From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A game designer is a person who designs games. The term normally refers to a person who designs computer or video games, but it also refers to one who designs traditional games, such as board games.
Video and computer game designer
A video or computer game designer develops the layout, concept and gameplay, the game design of a video or computer game. This may include playfield design, specification writing, and entry of numeric properties that balance and tune the gameplay. A game designer works for a developer (which may additionally be the game's video game publisher). This person usually has a lot of writing experience and may even have a degree in writing or a related field (such as English). This person's primary job function is writing, so the more experience they have with that activity, the better. Some art and programming skills are also helpful for this job, but are not strictly necessary. Game designers often have studied relevant liberal arts such as psychology, sociology, drama, fine art or philosophy. Due to the increasing complexity of the game design process, many young game designers may also come from a computer science or other computer engineering background.
In the video game industry, the job of game designer is one of the hardest to obtain. It is not easy, though many people think they "have what it takes" to perform this job. Almost everyone in the game industry has what they believe is a "killer game" concept and is waiting for the opportunity to develop the game. As a game designer, they may get the opportunity to develop that game concept, so competition is usually very high.
Since a video game publisher may invest millions of dollars towards a game's development, it is easy to understand why they choose game designers carefully—one or two poor game concepts could end up costing them millions of dollars of revenue and could even risk bankrupting the company. For this reason, game publishers usually choose game designers who have a proven track record with several hit games under their belts. Less seasoned designers may be assigned to low profile games that have budgets in the low tens of thousands.
The first video games were designed in the 1960s and 1970s by programmers for whom creating games was a hobby, since there was no way to sell them or earn money from creating games. Some were designed by electrical engineers as exhibits for visitors to computer labs (OXO, Tennis for Two), others by college students who wrote games for their friends to play (Spacewar!, Star Trek, Dungeon).
Some of the games designed during this era, such as Zork, Baseball, Air Warrior and Adventure later made the transition with their game designers into the early video game industry.
Early in the history of video games, game designers were often the lead programmer or the only programmer for a game, and this remained true as the video game industry dawned in the 1970s. This person also sometimes comprised the entire art team. This is the case of such noted designers as Sid Meier, Chris Sawyer and Will Wright. A notable exception to this policy was Coleco, which from its very start separated the function of design and programming.
As games became more complex and computers and consoles became more powerful (allowing more features), the job of game designer became a separate job function, with the lead programmer splitting his time between the two functions, moving from one role to the other. Later, game complexity escalated to the point where it required someone who concentrated solely on game design. Many early veterans chose the game design path eschewing programming and relegating those tasks to others.
Today, it is rare to find a video or computer game where the principal programmer is also the principal designer, except in the case of casual games, such as Tetris or Bejeweled. With very complex games, such as MMORPGs, or a big budget action or sports title, designers may number in the dozens. In these cases, there are generally one or two principal designers and many junior designers who specify subsets or subsystems of the game. In larger companies like Electronic Arts, each aspect of the game (control, level design or vehicles) may have a separate producer, lead designer and several general designers.
Notable video and computer game designers
- Danielle Bunten Berry, of the seminal M.U.L.E. and The Seven Cities of Gold
- Marc Blank, Co-designer of Zork, co-founder of text adventure publisher Infocom
- Bill Budge, Pinball Construction Set, designer who anchored launch of Electronic Arts
- Chris Crawford, creator of Balance of Power and the founder of the Game Developer's Conference
- Don Daglow, designer of Dungeon, Utopia, Earl Weaver Baseball, and the original Neverwinter Nights
- Jon Freeman, designer of the Archon series of games
- Richard Garriott (Lord British), developer of the Ultima series of games
- Ron Gilbert, creator of Maniac Mansion and the Monkey Island series
- Stieg Hedlund, designer of the Diablo series
- Hideo Kojima, creator of the Metal Gear Solid series
- Jordan Mechner, designer of Prince of Persia, Karateka, and The Last Express
- Sid Meier of Civilization, Railroad Tycoon and other game series
- Shinji Mikami creator of the Resident Evil series
- Shigeru Miyamoto of Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario series
- Peter Molyneux of the Populous series, Black and White and Theme Park among others
- Brian Reynolds, Civilization II, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Rise of Nations
- John Romero of Wolfenstein 3D, the Doom and Quake series and game engines
- Hironobu Sakaguchi of the popular Final Fantasy series
- Hideo Kojima Creator of the Metal Gear series
- Tim Schafer, creator of Grim Fandango and Psychonauts
- Bruce Shelley, co-creator of Age of Empires series and Civilization
- Warren Spector, System Shock, Deus Ex, Thief, and Thief: Deadly Shadows series
- Jordan Weisman, Founder of FASA Interactive, co-creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior
- Roberta Williams, designer of King's Quest and several other computer game series
- Will Wright, designer of SimCity and The Sims
- Tomonobu Itagaki, creator of Dead or Alive series.
- Cliff Bleszinski, lead designer of "Gears of War" and level designer of Unreal series.
Notable designers of non-video games
- Allan B. Calhamer - Designer of Diplomacy
- Frank Chadwick - Co-founder of GDW and designer of over 50 war and role-playing games, including Twilight 2000 and the Assault series
- Jim Dunnigan - Founder of SPI Games and designer of over 100 wargames, including the PanzerBlitz/Panzer Leader system
- Richard Garfield - collectible card game (Magic: The Gathering) and board game designer.
- Gary Gygax and David Arneson - creators of Dungeons & Dragons
- Steve Jackson - Designer of Ogre, The Fantasy Trip, Car Wars, GURPS, Hacker, Illuminati and others.
- Reiner Knizia - prolific designer of German-style board games who designed 6 of the top 20 games on the Internet Top 100 Games List.
- Alan R. Moon - prolific designer of German-style board games including Elfenland and Ticket to Ride.
- Charles S. Roberts - Designer of first commercial board wargame (Tactics II) and founder of Avalon Hill.
- List of game designers
- List of video game designers
- So You Wanna Be A: Gamedesigner (Gamespot Article)
- comp.games.development.design via Google Groups
- rec.games.design via Google Groups