Get That Job: How to be a lead game designer

Get That Job: How to be a lead game designer
Alex Calvin

By Alex Calvin

August 28th 2014 at 10:00AM

Quick-fire tips on getting that new job in games

Playground Games' Ralph Fultondiscusses the skills needed to head up development in his role as lead game designer on upcoming racing title Forza Horizon 2.

How would someone become a lead game designer?
By getting a lot of experience. You have a lot of responsibility. I cannot imagine making the decisions I make about game content without having the experience I have. Trust is so important and when people can see that you’ve been making video games for as long for the likes of Rockstar North and Guerrilla Games those around you trust in your experience.
What qualifications and/or experience do you need?
Any kind of degree is going to give you a better chance of getting into the industry. It takes smart people to make games and having a degree tells me that you’re smart, committed and disciplined. We’ve also hired people because they’ve been very active in the modding scene or have a portfolio containing games or demos that the candidate has made by themselves.

I got into the QA department of a Scottish games company and learned first-hand how games are made. This experience helped me out considerably when the opportunity arose to become a game designer. This is a career path I’d highly recommend to any aspiring game designer.

If you’re interviewing someone to join your team what do you look for?
Senior designers need to have a more extensive skillset than entry-level designers, obviously.

However, they should have excellent communication skills. In a project’s  concept phase designers write pitch documents and then present them to the leadership team. Then, throughout production, they have to make sure that every person working on a feature is fully aware of what is required of them. This means that both written and verbal communication skills are essential for any aspiring game designer.

We also want people who are determined to succeed and hungry to learn. We’re in a fortunate position to have so many ambitious people in one studio. We’re constantly striving to be better and to achieve more. Our games and our studio benefit massively as a result of this ambition.

Playing games has to be their number one hobby. This is incredibly important for us at Playground Games.

What opportunities are there for career progression?
There are excellent opportunities for progression here. We have a fantastic performance management program, here. It’s all about setting the right objectives for your team, providing them with everything they need to meet those and meeting to discuss progress. This has been incredibly successful for us.
Why choose to follow a career in your field?
Every day at work, you feel like you’re a part of a creative collective, all pushing to reach the very top in their field. No two games are ever the same, so making games means you’re working in an environment that
is constantly evolving and improving.