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  • Student Illusions About Being a Game Designer

    [05.07.09]
    - Lewis Pulsipher

  •  They'll start their career working in the position they want to achieve in the long run.

    As with most industries, you have to "pay your dues" to get where you want to go. There's also a "pyramid effect" here, the most desirable jobs are near the top of the pyramid where there are fewer jobs, the less desirable ones are near the bottom where there are many more jobs.

    Think the college curriculum is an extension of high school and act as such.


    A good college is nothing like a typical high school. Most high schools are now training institutions, and not even good at that. You memorize what you need to regurgitate on the End of Class test, and that's about it. College is (or should be) an educational institution, you need to understand why things work as they do so that you can cope with something you haven't encountered or solved before.

    Moreover, you are responsible for your education in college-you are an adult. No one will hold your hand constantly. You have an opportunity to learn a lot, but YOU must do it.

    They will only work on hard core games,


    The hard core is a relatively small part of the market, and the most demanding part. It's easy to underestimate the number of casual game players. Any very successful game must appeal to the casual players. Most video games are not designed for the hard core.

    Work will always be fun and they will always enjoy playing the game they create at the end.


    Work will often be fun. If they play the game enough, they'll get sick of it. In fact, by the end of the production process, they're quite likely to be sick and tired of "screwing around with that game". But they'll enjoy seeing it for sale.

    They will never make a game that gets canceled.


    The preponderance of games that are started are canceled before they're finished. An important quality of success in the industry is recognizing when a game "isn't clicking". But games are often canceled for reasons other than quality, such as funding, loss of employees, corporate takeovers or other business failures, and changes in the market.

    Testing is only about playing games.


    Testing is serious work; you have to write up results, contribute to bug databases, etc. If you test one game long enough, you'll come to dislike the game no matter how good it is.

    They can sneer at and ignore non-AAA titles as though there was something wrong with them and they'd never need to work on such a thing

    Given the increasing budgets for AAA titles, the majority of people working on games are not working on AAA games. The studios working on AAA games have few entry-level positions-why risk a lot of money on inexperienced people? Do the math.

    It will be easy. There's always an Easy Button, isn't there?

    No. If you want an easy job, look for something else. If you want a fun job, look here.


    Dr. Lewis Pulsipher comes from the non-electronic side of game design, and teaches video game design at Fayetteville Technical Community College, NC. His most well-known game, Britannia, was described in a recent "Armchair General" online review as "one of the great titles in the world of games."

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