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.”