are completely different.  If you have been a die-hard gamer and you think you would want to make games because you can play games—you would be disappointed to know that it doesn’t qualify you to become a Game Designer. But of course if you are a passionate gamer then that will be very useful in your career.  

State of the Gaming Industry

The gaming industry in India is about to hit a boom. It has already gained the momentum with the craze of android games on smartphones. However, the production houses in India are mostly into smaller scale projects on platforms like Web / Mobile / Flash / HTML5. But no need to be disheartened, Many new players are coming up with  bigger studios who work on cutting-edge 3D games for PC / PS3 as well. And the rest of the studios have essentially applied the Indian IT industry model of taking outsourced projects to sustain their businesses.

Qualities of Game Designers

Apart from knowledge of designing games, a Game Designer is expected to have understanding of Art / Aesthetics, Programming, Project Management, Culture, Languages, Sound Design / Music etc. While it is not necessary to have all the qualities but since You will be the only person who will have a complete vision of the game in the team and you will have to work with Programmers, Artists, Project Managers and even other Designers to bring the game to life. Knowing a thing or two about such topics removes unwanted friction in communication. And since you are a creative person, it is desirable for you to also have a reasonable amount of exposure to varied media such as Movies, Music, Comics, Animations, TV Shows etc. At the end of the day, making games is a business and you are supposed to make a game that people will be willing to pay for.

Work Routine

Software engineering concepts plays its part here. Before the start of any project, Game Designers typically make documents called Game Concept which are small 1 or 2 page documents describing - say - a new idea for a first person shooting game. This is the time when a Game Designer has to be an excellent salesman with remarkable showmanship—enough to convince his co-workers and the investors alike. Once a game enters production, Designers work on a document called the GDD or the Game Design Document. A GDD, is very important document for the success of entire game project. It describes everything about the game right from the story to the UI to the Characters to the Gameplay. The purpose of such a document is to communicate to the entire production team as to how the game will play. So, is the game coder confused on how high the character should jump, how fast a character runs, how to simulate real life events like shooting? The Level Designer is confused how many levels should be there in the game? The Artist wants to know how the background should be. All these questions would be normally answered in a Game Design Document.

When to Learn? How to Learn? Where to Learn?

Age is no bar to enter gaming industry. Neither you have to an IITian or have a mark sheet over 90% marks in your board exams. All that matters is passion coupled with practicality. If you are determined, you could always explore by learning things on your own. There is NO standard pay scale for a Game Designer. It may range between 20k a month to more than a lakh depending on your skill. And if the very first question you ask is “What is the package?” you won’t be treated very well. It could be your second question, this industry expects passion first!
In India, your options are little limited to learn game designing exhaustively. DSK Supinfocom, Pune is one premier game designing institute in India which an aspirant should look for. The reason being their approach towards educating you in this craft is 100% practical. They train students via projects (that become a part of student’s portfolio) and by the time a person graduate – he/she know how to work in teams and make projects possible and design really good games. Their faculty comprises professionals from western gaming industry and they seem to know what they are doing. Digipen, VFS and CMU are other schools abroad that will provide the kind of education that you need. Also, try to make sure the program is practical and that it is at least two years in duration.

Future Opportunities – Is the sky really the limit?

So, you are a Game Designer now. Where do you go from here? Well, two things come into play at this stage. The first is knowing that you will never stop learning as a Designer. The second is knowing what you want from your career. Do you see yourself making this unique game no one else seems to have made? Go ahead, gather a team, inspire others with your idea and start working on the project. You can be a freelancer also and start your own designing studio and work on outsourced projects. Get a prototype running and approach a publisher (in the same way a writer would approach one for funding / marketing / development / distribution) to pitch your game to. Even though this stage normally comes in at 3-10 years of work experience, depending on how enterprising you are, you don’t always need to start your own company to see your ideas come to fruition. If the idea is good and you sell it well, your studio could fund it. But nothing should stop you from doing the same either. 

*With inputs from tech magazine

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