As a professional game designer and a professor at Dartmouth College, Mary Flanagan (pictured) has had to answer tough questions over the years, not the least of which: “How do you become a game designer?”
“I was asked a question like this years ago,” she said on the official GDC podcast earlier this month, which featured Gamasutra and radio hosts from London’s One Life Left (full list of guests here). “‘How do you teach creativity?’ ‘How do you teach someone art?’ … These are big questions.”
“How do you become a game designer? Well, first, you have to try to make games,” she said. “You have to try it, in any way. It can be modding existing games. Take rock, paper, scissors, and make it cooperative. Change the game goal to make it so three winners have to do something together. Start by modifying goals – that’s one way that people try to get quickly into games.”
Flanagan reminded us that video games are not so far removed from ancient forms of play – even though video game design operates in a modern medium, there are still strings that tie digital and non-digital games closely together. She suggested designers should educate themselves on the history of play and of games.
“There tends to be this idea that digital games are somehow different than the 8,000 year history we have of playing games and beyond," she said. "I like to tie those things together. Humans have always played, animals play, and we’re still continuing that tradition in different media forms, and that’s really exciting.”