I’m a Game Designer

10 Jul

(On an elevator ride)

Lady: How’s patent law?

Me: Hmm?

Lady: Patent law. You work in patent law, right?

Me: No, actually I don’t.

Lady: Oh – it’s just that you look stressed out. Patent law people always do! No. You know, I bet you’re an IT guy then, huh?

Me: Nope, but you’re getting warmer.

(We reach her floor. She steps out.)

Lady: Ah, computers it is. I knew it.

Me: I’m a game designer.

(The elevator closes.)


It took a couple of weeks, but I soon realized after graduation that I can no longer hide behind the prospective title of “Student”. Yesterday morning I ran into the above scenario. It was probably the first time, in a position where I’m being paid to work on a video game, that I’ve said out loud ,”I’m a game designer.”

I don’t want to bring a ton of unnecessary attention to such a simple moment, but one of the most unexpected transitions from education to profession was just that: losing the identity of a student for the first time. It’s a feeling Jim first mentioned to me weeks ago, but this was the first time I had to do anything about it.

I don’t intend to further pursue education beyond this point. For the indefinite future, I’ll never be a student again on paper. Never say never, most people would say, but I’m not feeling the novelty of summer vacation wearing off anytime soon. This is probably because in the “real-world” as they call it, summer vacation is merely a myth.

That sort of talk, talk of the real world, always felt slightly condescending to me as a student. As if I’m unaware of the realities of failure, bills, and having to learn how to cook. I never saw, or at least never tried pretending to see, school as a bubble. I don’t try to classify chunks of time in my life where I’m prohibited from certain creative activities unless it’s gated by age, law, or my personal morals/ethics. I prefer to witness time passing as a continuous thread, tailored towards each situation differently.

How those chunks of time objectively define us is only by our subtitle. Then, I was a student. Now, I am not.

As a student, you start to embrace the fact that teachers are generally pretty eager to hear you out, and help out where they can. When that interactivity has the potential to affect your career in more ways that are relevant to it, that’s when a student becomes energized to actually learn. You begin to see that it’s ok to filter out word-math problems, the name of every county in your state, and mono-tone green Apple computers running Oregon Trail. Maybe not so much the last one if you’re a game designer.

I started writing a column for GameCareerGuide back in December of 2009. The first article didn’t come out until earlier last month. It usually doesn’t take me half a year to write one, but it does take half a year to go through an entire year of college. In other words, I was really busy. Much more than schedule conflicts, I chose to write and submit an entirely new piece upon graduating because of a single sentence: “I am not a game developer.”

By this, I meant that I didn’t have a job working on a game up to that point – I was still a student. Perhaps I was going through the trials of one, of a game developer/designer, but it simply didn’t feel as validating as it does now. When writing on a blog, being introduced to a stranger, or representing any thing larger than ourselves, there’s a struggle in defining yourself when you’re still a student. Who’s to say I won’t be enticed to take up that landscaping job for awhile when I’m tight for cash? What am I then?

It’s not easy hearing about, reading about, and experiencing the work of other game designers for so long, only to finally and officially consider yourself one too. This all leaves much to desire. To the imagination. To what motivates you to grow into a better individual.

I feel accountable. I feel pressure. I feel like I’ve got a long ways to go.

I feel like a game designer.

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2 Responses to “I’m a Game Designer”

  1. cr0ybot July 12, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    Cool story, bro.

    This reminds me of one of the first lessons in Jesse Shell’s The Art of Game Design:

    “Just say these magic words:

    I am a game designer.

    I’m serious. Say them out loud, right now. Don’t be shy — there’s no one here but us.

    Did you do it? If so, congratulations. You are now a game designer.”

    • Andrew July 13, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

      Thanks for reminding me about this, Cory. I can’t believe I forgot about that introduction – and I was just reading The Art of Game Design last week!

      /Facepalm.

      Much obliged.

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