I have always found Games design to be a somewhat nebulous title. It is many things and only a few things, all in differing context. It is therefore quite hard to answer the very straight-forward question “What do you do?” when asked. It is intriguing to me that such a simple and basic question should require quite a deep level of thought and insight in order to offer an answer which might make sense. I suppose the answer to the question relies on context.
The simple and blunt answer is “A Games Designer delivers an experience” although I find myself often adding the suffix to this somewhat woolly answer of “or solves a problem”. I’ve found that Designers can wear many different hats and still be effective and add value to a project or enterprise. Some designers facilitate a necessary communicative divide behind the process-driven way that programmers think and communicate and the more abstract and experiential perspective of an artist.
Many casual observers may mistakenly refer to a games designer as an ‘ideas person’ and whilst there is some degree of truth to this, I firmly believe designers show their value in shepherding an array of ideas through to one, distilled, immersive and effective experience or solution to a problem. There are many functions of design and even artists and programmers will adopt design principles as part of their job, which makes it harder to pin down a useful skill set.
The truth is that there are many kinds of designers and as an analogy, whilst you mind find lots of kinds of programming specialists, who may focus on AI, Systems, Full stack or any one of many countless roles, a designer may choose to specialize in any number of fields, including, but not limited to; Level design, User Experience (UX), User Interface (UI), Concept, Narrative etc. Each of these specializations deploys a number of skills and tools in order to serve the role and responsibilities they may hold.
So I guess the question for me is, what are my key skills as a designer. That’s a much easier question to answer. I consider myself a generalist, who is particularly robust in concept and theory, and project management. As a generalist, I can jump into any engine (and particularly Unity) and rapidly prototype. I can conduct product evaluation, user testing and practice any number of design practices, such as Future-proofing, Experimental, Serious/Applied and Iterative design. I’m good at communicating, managing teams and developing disruptive and divergent products within the game design field. I’ve even done a bit of 3d modelling and animation as well and would note a bias towards User-Centred Design in the way I practice.
It is important to note these skills and traits in myself as a design practitioner. As much as it gives me some confidence in being able to operate effectively and confidently as a practitioner, it also enables me to identify gaps in my skills and prospective opportunities for me to develop. Earlier stages of this module has provoked reflection in various domains and I find that opportunities technical improvement come easily to me; I’d particularly like to learn how to make shader’s suitable for use in Unreal and Unity. I’d like to experiment with networking and adopt Markov Chain mathematics within a procedural generation context. I’d like to develop my understanding of architecture from both a functional and cultural/historical perspective in order to become more adept at level design and world building.
This all leads into my philosophy as a designer. As I encounter new techniques, skills and perspectives throughout my study, I unlock a myriad of different opportunities for further development and growth and I relish the opportunity to further expand on how I practice my craft, review recent and current design thinking and with some eager anticipation, hope to blaze a trail in design theory as I begin an academic career.