If we talk about the 'Game Designer' there usually is immediate confusion on what this person actually does. Some say they have something to do with the 'art' and visuals in the game, and some say they are the architect of the game structure. In this article I would like to describe the true meaning of a 'Game Designer' and how they can survive in the game industry.
Source: Abbey Games http://abbeygames.com/game-design-the-designer-class-what-does-he-do/
Confusion in Definition
Some of the confusion is related to other industries or other professions in the 'IT world'. For example: a visual designer on websites, does really work on the 'exterior' of the website. Therefore 'designer' is used to point out he can provide consistency in color and form. A game designer is someone who comes up with new 'mechanics' and 'rules'. He tests them on target audiences and provides consistency between these elements.
Confusion in Execution
In a development team everybody has it's tasks. Programmers crack their minds about the code and we trust them with that. Artists sink their hands deep into the paint and we know they will create something great. Game designers however, tinker with concept and ideas. The problem is, everyone has ideas. What usually happens in smaller teams is that everyone has something to say about the concept or the ideas or mechanics or ruleset. This is normal behaviour because everyone wants to 'contribute' something of their own. With this contribution everyone feels more connected to the project. But what really happens is that the game designer gets completely overruled. We have to stop interfering with game designers and lay our trust in their expertise!
Game Designer Only
Today there are a lot of game development companies around, especially since the rise of the mobile market. Game Designers are not needed as much as Programmers or Artists. Usually companies already have a game designer that stayed there from the start of the company. This game designer is really the core of the company's type of games, therefore a secondary game designer is not always needed. I think today all game designers still need to have a second expertise to make them employable in different parts in the company.
If I compare this to my situation;
I am educated as a game designer. In my first year I already discovered game design alone will not be enough to assure myself with a job. I did some self-education on 'Game Art' and visuals. Besides game design I was educated with basic programmer skills. Eventually I found my true skill that is the role of a 'Producer'. Now I am blessed with the knowledge of all expertises and use them when I make decisions or explainations when leading teams, but I did not end up being a fulltime game designer.
Now my question to you is; What is your view on the game designer?