Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Makes a Good Designer

This video over on Escapist gives a fantastic primer for those interested in the field of Game Design, on what skills you need.

Much of it resonated with me, particularly the importance of good communication, not being precious about the value of your ideas and the need to have a breadth of life experience outside of our immediate pop culture from which to draw from.

If you are interested in being a designer and Star Wars is a hugely influential movie in your upbringing for example, then you owe it to yourself to see The Hidden Fortress, and to read Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

In response to the above video, my good friend Tadhg Kelly has posted an insightful article on Gamasutra that I also love.  In it, he disputes the myth that ideas are cheap.  The debate of the power of Great Ideas vs Great Execution is one that is often waged in game design circles (and is going on right now in Tadhg's comment thread.).

For myself, I don't think it's an either or debate.  You need both.  Anyone can have a great idea, but it takes a good creative to recognize the value of that idea and be able to retain it within, while working through various iterations (execution) to bring that good idea to life.

I always say the only bad idea is the one that you keep inside and never share.  Particularly when brainstorming with a group, never be afraid of what may come from spouting out what you think may be a bad idea.  'Bad' ideas naturally expire when they outlive their usefulness, but in giving them some life, they may laterally bring us to another great idea otherwise undiscovered.

So really, there truly are no such thing as bad ideas!

However, being able to sift through ideas to find the nugget of greatness and having the further curiosity to explore, iterate and execute on that idea is definitely the sign of a great designer.

As is the ability to discard an idea when it has outlived it's usefulness.

Finally, a good friend of mine called Dave Filoni, gave some of the best advice for creatives I ever heard, and I've adopted it as kind of a maxim.  It was something he was told by George Lucas, while creating Season 1 of the Clone Wars.

At every step, they were in uncharted waters trying to achieve something technically and visually on a scale that had never been achieved in TV animation and they would hit a wall they would think was impossible to get over.

So I'll leave these words for anyone who wants to be a game designer but may feel intimidated, or for the experienced designer that has a great idea but is unsure if it will work.

"Don't be afraid!" 

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