Game Design Class Pt. 1: Team Roles 2


Sunset in Los Angeles

When I was a kid, I had no idea what those people in shiny office buildings downtown actually did.


Whether we’re talking about rural towns in the Midwest or south Los Angeles, I know many students who are in the same boat with the same question: What IS an audio engineer?

If I have a lot of good ideas for games or videos, is that an actual job? Is coming up with ideas an actual job?


Here is what we do in game design class

Day 1: You’re a student

Since you know how to be a student, this is easy.

Day 1 is an introduction to game design roles and vocabulary. You’ll also get links to games and spend time playing a couple.



Day 2: You’re a game tester

Let’s be honest. Game tester is the lowest rung in the ladder. Most interns spend half or more of their time testing games. Still, everyone in our company from the CEO on down does the same game testing.


I call it “eating our own dog food.”

That’s an expression that means to use your own software or product.

Maria, our CEO, hates that saying, so I use it as much as possible.

On Day 2, you play games some more and use Bugzilla to record bugs.



Day 3: You’re a Designer

It’s time to start designing your game. Unless it’s a casual game (you learned what that is on Day 1), it’s going to need a story line. What is your game going to be about? It’s going to need characters. The characters probably need a backstory.

Even if you are making a casual game, it has to have mechanics. No, I don’t mean the guys who fix your car. How are people going to move around in your game? Will they walk, run, jump or swing? Will it just be a matching game where you tap on tiles?

Today, it’s all about your ideas. You’ll also play a couple more games to get new ideas. If you find any bugs, file them on Bugzilla.



Day 4: You’re the Project Manager!

Maybe you’re going to be a project manager, an artist, or a software developer. There are some things every team member needs to know. That includes file sharing, editing documents, taking photos, taking screenshots, and editing videos.

Very few popular games are made by only one person. It takes artists, animators, developers, designers, testers, managers, technical support—all of those people have to work together.


You’ve heard of things being in the cloud

Not this kind of cloud!

That just means it is stored on servers (computers) somewhere else, not on your personal computer or device.

You’re going to start sharing your ideas with your team using Google Drive or OneDrive. If you don’t know how to do that, don’t worry, we’ll teach you.


You’re in charge of quality!

Before you start making your own game, look at what you’ve learned from the games you’ve played. You’ll get a set of game design cards and be asked to pick a game and give suggestions on how you would improve that game.

Be nice! Because next week you’ll meet with the developers for whichever game you picked and they’ll probably ask you for more information on your ideas. Don’t worry, they’re nice, too, and they really want to hear your ideas.


Game design from last's years class - room search.

What kind of questions will they ask you?


Well, for example, if you said there should be a search game where players have to find missing items in a room, the developers might ask,

  • What should the room look like? Is it a bedroom or a kitchen or what?
  • What is missing? Is it a map? Treasure? Are they just finding one missing thing, like in Where’s Waldo, or is it lots of missing things?
  • Should stuff be hidden behind other things, like under a pillow?

Now that you’ve written a lot of your ideas down, it’s time to upload those to the shared drive so everyone else in your team can read them! If you want to take pictures on your phone and upload those, or draw pictures, record videos, that’s perfectly fine, too.


Did you know that the search game in “Crossroads: Options” was an idea from a class at Warwick Public School last summer?

Everything, down to the images—which are all from pictures students took—came from a middle school class.



Day 5: You’re the Creative Director

It’s artwork time!

The Creative Director (in our company, it’s Maria) doesn’t make all of the artwork and animation, although they do some of it. The creative director’s job is to weave the story and “look” of the game together.

Also, the designers, artists, and animators all work for her as part of a team.


Why did I frame this extremely badly-drawn picture?

Original game design illustration draft.
Our original “Fish Lake” and “Spirit Lake” game design!

So, before Maria came to work with us, I had this idea for some games. You can see the wolves from Spirit Lake on the bottom left. On the right is the camp that is at the beginning of Fish Lake and above it is the spot where you go fishing. North of that are the hills where you shoot buffalo in Spirit Lake. To the left is a river you canoe in Fish Lake.

If you play both Spirit Lake and Fish Lake you will recognize (sort of) a lot of this picture. I did it in marker and I suck at art. However, it turned into two really good games.

My point is that you can start like the Warwick students did by taking photos and videos, or you can start like me and the Tate Topa Tribal School students did, which was drawing pictures.

Today, you’ll take a look at some real game design documents, which are super detailed, but all started out like a picture drawn out with markers or someone’s ideas just written down on a pad of paper…really.

So… that’s Week One. You can find out what’s in Week Two in my next post.

You can still sign up for the game design class

There is only one spot left in each of the June sessions.

  • Sign up today if you want in. After that, we’ll put you on the waiting list if anyone drops.
  • There are a few spots in both sessions starting in July, for ages 11-13 and 13-15.

Sign up here.

Get more information here.


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