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Millie’s Guide to Game Design Degree

Millie’s Guide to Game Design Degree

Article written and edited by Adi Sareen and Nadya Soetomo.

If you think video games are an active medium of storytelling, you might be interested in learning game design!

The world of game design is not as simple as playing games might suggest. As a collaborative discipline, many factors contribute to the creation of a successful video game. In this post, we'll discuss the art of game design with Adi Sareen, a Technical Associate at Ubisoft who worked on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake, drawing insights from a recent Millie’s Guide workshop.

What is Game Design?

Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create video games, but its practice encompasses more than just making games. Games are designed with specific purposes in mind. For instance, in the educational realm, one can develop a game that teaches children about coding to help them better understand technological development.

The practice of game design is more than just making games.”

What does a Game Designer mainly do?

In a nutshell, your role as a game designer involves generating innovative ideas, developing a game’s concept, prototyping its mechanics (actions that occur within the game), and monitoring the quality of the work.

For example, you might design a game based on the concept of mechanical telekinesis (controlling objects with one's mind), as seen in Control. Alternatively, you could develop an idea around a game's world setting, like the Wild West era showcased in Red Dead Redemption.

After settling on an idea, you'll collaborate with a team to flesh out the story, gameplay, art, and audio to construct a cohesive game. That's why games can't be crafted by designers alone. It's crucial to work alongside game engineers, artists, animators, and sound designers to seamlessly integrate those four primary aspects.

What specializations are possible in Game Design?

As a game designer, you are expected to specialize as soon as possible in one field and optimize your skills — here’s a snapshot of fields to consider:

Level design

Using aesthetic components provided by artists, designers create levels — specific areas where characters will exist and interact during gameplay (e.g., arranging barns and fields to design a countryside level in a farming game).

Narrative / systems design

Designing the game’s storyline, mechanics, and dialogues that players experience (e.g., constructing dialogues when a character completes a mission). You will also design how players experience character progression from one level to another (e.g., designing save points for players to have second chances after failing a boss battle).

Technical design

Prototyping a game’s mechanics and how players experience them (e.g., how a character jumps and lands on the ground). Based on the prototype you've created, you are responsible for deciding the continuity of a game’s production — whether it should proceed or halt — in order to save the time and effort of your production team.

Contribute to the team you’re working with!

Expectations when studying game design

Many people assume that studying game design at university means you'll simply play video games all day, but this isn't the case. As home to one of the largest gaming industries in the world, the UK boasts its top five game design-related courses, complete with typical module examples! Nevertheless, there are certain considerations to keep in mind when pursuing a degree in game design:

You will not be playing games 24/7

While students are expected to play games in their own time for inspiration, there are other relevant courses, like computer graphics, that don't necessarily involve actual game playing.

Basic coding and art classes are vital

Even if you'll be working with game engineers and artists, understanding the mechanical and artistic foundations of video games is crucial. This knowledge helps you adapt your game design to their specifications.

Have patience with yourself

Your first design might not resemble the games you love — and that's okay! Starting with the basics, even if challenging, is essential to refine your skills. With persistence and dedication, you'll eventually craft games at the caliber you admire.

There’s no such thing as only ‘designing’

The best game designers are actively involved in the entire process of translating an idea into a reality. Contribute to the team you’re working with!

Broaden your horizon

Explore mediums other than video games! Doing so will help you draw inspiration from diverse areas — you can draw something out of films or screenplays to create your game.

Familiarize yourself with different game engines

Many start with Unity, a user-friendly and free game engine. But for those looking to elevate their skills, Unreal, an industry-standard software, offers more depth and complexity than Unity.

For details about specializing in game-making and personal advice from Adi, check our webinar on Millie's Guide to Game Design!