Buzzings: What is a Game Designer?

There’s been some debate on Twitter lately about what constitutes a game designer. From what I’ve been able to gather, someone posted a tweet at some point saying that not everyone who says they’re a game designer is actually a game designer. It was a whole can of worms, and I’m going to throw my two cents on the fire.

A game designer is someone who designs games, or who has designed games, or who wants to design games. Does that game have to be published? No, that only makes you a published game designer. Do other people have to play your games? Ideally, yes, but you can also make games just for yourself. Do you have to be able to produce a fully functional prototype with some production quality art and graphic design to truly get your vision across? Wouldn’t that be great, but no, you can simply slap your ideas down on a napkin and still have a game.

The point, really, is that there shouldn’t be any kind of elitist separation between serious, professional game designers, and amateur, people just doing it for the heck of it game designers. There’s no accreditation to be a game designer, just like you don’t need to get a license to create art. Can you imagine if my five-year-old daughter brought up her latest drawing of our family (of which there have probably been thousands at this point), and I said, “Oh, sweetie, you’re not really an artist until you sell your first masterpiece”? Besides winning the Worst Father of the Year award, I’d be crushing her creative spirit.

Have you seen the movie Ratatouille? The big point of the movie is that anyone can cook. It’s all summed up in Anton Ego’s article near the end of the movie:

In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto, “Anyone can cook.” But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist *can* come from *anywhere*.

The metaphor of the movie is applicable to all kinds of art – books, paintings, games, music, whatever. We can’t say that someone is not a writer just because they haven’t had a story published in a major journal. We can’t say someone is not a musician just because they just picked up a trombone for the first time. We can’t say that someone is not an artist just because their margin doodles aren’t worth anything. You can also say it about being a gamer – if you play games at all, you’re a gamer. You can’t call someone a non-gamer just because they don’t play hobby games. If you play Monopoly, you’re a gamer. If you play Candy Crush, you’re a gamer. To say otherwise is just not accurate.

I’m a game designer. My first published game is supposed to be coming out in November. But I had designed games before that. I wrote a couple of blog posts about game design ideas I had very early on (and it’s interesting to note that, in my post about The Sugar Game, I said I wasn’t a game designer – my opinion has obviously changed). But, as I think about it, I’ve been a game designer longer than that. Even as a kid, I enjoyed finding different ways to play games, which were my own designs.

I guess the point here is – if you want to be a game designer, be a game designer. Put some ideas down, test them out. If they don’t work, congratulations – you’re a game designer. If they do work, great – you’re also a game designer.

That’s all for today. I just wanted to write down some thoughts because, on top of being a game designer, I’m also a blogger. And, be sure to join me Sunday because it’s my ten year anniversary of doing this blog! Thanks for reading!

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