Much Love for Game Design Professors

I was sitting here, thinking about game design as I often do, and I had one of those little insights that become blog worthy. What should a game designer study? Obviously, there is the standard knowledge of game design that should be known such as theory and crafting. Also game design history, knowing who the important figures in the industry are. That only covers about 40% of the game design process though. There’s so much more besides things like MDA and iterative design that are a part of the entire process. Just to mention a few things:

  • group management
  • scheduling
  • knowledge of technical capabilities
  • knowing your team’s capabilities
  • and a whole slew more

How difficult must it be for a Game Design Professors to try and instill all of this into students. I still think the biggest thing about higher level education isn’t so much what you learn, it’s learning to learn. Learning how to go through a process in order to find new information and absorb it. That piece of paper at the end of four years doesn’t really equate to anything more than you just got through four years of academics. You should also pull out more from it.

I often think of all of the things outside of game design that help game designers. Knowledge of storyline development, character development, the technical process such as programming and modeling, the cognitive process, etc. The list is humongous.

I’ve often heard of physics as the meta-science. It’s the science that covers all other areas of science, from biology to chemistry to genetics. Physics has bits and pieces of all of the other parts of science as part of it’s core. This is how I think of game design. It’s the meta-artistic medium. It’s the one medium that has to take into account so many different mediums, whether they relate directly to game design or not. Think about it. Psychology, sociology, art history, sound theory, graphic design, physics, mathematics. All of these and more go into game design.

Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult for game designers to develop a core vocabulary. We have to pull from so many other areas to describe what we are making, that it’s hard to create something all our own.

Just a random thought…


2 Responses to Much Love for Game Design Professors

  1. jmecannon says:

    Hello, first off – I saw your comment on Susanna’s blog and thought your comment on her censorship post very interesting, so I thought I’d stop by and see what you had to say.
    I think this is a very stimulating idea (even if it was a random thought), maybe especially for me; I’ve graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Game Design and Development and often I find myself wondering if I’ve really learned enough to be a game designer, as our degree had such a technical focus compared to others. But on the other hand I feel like I have an advantage, knowing more about the fundamentals of game technology, including how much time it takes to achieve certain goals and the marketing limitations that start coming into play with higher technical qualifications.
    So I definitely agree with you here. It’s very difficult for us to have a central idea of “Yes, I know this and this and this, so I am clearly an excellent game designer.” Sometime I wish I’d become a professor of, say, mathematics… something with known rules, regulations, limitations, or the lack thereof, for that matter.

  2. Brian Shurtleff says:

    Yeah, on that note, the two best leads I have for me getting a game development job out of college at the moment…. both are people/groups which specialize in games based on a certain other discipline.

    One is a company that makes games that make systems out of biology – the game system is basically organisms and their environment, sold as a line of games but was originally a legitimate science project just made as a game in order to fund it.

    The latter focuses on History in their games, particularly ancient history.

    I constantly wonder whether I know enough about either topic, for either group.

    For the former – knowing how, say, a liver processes any given chemical is a critical element for the game designers to know (yes, the biological systems in their games ARE that complex) – that level of biology knowledge isn’t something any of my game design classes are ever going to teach me.

    But on that note – this phenomenon can also be a blessing, as i’ve heard of people entering into design simply because a company needed a designer with an expertise in X field, in order to implement elements of that into a game.

    So maybe, if we’re damn lucky, a company might need some bizarre set of knowledge that only we posses.

    Or at the very least, in the meantime, we can put our unique specialties into use in small games we make for our portfolio.
    Like those game systems I want to make based off of the ‘rules’ of DJing, or freestyle rap battles, for example.

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