Career in Games #1: 7 steps to become a game designer

At our Mobidictum Career in Games event, we discussed many issues related to the industry. Altuğ Işıkan from Netmarble Turkey shared his valuable experience in game design at our event.
altuğ ışığan netmarble be a game designer
Altuğ Işığan explained how to become a game designer in 7 steps.

As Mobidictum, we held our Career in Games event on November 11th! In our event, we hosted experts from the game industry and discussed many issues related to the industry. Altuğ Işığan was our first guest at the event, with the subject of “7 steps to become a game designer”.

Altuğ Işığan is a name who has transitioned to game design from his university career. Thanks to his academic background, he has students in the game industry and is known for his successful works. Altuğ Işığan is very experienced in game design and is currently working as the Lead Game Designer at Netmarble Turkey.

Altuğ Işığan shares his experience on how to be a game designer in 7 steps

As the gaming industry grows, more and more people want to be a part of the industry. There is a great demand, especially in the field of game design. For those interested in the game industry and who want to be a game designer, Altuğ Işığan shares his experience and advice with us in 7 steps.

While making recommendations, Isigan defines these 7 steps as attitudes that need to be adopted over time, rather than processes that need to take place sequentially.

Start making games now!

Işığan states that the first step is to start making games immediately. To be a game designer, first of all, it is necessary to master the whole concept of the game. Işığan makes the following statements regarding the subject:

“If you want to be a game designer, your first task should be to start making games. Now you can ask ‘How so? I don’t know coding, I don’t know how to make graphics.’ Well, making digital games is not the only way to make games. You should not ignore that there are many channels, methods, and technologies for making games. You should start making games as soon as possible. It may be a card game, or a board game, it may be a theater-like roleplay, but somehow start implementing the ideas you come up with , and keep doing it.”

At this point, Işığan states that people who have a gamified idea and want to be game designer should make their ideas a prototype as soon as possible. On the other hand, he warns game designer candidates not to reveal their ideas haphazardly and to implement them themselves if possible.

After getting the prototype ready, Işığan advises people to test it and get feedback. He states that a lot of things can be learned from this process. After going through these processes, our speaker expresses an important point that needs to be made as follows:

“When your games reach a certain level of maturity; decorate and pack them, then share them on the relevant channels. Make your games and release them. This has two benefits for you: First, you have a portfolio. Second, people know when you release your game.”

Get a university degree

Altuğ Işığan says that another recommendation is to get a university education. Stating that this advice can sometimes be found strange, Işığan makes the following statement on the subject:

“There are some criticisms about universities. But you have to believe that if people who make all these criticisms are the ones who will hire you when you apply for a job. The first thing they will ask is ‘Where did you graduate from?’. Rest assured, if you’re not a university graduate, they’ll most likely eliminate you. So, put aside the judgments like ‘University is a waste of time, they don’t teach anything at university,’ and try to get a university degree.”

In different parts of the world, university education can be sought as a prerequisite for employment in game development. University can be seen as a requirement of being educated and trained. At this point, Altuğ Işığan draws attention to the importance of university education.

You must master the language

Language is at the heart of game design. Altuğ Işığan addresses the issue as follows:

“If you want to be a game designer, you must have a good command of the language because language is at the very center of your profession. When I say you need to have a good command of the language, I don’t mean only English. You also need to be fluent in your mother language. The ability to explain your problem most simple and clear is critical. Because when you work, your whole day is knitted with it.”

Continuing his speech by giving examples from his business life, Işığan states how important it is for game designers to master the language. Expressing that “games are languages in themselves” based on the thoughts of some philosophers, our speaker interprets game design as “language design” in a sense and ends his words on the title as follows.

“If someone doesn’t understand you, it’s your responsibility.”

Not only play but also read

Reading is an action that adds positive value to game design. The game industry, which produces a variety of games in quite different genres today, is also a pool of many culture. Regarding the subject, Altuğ Işığan explains why reading is important:

“Games are actually products created at the intersection of many different disciplines and knowledge. We are in the middle of a multidisciplinary field. There are elements of graphic design, architecture, color theory, software and music theory, and more. You, as the game designer, are the person involved in the orchestration of all this.”

As a golden piece of advice to game designers, keeping the cultural area of interest broad is very important. The most important source of this is still books. Apart from these, there are also professional sites and digital environments where people share their knowledge and experience. Altuğ Işığan summarizes this issue as follows:

“You must have a collection of books, not just games. Take care to be an active reader as well as an active player.”

Playing a lot of games doesn’t make you a game designer

You might think that playing a lot of games will make you a good game designer. But this is not always true. Işığan gives the following examples on the subject:

“Just as driving a lot of cars doesn’t make you a car designer, playing a lot of games doesn’t make you a game designer directly.”

He explains why this is so by separating the player from the developer who makes the game:

“We don’t have a chance to interpret games like a player. Here, we should be able to define which concept the words said by the player corresponds to in terms of the design dictionary and integrate the requirements of that design concept into the game we are building. Therefore, we look at games with the vocabulary of a game designer and we are in the kitchen of the business.”

Stating that the necessary knowledge for game making cannot be obtained by playing games alone, our speaker says that game designers should be more than just players.

Take action to make a prototype

Just verbalizing the game ideas can be highly inadequate. At this point, Altuğ Işığan recommends making a prototype or at least a visualized narrative at the idea stage:

“Verbal-only narratives are so inefficient. Instead, if you want to be a game designer, instead of telling people verbally, put your game idea into a ‘storyboard’ and visualize the flow of the game. On top of that, get your hands dirty by prototyping. Rather than explaining a game at length, making a prototype and making people play it for 15 minutes is a much more effective method.”

Stating that this narrative style should be made an indispensable reflex in game design, Işığan says a prototype can be made even with elementary materials such as paper, scissors, glue, and dice, etc.

Be curious about every aspect of the gaming industry

The gaming industry is a vast and diverse ecosystem with many different topics. It includes experts in many various fields, from historians to musicians. At this point, Altuğ Işığan addresses the issue as follows:

“Get curious about every aspect of the gaming industry. There is a very fundamental reason for this. When you enter the industry as a game designer, you will realize that although the designer plays a central role, you are not alone and will be working with people with many other specialties. The whole process involves more than just design work. It is essential to understand this process with all its dimensions and to develop an awareness about it. Trying to know the whole is significant as an attitude.”

We can think those game designers are sometimes able to determine many things, almost like a “director”. Işığan warns us that although game design plays a key role, this idea is not entirely correct. He draws attention to the importance of working in harmony with the team.

Our speaker ends his speech on the subject as follows:

“It is very important to adopt data-driven design and chase success through it.”

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