Sunday, June 18, 2006

Yes, game design is a career.

I've read a lot of things, from people both inside the industry and out, that game design is not a career. I find this sort of thing very naïve. What about all the people credited as designers; what on Earth did they do, if not that?

People who claim game design isn't a job take a very specific definition, which is almost always implicit for the listener: Someone who comes up with overarching game concepts. This is akin to saying that "photographer" isn't a job because anybody can take pictures with a camera. There's more to it than that. There's lighting and positions and color balance. There's digital re-touching and printer settings and ink tones versus RGB computer tones. Have you ever been to a tourist spot, and someone asked you to take eir picture? Did you think about any of the above? Aside from keeping everyone inside the shot, not likely.

So, can people make a living being a game designer? Well, now we start getting into trouble, because there's not structure in games like there is in hollywood. When most people think of a game designer, they envision a movie writer/director 2-in-1. This is accurate in many cases, but it's actually a very dynamic area (as all creative sides to any multiperson production are):

In many (most?) circles, they go the film route; the writer is called the "designer" and the director is called the "producer". In others, the producer did both, but is called the designer. Or, he did both and is called the producer; in many cases, no designer is credited.

The bottom line is: I don't have ideas for games very often. Give me a design doc for YOUR game, and a team, and I'll turn it into a good game. Most people would say this means I want to be a producer, but if you talk about "game production", people think you're being vague, so I have to default to the term, "game design".

So, yes, people, no matter what company you work for, the design is tucked away there somewhere. Even if no one is payed to do only that (i.e. they're also the scriptwriter), or you design by commitee, there's game design in there somewhere. No design, no game. The existence of the game necessarily means that a person or persons designed it.

This is not something anyone can just do; you can't go up to someone on the street and get a solid game. That's going up to someone on the street and asking them to take your picture. It might be fine on the whole, but don't expect anyone to buy your vacation photos.

There's more to it than that.



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