I am from Spain and regrettably, in here, my profession is still underestimated and unknown. I will try to shed some light about my job and why sometimes is so frustrating.
What does a Game Designer do?
First, a game designer designs games. It’s that simple? No. My job is to design the mechanics, the story, the aesthetic, the camera, the characters… But, sometimes, other members of the team can take a part of the designer responsibility and design some parts of the game. For example, an artist could design the environments and the biomes or a programmer do the levels. (I want to clarify that I’m talking in general and making focus on small teams. The work dynamics inside a big company or team change a lot). When the team works well together, this will mean for the designer to have more time to focus on the “complicated” tasks like the camera, the mechanics or the levels. However, when the team doesn’t work well, this means a problem. I will explain why. Game designers (usually) work using GDDs (Game Design Documents), diagrams and other methods to have their ideas well explained and ordered for the team and for themselves. So, what happens when the rest of the team doesn’t work like that? Chaos. Then, you have an artist that doesn’t know what needs to do, a writer that designs a parallel story that doesn’t have any sense with the mechanics and a programmer that is lost and will do whatever he/she wants. And then, is when the frustration comes. So,
What does a Game Designer do in a situation like that?
Well, that is a complicated question because it depends a lot on the team that she/he has. Again, if the team listens and works in syntony with the designer, she/he will be able to take the control, make a good GDD and fix the problems. Because that is the second part of the game designer’s job: fix problems and coordinate the team. However, when the team doesn’t want to listen because they already have their own way of doing things, is when frustration knock down the door and raze with everything. In those moments, you can hear phrases like: “Don’t worry! We can finish it tomorrow! What is the hurry?” “You are taking this job too seriously. Relax. Have fun”. Or, my favorite: “Hey, this is my way to do the things. You have yours. Everyone does what they can. If you can do more, good for you”.
Are these phrases said with malice? No (usually), but they hurt and demoralize anyways. They will make you feel stupid to “take the job too seriously” or to “work too much”. Then, it will make you feel angry because the rest is not working “at the same level as you” or “having the same interest”. And that will affect the game, your health and your mind.
I learned these lessons badly. I hope that this advice helps you to don’t make the same mistakes.
1. Do ALWAYS a GDD. Even if your team will no use it. Even if they don’t understand the importance behind it. DO IT. Believe me. You’ll appreciate it later.
2. Love your job, even if the rest underestimate it. Don’t try to explain it to a team that doesn’t want to understand it. Do it once and just once. I DESIGN GAMES. Is not that simple, but is that simple. Don’t forget it.
3. Do your job. Try to be kind and polite. Your game will reflect all your love and passion but, also, all your anger and frustration. So, don’t punish your game for a bad team or a bad experience. Those things will disappear with time, but your game will stay. And is your decision if it will become in something that you will proud off or something that you will hate.