Video game design

Video game design is the process of designing the content and rules of a video game in the pre-production stage [1] and designing the gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters in the production stage. The designer of a game is very much like the director of a film; the designer is the visionary of the game and controls the artistic and technical elements of the game in fulfillment of their vision. [2] Video game design requires artistic and technical competence as well as writing skills. [3] As the industry has aged and embraced alternative production methodologies such as agile, the role of a principal game designer has begun to separate - some studios emphasising the auteur model while others emphasising a more team oriented model. Within the video game industry, video game design is usually just referred to as " game design", which is a more general term elsewhere.

Video game programmers have also sometimes comprised the entire design team. This is the case of such noted designers as Sid Meier, John Romero, Chris Sawyer and Will Wright. A notable exception to this policy was Coleco, which from its very start separated the function of design and programming.

As games became more complex and computers and consoles became more powerful, the job of the game designer became separate from the lead programmer. Soon game complexity demanded team members focused on game design. Many early veterans chose the game design path eschewing programming and delegating those tasks to others.

With very complex games, such as MMORPGs, or a big budget action or sports title, designers may number in the dozens. In these cases, there are generally one or two principal designers and many junior designers who specify subsets or subsystems of the game. In larger companies like Electronic Arts, each aspect of the game (control, level design) may have a separate producer, lead designer and several general designers. They may also come up with a plot for the game.


Video game design starts with an idea, [4] [5] [6] [7] often a modification on an existing concept. [4] [8] The game idea may fall within one or several genres. Designers often experiment with mixing genres. [9] [10] The game designer usually produces an initial game proposal document containing the concept, gameplay, feature list, setting and story, target audience, requirements and schedule, staff and budget estimates. [11]

Many decisions are made during the course of a game's development about the game's design; it is the responsibility of the designer to decide which elements will be implemented, based on, for example, consistency with the game's vision, budget or hardware limitations. [12] Design changes may have a significant positive or negative impact on required resources. [13]

The designer may use scripting languages to implement and preview design ideas without necessarily modifying the game's codebase. [14] [15]

A game designer often plays video games and demos to follow the game market development. [16]

It is common for the game designer's name to misleadingly be given an undue amount of association to the game, neglecting the rest of the development team. [17]

Funding game publishers must be taken into account, who may have specific expectations from a game [18] as most video games are market-driven — developed to sell for profit. [19] However, if financial issues do not influence designer's decisions, the game becomes design- or designer-driven; few games are designed this way because of lack of funding. [20] Alternatively, a game may be technology-driven, such as Quake (1996), [21] to show off a particular hardware achievement or to market the game engine. [21] Finally, a game may be art-driven, such as Myst (1993), [22] mainly to show off impressive visuals designed by artists. [22]

In Rules of Play (2004), Katie Salen and Eric Zimmermann write: