Nigel Kershaw – Freelance Game Designer

Nigel Kershaw

A freelance game designer, Nigel Kershaw, visited the University of Bolton to give us a talk. His presentation topic was ‘what does a game designer actually do?’ He started off by talking about his background in the industry, which was extremely interesting as he has a great amount of experience. One of the points which he talked about, which grabbed my attention was ‘communicating play’.

As a game designer, it is extremely important to communicate not only with your design team, but with artists and programmers too. Nigel Kershaw mentioned in his talk that ‘it’s critical that everyone needs to know what the game is’. (Lang, 2008) online blog titled ‘5 ways game designers communicate’ mentions that ‘great ideas are useless without great communication’ meaning, if you cannot communicate your idea across efficiently and effectively, then the idea is pointless.

There are many ways to communicate play in the industry, as mentioned by Nigel, these are the hook, the prototype, the presentation and the design document. These are great ways in which you can ‘set the building block, feelings, themes and unique selling points’.

  • The hook is used in order to describe your game in very few words. Nigel gave a great example of this, ‘brutal off road racing in a chaotic environment’. It gives each team an idea of what they are making, in a very simple and short way. As mentioned by (Clark, 2015) online blog titled ‘what makes an indie hit?: How to choose the right design’, he mentions that ‘the hook is some interesting bit of information about the game that compels people to try it. So not only is it for the company to get the idea of the project, but the customers can also get the feel of the game before they make a purchase.
  • The prototype is the method we use to get gameplay working as fast as possible. It is a great way to get an idea of how the game will play. As mentioned by Nigel, you would want to get the game built fast, whether it’s on paper or a quick demo, in order to get that idea across, the feel of the games direction and to show off each mechanic that you had in mind.
  • The picture is a great way to communicate to each team. Everyone can get a feel of the game and mode of the game from one picture alone. As Nigel said ‘pictures tell 1000 words’. Concept art is the main way you show this as you can really get a feel of the project, without the need of an explanation.
  • The presentation is a good way to show your game idea in depth with illustrations of what the game is about. (Davis, 2010) online blog titled ‘how to pitch your project to publishers’, says that ‘the creation and presentation of the pitch is one of the most important parts of developing structure and success of any video game’. However not every game idea passes the initial pitch.
  • Design document is the dreaded document in which all game designers have to write out. It is your best guess at what you imagine your game to be. It is a great document to have in the industry, as programmers, designers and artists will be able to have a really good idea of what game they will be creating. (Ryan, 1999) online blog titled ‘the anatomy of a design document, part 1: Documentation guidelines for the game concept and proposal’ says that the game design document ‘removes the awkwardness of programmers, designers and artists coming to the producers and designers and asking what they should be doing’. As Nigel mentioned, ‘your idea won’t be judged on the document you create but the game you make’.
concept art taken from, (Daugaard, n/d)

Not only do you need communication in the company but you can also have communication to your players such as constant updates to social networking. (Walker, 2014), a game designer at Valve, online video titled ‘community and communication in games-as-services’ mentions that you should ‘expand your concept of communication’ and ‘that it’s a lot more than just talking to your customers’. This allows the customers to feedback to you what they think of the game and what they think of certain items within the game and this could help improve or fix a lot of issues that you didn’t even think of. Also as mentioned by Walker, ‘if an update is shipped too much, third party news sites will stop talking about you’, this is extremely important as you want to grab the attention of the media to gain more attraction to your game.

To conclude, communicating play as a designer is an extremely important role because everybody working on the game needs to have an idea of what the game is and how it’s going to be played. Without this, team members will be confused and development will be extremely slow.

Bibliography

Lang, T., 2008. 5 ways game designers communicate. [Online].
Available from: http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/634/5_ways_game_designers_.php?page=1
[Accessed 13 February 2016].

Walker, R., 2014. Community and communication in games-as-services. [Online video].
Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fwv1G3WFSfI
[Accessed 14 February 2016].

Clark, R., 2015. What makes an indie hit?: How to choose the right design. [Online].
Available from: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/RyanClark/20150917/253842/What_Makes_an_Indie_Hit_How_to_Choose_the_Right_Design.php
[Accessed 14 February 2016].

Davis, C., 2010. How to pitch your project to publishers. [Online].
Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/134571/how_to_pitch_your_project_to_.php
[Accessed 14 February 2016].

Ryan, T., 1999. The anatomy of a design document, part 1: Documentation guidelines for the game concept and proposal. [Online].
Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131791/the_anatomy_of_a_design_document_.php
[Accessed 14 February 2016].

Daugaard, B., n/d. City Concept. [Online image].
Available from: https://www.behance.net/gallery/BSP-Texture-painting-City-Mood-Concept/917444
[Accessed 08 May 2016].