When you work as game designer for companies you will invest a lot of time studying other games. The best thing you can do is to prepare and evolve a personal framework to optimize this job. This post is to detail what I would focus my efforts on.
Game design is a huge word, the word for a container. Jesse Schell writes that game design is “the act of deciding how a game should be”. As you can read, everyone practices that. We, game designers, are facilitators of that act.
To me, game design has four main specializations:
- Level design
- Narrative/Content design
- Gameplay/UX design
- Systems design
If you work as a generalist, you should focus on all four. If you are a specialist, it is still good having clear the relationships and overlaps with the others
The most important thing for a game designer is NOT the game. Really, it isn’t. The game is a medium to an end. And that end is called: EXPERIENCE.
We can write a book only on this term, but for the sake of the article it is important to mention that we game designers should be able to understand the experience of other games under two lenses:
- what is the intention behind them
- what does them say actually
Understanding the intention is a matter of dealing with lots of analysis, but nowadays developers publish a lot of content. My suggestion is to watch videos and read articles and hear podcasts to try to spot all that’s possible. Playing the game completes everything, and it is very important to play it deeply. For example, if you are really analysing a free-to-play game you should also buy something to understand how it feels.
In order to really understand what the experience says, the best way is to take notes on everything related with your specialties. And when I say everything I mean absolutely everything.
- Record all game sessions and take screens
- Copy all texts, level maps and try to empathize with those designers
- Create documentation and be detailed.