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7:17pm on Tuesday, 20th April, 2010:

Profile of Game Designers


I went to Brunel University today to listen to a series of lectures by legendary computer game designer Chris Crawford. I've never met him before, and he hadn't a clue who I was, so I was a little apprehensive as I'd heard he could be quite prickly. However, in person he was no such thing; there was plenty of opportunity in the Q&A sessions for a prickly person to be prickly, but he wasn't at all. I'd probably have been much pricklier myself in his position.

The content of the lectures, while interesting, was more student-level than cutting edge, but then it was aimed at students so this was only to be expected. Nevertheless, the more he went on, the more I saw evidence that my own experience as a game designer is indeed not unique. I questioned him about it when we were alone together for 20 minutes when everyone else went for a coffee, and found we did indeed have much in common, specifically:

Those points all apply to me. They also apply to pretty well every other game designer I know, give or take a point. I guess there could be people who want to become game designers that don't fit this profile, but it's pretty well universal from what I've seen.

Students who want to become game designers therefore ought to ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Do you easily get interested reading (or watching on TV) random non-fiction? Walking around museums and art galleries would probably qualify, too.
  2. Do you get game ideas the whole time, unstoppably?
  3. Have you made, or started to make, many games? Not necessarily computer games: board games, word games, playground games — they all count.
  4. Do you want to design games so much that if you can't get someone else to make them for you, you'll make them yourself, no matter what arcane skills you may have to pick up to do so?
  5. Are you prepared ultimately to lose the enjoyment you get from playing games to achieve all this?

If so, you may just be made of the right stuff. If not, well you could still be made of the right stuff, but I'd recommend thinking about it long and hard before trying for a career in game design.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).