Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Purpose of Doing Game Design

The purpose of doing game design is not to hone your skills as a game designer, or to advance your career as a game designer. That is a byproduct of it, but that is not the purpose of it.

The purpose of doing game design is to design games. Everything else is secondary.

Repeat after me:

The purpose of doing game design is to design games. Everything else is secondary

Therefore when we see companies ask game designer candidates on the various job boards "What kind of ideas do you have? How would you improve Game X?", they are doing things precisely backwards!

The job of a game company is not, primarily, to look for new game designers. (They do have to get them, but that is a supplemental job.) Rather the job of a game company is to look for new game designs. If, in finding new game designs, they also find talented game designers, so much the better. (And, yes, they need to hire supporting staff.) But finding the designers is a secondary concern (even if, admittedly, it is a necessary one).

Thus companies should seek new designs - internally or externally. In other words, in seeking a new design the proper question a company should be asking the author of said design that comes through their door is this: "What do you have for me? Surprise me. Tell me something new." In other words, they shouldn't be looking to the person so much as to the design that is to be tabled. If a company doesn't like the tabled design, their next statement should be, "Don't like it. What else do you got?"

If the company does like it, they should buy it, for a fee, and hire the designer to do all the changes and additional work that is going to be necessary to turn the raw design into a piece of workable software - and, unless the design candidate has a name, the company should also control the final outcome of the design, and the design should be affected by the creative input of the other designers who come together to make it.

This company that buys a game design can be a developer or a publisher, but more than likely it will be a publisher who sets up a temporary company whose express purpose is to make the one game (or franchise) being looked at.

This means, then, that if YOU want to be a game designer, your job is to design games. It is not to get a wage and a stable job at one company for the next 10 years. (If you think that way then you are mediocre.) You may work for a developer, but it is your duty to yourself, your passion and your talent, to write and then propose your game designs. You may write them in code form; you may write them in design document form. And, here's the clincher: if your employer refuses to produce your game design, it is your duty to seek a party that will produce them. If that means leaving your current employer or separating from your current team then that is your duty.

A corollary to this is that the purpose of a game company (developer or publisher) is not to make money from games. That is a byproduct of it - and if said games do make money YAY!, we are all better off - but that is not the purpose of a game company. Rather, the purpose of a game company is to produce games. Games are not to be made solely for the purpose of making money. They are to be made merely to be what they are: to contribute to our culture, to entertain, in some cases to teach, and also to make money.

A further corollary is that the purpose of game design is not to make game development companies. Making a development company is a formality that usually needs to be done - should be done as every team should be uniquely built to the needs of the game design (not the other way around) - but if you talk as if your ultimate ambition is to make a game company instead of a game design (or designs), then you are talking backwards.

So, let's be clear:

The purpose of doing game design is to design games. Everything else is secondary.


Anonymous said...

You do not need a game company to make games. Repeat after me.
The purpose of any company is to make money.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

The purpose of a company is to make a quality product or service. If it just focuses on making money, up front, its work will be slipshod.

Anonymous said...

Maybe so. But if they don't focus on making money, there will be no work to do.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

If you ask a carpenter what he's focusing on, he likely won't say "I'm focusing on making money". More than likely he'll say "I'm focusing on making a chair"... or whatever it is he's doing.

(If his immediate response *is* to just say he's making money, its likely his chairs will suck.)

Anonymous said...

Ask him what his company is focusing on. It is focusing on making a profit.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

"Making a profit" is too vague. When you talk about your business with your colleagues, whatever you do, you don't blather on about "making a profit". Ninety-five percent of your energy you spend talking about the latest techniques to make a good product or provide a good service.

Back in the 70s the US car manufacturers got nailed by the Japanese because of that "make a buck" mentality. (They hurt themselves, actually.) Their focus was on cranking out cheap shit, but then the Japanese came along with a focus on really high quality cars and totally took a huge market share.

You simply cannot run a successful business now if you put "making a profit" at the top of your priorities. Your focus will be on doing cheap stuff then trying to sell it. You simply *must* focus on quality. If you can achieve quality, you'll sell.

Anonymous said...

I suggest you start a business.
Making a profit is indeed quite often "blathered on" inanely since scraping together paycheck money is a very very real task at a games company. You don't hear about it all the time because it is taken for granted that this is blindly obviously priority #1.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Look man, if you start a business and approach an investor and he asks "What's the business?" and you say "The business is we make money," he will say, "See you later."

Anonymous said...

You have to be kidding. LOL.
The guy isn't going to walk away. He's going to ask you how.

Making great games doesn't necessarily make you money sadly.
And the games industry is a notoriously hit-driven industry. It is very hard to create a hit and even those that can do it can only do it for certain types of games.

So it is not contradictory to have to do something else when push comes to shove in this industry.

Companies make trades all the time so that they will be around to try and make another game.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

He's not going to say "how" because he knows that you are an amateur. It's like suggesting to a computer that "maybe it's not plugged in". You have a 30-second elevator pitch. If you actually say "I have a great business idea: it's a business about making money", his eyes will glaze over and he'll say "Yah right; you and everyone else. See ya buddy."

You are right. Companies do make trades so that they can stay in business. But making games is not about trying to keep a game company afloat. It's about making games. They figured that out in the movie business: every movie is made by a custom-built company that lives only for the duration of production. After the movie is done, the prinicpals go their separate ways and the movie is marketed by a different company - a distributor (equivalent to a game publisher). They don't honest-to-God sit around and say "Okay, we now have this great film company put together. Do one of you guys have a script so we can keep our group together."

Making games is about making games. It's not about keeping game developers together under the same roof indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

More circular argument bullshit from the master of it.

You really are someone who likes to hear himself talk, aren't you? Another self-titled "professional" and "expert" who has absolutely zero real-world experience, who is more interested in penning "edgy" bullshit in order to get hits and feed his own ego.

I just wish people would stop responding to you, because you obviously are doing this to feed your ego, because your ideas are crap. No wonder you whine nonstop about not getting your designs looked at -- if they're anything like the ideas espoused on this waste of bandwidth, I can understand why no one wants to give you the time of day (not to mention the legal ramifications for the developer or publisher, which you don't seem to want to understand... or willfully neglect to in order to try and prove your non-existent point.

I suggest you stick to the QA slash-fiction from your first few posts, since those -- somehow -- come off as more coherent. Or at least they mask your barely-contained bitterness a bit better.

Feel free to reply if you like. You won't get one in return; until you get rid of the giant, economy-size chip on your shoulder and make a point to understand what actually happens in the industry, you're not worth the trouble because you're not interested in debat or an exchange of ideas. You're simply interested in blathering away, telling everyone how wrong they are, even though you're the one who hasn't gotten a clue.

Anonymous said...


Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Taking an ad hominem position. If you can't win the argument, you can attack the arguer.

Anonymous said...

Damn you're stupid, no wonder no one in the game industry listens to you.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Sure, they don't overtly agree with me in the game industry, but that doesn't mean they don't listen.

Anonymous said...

No, you're going to be complaining about why no one wants to make your game forever.

why dont you just make it yourself instead of polluting the internet?

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the time in 3rd grade when I didn't do my homework, and instead of just doing it I got all upset and made a big deal about how homework is wrong and we shouldn't be made to do school-related things when we're at home.

Grassroots Gamemaster, said...

@Anonymous 2 Nov 2007:

If you are in a multidisciplinarian class, but you only do the programming homework and fail to do the English, narrative, UI, aesthetic homework, you aren't doing your homework at all.