What does a video game designer do? At last, we have an answer.
From this weekend's London Guardian:
...as a video game designer, [Formula 1 2010 designer Stephen] Hood does not create diagrams and pictures (that is for the artists), nor does he write the code that makes everything work (which is the programmers' job). What Hood does is make plans, and then decisions. "I'm trying to be aware of what's going on in the game, so that everything comes together coherently," he says. "That's always the plan." He speaks with quiet authority and the air of a man who seldom panics.
To some people this job might sound easy. And in a sense it is; but it is not easy to do well. "Anybody would be able to say, 'I want to be able to click a button, and the car drives out of the garage. Go and do that, please, team,'" Hood says, as we make our way downstairs in the lift.
"Designers have to be able to say, 'This is where the button is in the game, and when you click it this is what happens. We'll need some animations so the characters can move out of the way, then they'll lower the car down from the jacks and on to the ground. The engine will need to fire up. Then does the player accelerate? Or do we drive them out automatically? Can you just drive into the pit lane? What happens if there's already a car driving down? Do you need to wait for him to go past? Is there is a speed limit in the pit lane? Is it enforced or can the player break it? If they do break it, what happens? If there's a penalty, how do you tell them about the penalty?'" He says all this without stopping. Foreseeing questions, foreseeing consequences, faster than I can write them down. "It's a nightmare," he smiles.
This means a game's designers - especially its chief designer - take the key creative role in making it succeed. Like film directors, they plan and make decisions about what they want to see, and a lot of money rides on them being right. Yet at the heart of it is fun. What is fun? And what isn't?
Sounds like a good job!
Plenty more about Hood's work in the full article...
The video game designer: Extended play [The Guardian]