The Game Design Gap.

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Game design, as a discipline, currently has a fairly serious roadblock; making games is hard.

I’m not saying that code is hard, though it is. I’m not saying that making good art is hard, though it is. I’m saying that game design requires both code and art to support it, so you need to have knowledge of all three domains.

This makes it hard for a game designer to actually turn their design in to a game, and thus, in to a portfolio. It doesn’t help that there are less schools due to ludology being a ‘new’ field and less widely applicable than art and coding. We’re missing the keystone in the middle of the career arch going from ‘interested’ to ‘professional’.

On the one hand we have kids playing LittleBigPlanet or Disney Infinity and and making their own levels. This is doing great for creativity in kids in general, alongside games like Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program, but it can also get kids interested in game design. So we’ve got a start for our journey.

On the other hand we have professional development software. Where’s the intermediate stage? Don’t get me wrong. I love UDK and Unity, and they’ve already lowered the barrier to entry a fair bit, allowing games like http://mindpathtothalamus.com/ and http://www.mikebithellgames.com/thomaswasalone to exist. But these engines still require a fairly large amount of skill in both art and code, even when taking in to consideration the asset store.

There is very little to bridge that gap. Currently, your best shots are:
1) have money and hire people to develop your idea
2) a school where all 3 disciplines are taught and make the most of your group project time
3) start a group project with willing coders and artists
4) do everything yourself

The first two cost a fair amount of money. The third leaves you at the mercy of others, all which promote their own ideas and will likely consider you non-contributing, and the majority of such projects fail pretty harshly. So I hope you make a good polymath.

But there’s hope on the horizon. Not in the form of twine, though many herald it as a game changer; guys, it’s a stack of hyperlinks, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure. Not in the form of game maker which is very restricted if you use the built-in functions, or have to learn a non-transferrable language if you want freedom.

No, it’s in the progress of going from playing games to basic map editors to video toys where the players make the rules. It’s in the simplification from machine code to scripts to the current trend of adopting node-based systems.

There used to be two fifths of an arch on the ground. Now we have four fifths.

I can hardly hardly wait for that magnificent last piece.

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