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Educational Feature: 5 Ways Game Designers Communicate

Educational Feature: 5 Ways Game Designers Communicate

October 28, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

No one should assume that aspiring game designers understand what it means when they’re told they need to be good communicators to succeed at the job.

Game designer Tim Lang has written an article on Gamasutra sister educational site,, “5 Ways Game Designers Communicate,” that explains the five main ways that designers communicate their ideas.

Students and others who are new to game development may take for granted the fact that designers have to communicate a game design concept to a team of people, not to mention publishers and executives. What’s more, those people likely have different communication styles and abilities, so explaining a game concept to each of them in varying amounts of detail is never the same task.

The quality of game designers isn't based just on their designs. It’s also based on their communication skills. Lang points to five main ways that game designers communicate a game concept with others.

The first is through conversation, or verbal communication. The second is through writing, notably design documents. The third is through pictures, though whether these are flow diagrams or menu mockups, they are still static.

The fourth is through design animatics, or moving storyboards, which are closer to a game but still don’t offer any interaction with the viewer. The final way is through prototypes, or simple working examples of a game or its mechanics.

While prototypes are head and shoulders above the rest in terms of clearly explaining a game idea, they are the most time-consuming to create. In fact, each form of communication has its strengths (and weaknesses, too, of course). In the article, Lang makes a point of clarifying when and how each type of communication is most useful.

He writes: “Compared to the other methods of communication, prototyping is astoundingly time consuming to get off the ground. If I'm describing a game mechanic in straight text, I can usually rip that out in a couple of hours. Images take me longer. Flash-based storyboards take longer still. If I’m prototyping a single game mechanic, even with help, my time estimates would probably be in the weeks, not days. Is it time well spent, though? You bet!”

To read the full article, “5 Ways Game Designers Communicate,” visit

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