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Underrated Skills Required to be a Great Video Game Designer

Posted by Brenda Ronan on Oct 8, 2019 10:09:00 AM

Whether your dream is to forge a career in competitive gaming or create the games themselves, if you love video games, chances are you have dreamed of working in the industry.video game design skills required

In previous blogs we have talked about all of the different career options in the esports industry, as well as detailed steps to get you on your way to becoming a video game designer.

While we outlined some of the ‘hard’ skills needed to become a successful video game designer, we wanted to follow-up with some of the most underrated skills that are often overlooked while considering a career option in video game design.

When most people think of designing video games, they think of things like coding and 3D modeling/drawing skills, testing a game for bugs and creating the video game structure. These are all required skills, but the best game designers and the ones that stick out in a competitive industry also have a lot of soft skills outside of their technical skills. We believe the most important and underrated skills are storytelling, collaboration and resilience.

Storytelling

storytelling in video game design classIt shouldn’t come as a surprise that good video game designers need to be creative and artistically inclined – they need to be able to sketch out, figuratively and literally, their characters to bring their created world to life. Many are experts at 3D drawing, sculpting and even painting.

But to take this further, a good designer has an additional skill – to not only visually portray their world as they see it, but to elegantly and easily weave a narrative. On their own, a beautifully designed world and even convincing characters need to be brought together with a compelling and fresh story to keep the users engaged.

Recently, there have been a lot of gamers who believe a game’s storyline isn’t that important:

  • In the past few years there has been a rise of multiplayer online gaming, like online battle arena. Many gamers believe in that type of atmosphere, graphics and gameplay trump any storyline.  
  • Many people believe that narrative should be left to novels and movies because videogames don’t have that type of depth.
  • Many gamers think that storyline is only important in some types of games, such as Bioshock.

However, the Entertainment Software Association’s 2019 survey found that for 57% of gamers, ‘interesting story/premise’ influenced their decision of which game to buy. This is evidence that despite the naysayers, there is demand for great narrative in games.

We believe the arguments against the importance of story-lines are actually the biggest reason we need to ensure great storytellers make video games. We need them to continue to improve the game narratives and push boundaries. This will lead to more immersion and a deeper attachment to a game. New research is also starting to suggest that the narrative of some video games may actually be beneficial for teaching people to make meaningful choices.

Collaboration

Designing video games is an indispensable part of creating a video game, but it is just a piece of a very complex puzzle. While designers will have to have a very thorough understanding of things like 3D graphics and programming, for example, oftentimes designers may not work directly these tasks. This will depend on how big the company is and how it is organized.

But, if you have the most compelling storyline, the best characters and best engine for a game, but can’t communicate this to your teammates, work alongside the testers or explain this to your developers, there is a good chance even the best ideas will not reach their true potential.

Good video game designers listen to input from others, without taking offense. They understand that while disagreements may occur, allowing both sides to be heard is important. This type of equitable treatment can also go a long way – it can help a good designer build up social capital that can be used to help move projects and design elements along. It will also help ensure others are willing to hear you out and give your ideas a fair shake.

Resilience

The video game industry can be incredibly stressful, from looming deadlines to high expectations. In order to deal with this stress and to recover from the inevitable setback you will face, you will need to be very resilient.

As you gain experience and work on more and more games, this is something that comes naturally to a good designer – it shows they have been around for a while, because the alternative to an experienced, resilient video game designer is someone who no longer works in the industry. Unfortunately, burnout is very common among game developers and designers.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom – video game designers love what they do and are passionate about video games. This can provide meaning and motivation to work through obstacles and keep delivering a quality product. It is important, however, to understand that while you may love gaming, maintaining a job in the industry, and reaching a master level, is very demanding and requires a lot of effort.

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