One thing that strikes me, as I talk to people of many disciplines at a gathering of AIE alumni, is that certain professions in the gaming world have a Plan B they can fall back on. Game Design is not one of those professions.
Design is often associated with management and production, even though that’s not always the case, due to it requiring a vision. It’s a somewhat glamourised, romanticised role in which people imagine themselves as the “ideas person”, seeing the scene in their head being created in real life.
That may be true for the Cliffy Bs of the world. But you won’t always get to dictate what type of game you’re making, and you won’t always have a job.
There have been quiet periods in the games industry before, and as developer after developer answers questions here, it’s clear that they’ve dealt with it, too. Graduating into a stagnant period means that they might have to go overseas, or move into a different medium. Artists and animators can move to the screen, be it big or small. Coders can choose to create apps, databases, or anything else. It's quite normal for them to dip in, and dip out of the games industry, as necessity dictates.
But designers? They’re a little bit screwed.
More and more gaming schools are offering Game Design courses, and given the quiet period we’re in, it might pay to be honest with these folks and let them know the odds of being hired. Outside of actual games, advertisers are always looking for people who can help design an end user experience, and you might find a corporation looking for someone to gamify their KPIs. But these are hardly as solid as the backup plans mentioned above.
The Academy of Interactive Entertainment tries to mix in business knowledge with the Design theory in their course, but the teacher of this new course, Megan Ralph, acknowledges that it’s a tough time for someone whose fate is so intertwined with the one industry -- or indeed anyone seen as a “jack of all trades” type. A designer might have some coding knowledge, but probably won’t been out a dedicated coder for a position in that field.
But as Ralph points out: If you really want it, nothing will stop you. It’s a hard slog for someone just starting out as an indie, and you’ll basically have to support yourself in your formative days. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
[Design] via Shutterstock