Journey of an Amateur Game Designer!

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I consider myself an amateur game designer. I grew up playing video games. Often I would find myself discussing different aspects of a game with friends. Fast forward to 2015- I started my game studio. From Day One, we were different from most of the studios that operated out of Bangladesh. Unlike most studios, we put 100% our effort on giving our players a good experience. We did not try to make games with great art or complexity. We decided to make games that make our players ‘feel good’. Now ‘feeling’ itself is a very ambiguous concept. What do we mean when we say feeling? How do we determine if a feeling is enjoyable? A lot of question comes to our mind.

So to understand the feeling and how we can design a game that ‘feels good’- we first need to take a step back.

So first let’s ask thyself ‘What is Game Design?

‘Game Design is the act of deciding what a game should be’ – Jesse Schell.

As a game designer- it’s our responsibility to make decisions about our game. Even if we are doing a simple game- as a designer we have to make hundreds if not thousands of decisions on our game.

So what is a Game Designer? Is it a separate person who just makes decisions about the game? It sounds awful like a client with a fancier name. ‘NO’ – a game designer is an integral part of the game development team. For larger teams, they have dedicated ‘game designer’ for example Shigeru Miyamoto– the designer of ‘Super Mario’ and ‘The Legend of Zelda’.

But there also other extremes, i.e., Jonathon Blow. He is the programmer, artist and game designer of Braid and Witness. He and David Hellman created Braid in three and a half years. Witness took seven years and a team of eight to fifteen people.

For a small indie team, game designers also take up other responsibilities. For example in Gameover- I also act as the PR and Marketing guy for our games (Apart from being a Game Designer). In Vlambeer- Rami Ismail works as a programmer, business guy and game designer.
So coming back to the main point of the discussion; How do we make sure our game ‘feels right’- The first step towards that is listening. The most important quality of a Game Designer is the ability to ‘deep listen’. Deep listening means to observe various circumstances and to go beyond spoken words. We as people are complex creations. Often spoken words barely scratch the surface of our emotions. According to Jesse Schell, a good game designer listens to five things: Team, Audience, Game, Client and Self.