Doing game design has always been something I really enjoyed spending my free time on… so it must be a great thing to consider for a career, right?*  The role as I would like to pursue it is “Generate ideas and refine them into playable game experiences, for [a] given target audience(s).”  At Wizards, currently, I am spending a fair bit of time helping out with TCG Game Design, specifically for Magic, which has its own detail-driven and schedule-specific goals.  In the past, I have already done some indie board game design (and “development,” which for games means final game design –  iterating for fun and balance) and even some simple online game components.

* – The unspoken “gotcha!” here is that when you make something you enjoy as a hobby or free-time-escape into a full-blown job, it can lose the excitement and become mundane.

I’m going to try to identify the core phrases for pros and cons this time, with more detail when necessary:

Pros

  • Creative. Game design is, at its core, finding a way to give a great experience to the player.  Because there are so many different possible experiences in person-to-person and person-t0-game interaction, the sky is the limit (or maybe not even that!)
  • Problem Solving.
  • Hands-on.
  • Visible, positive impact on audience. When people have fun with a game I helped create, I am very happy.
  • Fun to do. Similarly, the day-to-day work involved in game design is both interesting (see: problem solving) and fun (see: hands-on).
  • Collaborative.

Cons

  • Everyone’s a critic. Although game design is a combination of science and art, unlike some more technical positions like web development, usually everyone (even non-designers) have opinions and will voice them [sometimes angrily!]  This can be frustrating.
  • Not grand scope. Unlike research into new and practical science, giving people fun game experiences won’t usually change the world.  It can certainly make the world a better place, but not the grand extent of change I can imagine myself being part of.
  • Not for it’s own sake. Being a game designer means not just making good games – it means making successful games.  Being judged by whether a product (e.g. a game that people buy) is monetarily successful is not really something I enjoy – tolerate, yes, but we’re talking about ideal career path here!
  • Lots of meetings.  Unlike writing code or doing work in a lab (although to some extent, those tasks are also collaborative), there’s a lot of game design that can only be done in collaboration with others.  If some of those others involved in the process are frustrating to work with, tough cookies.  Note that collaboration is both a pro and a con here!  Wacky!

I’m sure I’ll think of more, this is just a start.