What You Need to Know as a Beginner Game Designer
Becoming a videogame designer can be a daunting prospect, but if you are passionate about it, you can make it happen. Following are some important things to keep in mind for your game development process.
Beginner Game Design Tip #1: Follow Developers You Admire
Thanks to the internet, you have access to free education and mentorship 24/7. There are literally thousands of videos on YouTube and Livecoding.TV where video game developers share videos of themselves coding and working on other parts of the process. You can learn from these at no cost, no matter your previous education or lack thereof, whenever you are available to watch them, entirely at your own pace. Videos can be rewatched as much as needed to get the concept, and oftentimes there are links to other useful resources on the topic within the video itself or within the description beneath it.
Take advantage of these free, convenient resources to learn the process and find other developers whose work you are especially interested in and follow them closely. They will be great sources of education, inspiration, and industry news. And in some cases, you may even be able to become friends in real life.
Beginner Game Design Tip #2: Follow Game Development News
In addition to keeping up with and learning from fellow developers, following news sources for the industry is a great idea. It’s not always ideal to create to market, where trends come and go more quickly than games can be developed and launched, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the trends. What do people want right now? What types of games are in style at the moment? While answers to these questions change all the time, keeping your eye on them could help you spot holes in the market that your game could fill, or at least give you some good ideas for your game.
Sources to consider following include GameDeveloper.com, GamesRadar.com, and GameInformer.com. To avoid getting overwhelmed with information, start by subscribing to the newsletter of one of these sites and gradually sign up for more if you have time for it. As important as staying up to date may be, overwhelm due to information overload can kill creativity and productivity. So choose one and take it slow.
GameDeveloper.com features fascinating articles on the game industry as well as related industries. Things like studio acquisitions, company stock updates, relevant scientific research, and news related to comic books and the movies and games based on them.
GamesRadar.com is an informative website that also produces several game-related magazines. They publish five magazines regularly, namely Retro Gamer, Edge, Total Film, SFX, and Play. These magazines are available online but can also be purchased and shipped in a physical format.
GameInformer.com is a great source of news and especially games reviews. Take a good look at the reviews and learn what you can from them. What kinds of things do the reviewers, who may review your game someday, love? What are their pet peeves in games? And which reviewers do you agree with?
Beginner Game Design Tip #3: Play Games Like the Ones You Want to Design and Take Notes
Take a look at similar games to the ones you want to design. What is it about them that appeals to you? What are the good and bad things said in both critical reviews and user reviews? What commonalities do the games have that make them all so good? What are the important differences that make them unique?
Consider all these questions as you research and also play several of these games. Be sure to experience them for yourself in addition to researching others’ reviews on them. Write down your thoughts as you go so that you can refer back to them during your own game development process.
Beginner Game Design Tip #4: Think Big, but Start Now
Starting a new project is intimidating. But it is important to realize that you may never feel ready to begin, and most other creative people feel the same way. There is no way to know how many incredible games, stories, and inventions never came to be because creatives were too caught up in making preparations to begin and waiting to feel ready to begin. So start right now. It doesn’t matter how unprepared you are. It doesn’t matter if you can’t afford the software you need yet. It doesn’t matter if you work three jobs and don’t know how you’ll ever find the time.
Write down some ideas or type them on your phone. Figure out what you can temporarily stop buying or how you could temporarily make some extra money to purchase the software you need. How much do you need and how long will it take to get it? Tell a trusted friend or family member that you’re starting now so that you’ve said it out loud and now you have to.
Don’t put this off until a more convenient time. Life will keep happening and you only have one life to live. So if this is something that is important to you, find a way to make it happen.
Beginner Game Design Tip #5: Commit to Diligent, Regular Effort
Creating fantastic things is not nearly as glamorous as it may seem. There is an awful lot of behind-the-scenes work to be done, and you’ll get stuck sometimes and have to do some serious figuring out.
But that is a normal thing. All creatives go through it, you just don’t hear about it because it’s not fun to talk about and doesn’t look good online. But it is a natural part of the process. So get ready to stubbornly keep working at your project even when things go wrong and you have to slow down to figure it out.
How much work is involved in becoming a game designer? To learn more, visit my article Is Becoming a Game Designer Hard? Essential Guide.
Beginner Game Design Tip #6: Try to Think Outside the Box and Innovate
Obviously, you can’t simply remake a game that people already love. You’ve got to put your own spin on things. Thinking outside the box is really challenging, but that’s what has made so many games so successful.
One way to do this is to take in media that is similar but not exactly the same as other games or genres you regularly pay attention to. Consider reading some popular books in a similar genre to your game if applicable. What story ideas can you take away from those?
What about movies? What action scene choreography inspires you? What graphics would you love to see in your game? How could you apply these things differently than they’ve been used in games before?
You could even try playing some completely unrelated games to what you’re working on developing. Maybe even some games for a different age group or for people with totally different interests than you. What can you learn from them that you missed or weren’t exposed to in your regular games and media content?
Beginner Game Design Tip #7: Code, Test, and Play Regularly
Whenever you get inspired about a particular aspect of your game, you should go ahead and code it in or build it out as best you can right away. Then test it immediately. It won’t be perfect and there will be things to fix, but getting it going fast is so much better than waiting around until you have the idea perfected. Waiting for perfection is how ideas shrivel up and die, or get discovered by someone else and made famous before you ever got around to working on it. Do what you can as quickly as possible and then use that momentum to make necessary changes as needed.
Is there a learning curve to game design? Yes. Can anyone learn it? Yes. To learn more, visit my article Learning Game Development On Your Own: Step-By-Step Guide.
Beginner Game Design Tip #8: Keep Learning New Things
Never stop learning. Inspiration comes with new information, and the more you know the better you’ll be at thinking outside the box, making things up as you go effectively, and accomplishing things efficiently.
Other people will constantly be creating games and new ways to do things and new ways to sell things, so keep an ear out for innovations by other people that you can take advantage of for your own project.
Beginner Game Design Tip #9: Play Your Game Extensively
Even though playing your game a ton might be the last thing you want to do when you’ve been staring at it and coding and building, you need to anyway. It’s your job to get it as clean as you can before having players give it a go, and it’s your job to ensure that you’re meeting your vision for the game.
Plus, you’ve created something really incredible. Maybe other developers have created other things that you think are better than yours. And maybe they are. But once you’ve created your first game, you’ve majorly outplayed your past self, and that’s the best way to measure how you’re doing. The next game you build will be better than this one. But for now, you’ve done better than ever before and you should enjoy it and make sure that your future players will enjoy it as well.
Beginner Game Design Tip #10: Set a Release Date to Push Yourself toward Completion
As much as you are responsible for getting the game as good as it can be before introducing it to the world, remember how waiting on perfection is how ideas shrivel up and die? The same thing happens to mostly-complete-but-not-perfect games. Your game will never be perfect. And that’s okay. No one’s game ever is. That’s why updates get released all the time. It’s a normal thing, and odds are most people won’t see the imperfections in your game that drive you crazy.
Eventually, you’ve got to remember that done is better than perfect, and just release it. You can make adjustments and release updates like any other developer as needed.
Set yourself a date, make it official, and get your game done enough in time.
Enjoy the Process!
This process will be challenging. There will be unexpected expenses and frustrations and disappointments and roadblocks. But if this is what you are passionate about and really want to do, you’ve got to do it. Remember that you’ve got one life, only one, so you should spend it doing things that you enjoy as much as you can. If game development is more frustrating than it’s worth, then that’s okay. Find something else that delights you and gets you excited to get up and work even when you’re tired.
But if game developing really matters to you and being a game developer is a part of your identity that you want to invest in, then do it. Work through all the hard things and enjoy all the fun things and victories. Take breaks when you need to and then get back to it. Stubbornly enjoy the process as much as you can so you can know that you spent your time and energy on something that was worth it.
You’ve got this! Best of luck to you!
One reason you may have for getting into game design is that you’re looking for a side hustle or extra ways to make money. To learn whether you can make money from game design, check out my article Can You Become Rich as a Game Designer? What You Should Know.