Inspired by Good Product Manager / Bad Product Manager, I thought I'd give my take on what makes a good game designer
A good game designer understands their job is to make a fun game. A good game designer knows they have a lot of responsibilities, but nothing they do matters if the game is not fun. A bad game designer does a lot of small tasks that make them feel productive.
A good game designer creates memorable and fun moments for the player. A bad game designer thinks a game is like a series of widgets that need to be fit together, and just wants to make it long enough.
A good game designer is clear and easy to understand. A good game designer knows that written documents, videos/gifs, and talking to someone all useful. A bad game designer can’t explain what they want. A bad game designer gives too many details when brainstorming a design, and too few details when communicating it to developers. A bad game designer blames others for not understanding them.
A good game designer is open-minded, but will defend their design. A good game designer understands no game in history has ever make 100% of people happy. A good game designer realizes that other people, even those with lots of experience or “management,” are just other people with opinions; thus, a good game designer is not afraid to disagree. A bad game designer will say “the game wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t my fault. XYZ people wanted it that way.”
A good game designer knows that there are a million small decisions that the developer must make to implement their design. A good game designer does not try to specify all million of these small decisions and instead trusts their team to make decisions. That is why a good game designer says “we made this game.” A bad game designer thinks “I made this game.”
A good game designer understands the above is true for every other part of the team, not just development.
A good game designer knows if they cannot trust the people they work with, that is a Big Problem. Depending on the situation, a good game designer may give direct feedback, train their team, or communicate to management. A bad game designer will avoid the issue.
A good game designer will work with developers. If engineering says a design is too hard to make, a good game designer will strive to understand why and suggest alternatives. A bad game designer either fights with engineers all the time, or is so wowed by engineering that they take everything they say at face value.
A good game designer guides our artists by providing reference images and describing the feel of the game. A bad game designer micromanages by providing an exact layout for everything but doesn’t explain why. A good game designer gives feedback on art quickly. A bad game designer tells the artists to redraw the room’s perspective after a week of iterations since they forgot something.
A good game designer introduces complexity only when absolutely necessary. A good game designer understands no one will understand the game as well as them, and that players very easily get confused. A bad game designer mistakes complexity for greatness and says the player does not understand the beauty of their design.
A good game designer stays with a game until it is finished. A good game designer will make sure the parts of the game they thought were fun and important are intact when the game is made. A bad game designer thinks the initial design phase is the sexiest and most important part of design, and doesn’t follow up on the details as the game is made.
A good game designer respects their players, and wants to deliver a fun experience for them. A good game designer knows they can succeed and make a game they are proud of. A bad game designer is cynical and thinks they didn’t succeed because they didn’t “sell out.”
Haiku Games is the developer behind the Adventure Escape series. Play on iOS, Google Play, or Kindle!