Video and computer
A video or computer game designer develops the layout, concept and gameplay of a video or computer game. This may include playfield design, specification writing, and entry of numeric properties that balance and tune the gameplay. A game designer works for a developer (which may additionally be the game's video game publisher).
This person usually has a lot of writing experience and may even have a degree in writing or a related field (such as English). This person's primary job function is writing, so the more experience they have with that activity, the better. Some art and programming skills are also helpful for this job, but are not strictly necessary. In addition game designers often study relevant liberal arts such as psychology, sociology, drama, fine art or philosophy. Due to the increasing complexity of the game design process, many young game designers may also come from a computer science or other computer engineering background.
In larger companies entry level game designers will typically be given simpler tasks such as level design and object placement, while the role of lead designer will be reserved for a designer with more experience and a history of successful titles.
The first video games were designed in the 1960s and 1970s by programmers for whom creating games was a hobby, since there was no way to sell them or earn money from creating games (the games required large mainframe computers to play). Some were designed by electrical engineers as exhibits for visitors to computer labs (OXO, Tennis for Two), others by college students who wrote games for their friends to play (Spacewar!, Star Trek, Dungeon).
Early in the history of video games, game designers were often the lead programmer or the only programmer for a game, and this remained true as the video game industry dawned in the 1970s. This person also sometimes comprised the entire art team. This is the case of such noted designers as Sid Meier, 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 (allowing more features), the job of the game designer became a separate job function, with the lead programmer splitting his time between the two functions, moving from one role to the other. Later, game complexity escalated to the point where it required someone who concentrated solely on game design. Many early veterans chose the game design path eschewing programming and delegating those tasks to others.
Today, it is rare to find a video or computer game where the principal programmer is also the principal designer, except in the case of casual games, such as Tetris or Bejeweled. 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 or vehicles) may have a separate producer, lead designer and several general designers.
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