Hey Dev! I love your blog and you inspired me to get into game development. I have a masters degree in psychology and some basic knowledge on game design. Could this be enough to get a job as a game designer in the industry?

Maybe? It entirely depends on what comprises “some basic knowledge on game design”. The psychology is tangentially useful, but it’s still icing unless we're  specifically hiring for a psychology consultant. Game design skills are the cake hiring managers are looking for, and those are the skills you’ll have to demonstrate in order to get hired as a game designer. If you want a job in video games, you need some kind of specialization - at least one field where you’re good enough to ship content. This can mean level design, item design, encounter design, combat design, system design, narrative design, etc. A generalist must be able to create shippable content in multiple fields.


If you want to get a job as a game designer, you need to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you can design game content. This starts by analyzing and understanding what makes existing game content good and bad, and then takes the crucial step beyond by extrapolating those skills into creating new content that provokes a new intended experience in the player. This is a lot harder than it seems from the outside; there are tons of armchair designers on various forms of social media who can spend hours picking apart game designs but lack the ability to come up with new designs that resonate with players.


A good designer can use game development tools to craft an experience for the players who engage with that content. That’s what we’re looking for when we look to hire somebody. This often means showing a good understanding of how all the little pieces fit together to form a cohesive intended experience - mechanics, visuals, timing, rewards, numbers, colors, tension, incentives, goals, teaching, and so on and so forth. A designer uses all of the pieces to build a story for players to experience. The better the designer, the more compelling and consistent the story.


I always encourage game design candidate hopefuls to get their hands dirty and create game content of some kind. Make your own D&D module/campaign, create a quest using Skyrim’s creation kit, create a board game, create a card game, create a map for Portal/CS:GO/TF2/etc., Twine narrative adventure, or whatever. Create something that others can play. Then let them play it and see how it worked out. Think about what worked, what didn’t, and what you can improve. Then repeat that process until you start to get a feel for how all of the pieces fit together for a good player experience. That’s game design. Those are the kind of skills we’re looking for in a candidate. I wish you good luck.

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