Game Designers Actually Write?

game-designer-writerGame Writers Aren’t the Only Developers Who Need Writing Skills

“Game designer” is an oft-misunderstood label that, like all labels, sometimes fails completely in describing the variety and depth of tasks tackled by the many talented people who fall into this bucket. Many times game consumers and friends have told me they thought game designers were the people who put faces on avatars and choose the colors for game environments. (I believe the confusion stems from the word “designer,” which evokes “graphic designer” and all things visual.)

Perhaps it’s a related consequence that few non-developers understand how much writing figures into the workload of a good game designer. Randy Smith’s latest blog at the excellent British game publication Edge Online addresses this, and the oxymoronic way in which we are often forced clumsily to use words to describe the indescribable. It’s a little-known fact that game job postings for designers specifically ask for English degrees. A game designer must be an idea generator, but she must also be an idea communicator. If a game designer can’t draw a vivid picture of her concept with words and the occasional diagram*, she can’t expect her teammates to bring that vision to life using often-recalcitrant tools and code.

* And yes, a good game designer needs the ability to use art tools to communicate visually as well as verbally.

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Game Design Tips from Jordan Mechner

Game design pointers don’t get any better than when they come from Jordan Mechner, the man who designed Prince of Persia, The Last Express, and one of the main reasons I became a game designer, the elegant and stylish Karateka.

Here’s his blog on story-based game design. Today I’m giving props to design tip #6: “The more the player feels that the events of the game are being caused by his own actions, the better — even when this is an illusion.”

And yes, the new Prince of Persia movie looks promising. They scored Jake Gyllenhaal, Alfred Molina, and Ben Kingsley on the cast. It’s helmed by Mike Newell, whose resume is a lot more balanced than, say, Michael Bay’s (Newell’s work includes Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Love in the Time of Cholera, and the indie darling Four Weddings and a Funeral).


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