I have two friends who are interested in game design – one who is doing better than me, and one who is doing worse. A lot of what I know my whiz kid friend taught me, and while my other friend used that information the best he could, he simply hasn’t had as much luck. He’s what we call an “idea man” – his programming skills are decent, but he doesn’t appreciate how much he must focus on them. He got into game design because has a lot of ideas that he wants to express. To his credit however, they are excellent ideas (I’d share them, but I’d be afraid that someone might steal them!); if he ever mastered it, he would be a rather fantastic designer. I guess my point is, creativity can only get you so far if you lack the programming skills to push you further.
An example of what I consider pretty misleading about game design are some of the older game design college commercials that often air on television. The way they depict game design is all so silly – often it’s two guys playing some first-person shooter and having the time of their life, and then one guy will tell the other to “punch up the graphics on this level.” As fun as this fantasy version of game design may sound, it tricks a lot of video game fans who want to get into the industry into thinking that game design is sunshine and rainbows. Alas, it is a lot of hard work. You need to be skilled and you need to be determined. Especially if you work for a big publisher, where you may find yourself working 80-hour workweeks (sometimes without overtime pay even!). All too often I’ve had to tell people who don’t really understand what game design is that my job is actually difficult. It ultimately makes for a rewarding job overall though. Not only do you get to create an artistic and creative impact, you get to see people enjoying your game. When getting started, just remember these three principles that have done me well:
Code: Programming is a necessary talent for people who want to get into the industry
Innovate: As good of a programmer as you may be, having an idea to inject into your work can be important to set yourself apart from the others
Create: Now, mash up those principles with a pinch of luck and you will have a quality, successful work that you can be proud of!