To quote another designer I know, the answer to your question is “More than you think but (perhaps) not in the ways you’re hoping for.” DMs and game designers both begin from the same starting point - the goal is to craft an experience for the players. From there, there are a variety of skills that can cross over:
- Creating maps and dungeons involve level design. How do placement and types of rooms tell a story? Why should there be traps in the kobold barracks? How should you juggle trap and object placement, the layout of the space in a way that makes intuitive sense (e.g. a goblin base), and still is fun and interesting to explore?
- Creating characters and overall story beats involve narrative and quest design. What kind of personalities do these characters have? Is there a narrative arc? What are the major story beats? How do the potential choices of the player affect the world around them?
- Setting up fights with enemies, traps, puzzles, etc. involves encounter design. How challenging should the fight be? What are interesting combinations of enemies? How strong should each of the enemies be?
- Creating interesting loot is item/reward design. What kind of loot do you give the player? Where does it get handed out? How much gold should they get? How strong should the items they find be?
Overall it’s the Dungeon Master preparation skills tend to translate to video game design in several aspects. Live Dungeon Mastering bits of reacting to players in real time aren’t as useful because we don’t get to make adjustments in real time - we have to build the game beforehand, which the players play without us being able to watch over their shoulders or fudge their rolls to help them out of tight spots. The main useful skill from live play adjustments is figuring out where the planning went wrong and solving those issues systemically so they don’t happen again.
Much of video game design is railroading players into having the experience you want them to have. This is necessary because we cannot adjust to their desires on the fly, nor is it feasible to prepare for everything a player might ever do. The important skill is identifying what most players will want to do and preparing for those scenarios and directing them to converge in a way that leads to a satisfying experience overall. Good game designers are more adept at hiding those railroad tracks.
Got a burning question you want answered?