Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Young minds

Back into teaching over the last fortnight and I am reminded (in part) why I am doing what I am doing, or attempting to do. Several students expressed to me a desire (hey hey) to become game designers, clearly having only the vaguest of notions about that which they aspire to be. It's not an issue just yet, as they are first years and therefore not expected to know anything of substance.

The issue that arises from these sort of misconceptions is that students are inevitably disheartened when they find out that the catchall term 'game designer' actually means any number of roles under the design umbrella. They declare they can't draw and don't like or have never considered programming, so want to 'make games'. Their notion of an all powerful conceptualization behemoth that stalks the halls of devcos, distributing consignments of game dev wisdom to the hapless grunts that fashion those pearls of ingenuity into a flawed reality, is, unfortunately for them, rather wide of the mark.

My advice to one such student was a somewhat pithier version of the above; game designers of the ilk to which they refer are highly experienced, having contributed to the production of numerous titles before progressing to a more senior role. These designers are therefore unlikely to be selected from the slavering hulk of massed graduates from any one of the substandard educational offerings currently on, er, offer.

I reflected on the fact that the design role is the sexy one and understandably so in the mind of the student; you create, you delegate, you watch your creation take shape. Of course, the reality is rather different and the collaborative nature of game development offers all team members an opportunity to provide input, not just the man or woman with the title. On top of that, there are numerous roles within the design realm that are typically lumped together under the designer epithet. Still, from a hazy consumer perspective (one which until quite recently this new batch of students all shared) the industry tends to cast that aura about the design role.

My point (and I will eventually arrive at one) is that perceptions are clearly an issue when students consider their potential careers. The cannier kiddies will have sussed out their prospective post and have a fair idea of the realities of game dev, but it's the less perceptive ones who risk devoting three years of their life to this long held aspiration, only find that they've misinterpreted the tealeaves, if in fact they ever boiled a pot in the first place.

Perhaps that's natural selection at play; after all, not every student will have the wherewithal to succeed. Game development, as I am currently discovering, is not easy. In fact, it's fucking hard. Still, one can't help but feel that students should be aware of the realities before they dive in. Universities have to attract bodies and will use the most attractive carrot available to get them. If the role of Game Designer is that coruscant carrot, it feels disingenuous to me.

*image is unrelated, really.
I searched for game design
and got this. Game design!

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