Sunday, March 2, 2008

Why I'm not an electronic game designer

Why would I want to design electronic games? I'm better off as is.

  • The "AAA list" electronic games are really designed by committee. When I design a game, it is almost all MINE. (The rest is playtesters and publisher.)
  • For most of the age of video games, you had to work full time in the industry, yet the pay was and is poor. I'd rather help young people as a teacher, get paid at least as well, and have lots of time to design games.
  • The working hours are bad. "Crunch time" (unpaid overtime) is common, though designers are not involved in that quite as much as programmers and artists.
  • Fighting with the electronics obscures the purity of design. You worry about what the computer can do instead of what the players can do.


Ian Schreiber said...

In defense of the industry:

* Design by committee can be quite fun and enjoyable. When I think back to my favorite moments as a designer, they usually involve batting ideas around with other designers.

* It's a whole lot easier to earn a living wage as a video game designer than a board game designer.

* I don't know about you, but I put in more hours per week teaching than I ever did in the industry. Crunch on a project is nothing compared to three new preps in a semester, and all that prep time is just as unpaid as industry overtime.

* Artificial constraints are part and parcel of game design in any form; to a designer, fighting with technology constraints is no different from struggling with the use of an IP, or building a game around one core mechanic or a specific set of game bits, for example. Yes, boardgame design is more freeform... but on the other hand, constraints can spur creativity.

Lewis said...

Well, I do enjoy discussing merits of various changes with a few of my regular testers. But I don't have to negotiate. It's much simpler. (I DO know negotiation: used to be a Diplomacy (boardgame) expert...)

Earn a living, certainly so. But the only time I thought about earning a living from making games was the late 70s and early 80s, when there was no video game industry to speak of.

I've taught about 20 different classes in the last two years, but preps rarely bother me. I don't prepare a whole lot of stuff ahead of time, and I have a lot of experience.

I need to write sometime about constraints. They certainly do spur creativity. But I like to pick my own constraints.

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle