Case study

Game designer — Laura Kampis

Laura describes her role in the game design process from concept to completion. Find out her top tips for breaking into the industry

How did you get your job as a game designer?

I applied to the BAFTA award-winning UK studio Creative Assembly (CA) during my Masters course, for a role I knew I wasn't yet qualified for. After a Skype interview, CA suggested that I apply for a trainee designer role.

I applied, received an offer and started straight after university.

How relevant is your degree?

My BSc Computer Science degree from Brunel University London was a great foundation. Having a solid knowledge of programming languages helps with understanding how your game works and with troubleshooting.

I also did an MA in digital game theory and design, which helped me specialise in game design. During the MA I expanded my games design knowledge while building a portfolio of work.

What are your main work activities?

The nature of the tasks depends on where you are in the project timeline. For example, at the planning phase there's lots of flexibility, with most of my time spent throwing around ideas and thinking about how I could make them a reality.

As the development begins, I start implementing those ideas and tweaking them until they're as perfect as they can be. I may create mock-ups of my ideas for artists and coders, or implement some myself. I might also play the game myself to see how my ideas work in practice, and identify areas that need improving.

During the post-release stage, I address concerns from fans and make further improvements to the design and game play.

How has your role developed?

At the beginning I received a lot of training and guidance. I was afforded great creative freedom, allowing me to develop my ideas, with help available whenever I needed it.

Over time my responsibilities have grown and working on a single task at length has turned into juggling multiple tasks and coordinating with other teams. I've also been given many opportunities to travel to events and conferences representing the studio.

What do you enjoy about your job?

My favourite thing is the creative freedom provided by CA. We're encouraged to try an idea and see if it works - especially in the planning phase.

Of course, nothing beats the feeling of releasing the final product and knowing millions of people are having fun playing what you designed.

What are the challenges?

Project deadlines are a major challenge. As you progress through the stages of game design, the riskier it becomes to make major design changes.

Sometimes you'll have ideas which sound great on paper but don't realistically work. Alternatively, you may find that the core design is great but needs to go in a different direction from how you originally intended. It can be challenging to let your design go - but worth it for the quality of the final product.

What's your advice for choosing a Masters?

Think about your career aims before choosing a Masters. Game design roles generally don't require a Masters qualification and instead rely on personal and professional experience.

However, I believe that this was the best path for me as I knew I wanted to be a game designer, but felt my background was too technical.

What are your tips for others interested in game design?

  • Make games. If you want to become a game designer, there's no other way than to practise. They don't have to be polished games; a rough prototype is enough, so long as it shows your design idea.
  • Play a wide variety of games. The games you make will only ever be as good as the ones you've played. Game design means using your experience and applying it.
  • Analyse the games you play and keep a record. Make notes on why a particular game was fun and how certain aspects could have been done differently. This will help your application, as well as your own designs.
  • You can never start applying too early. It's always worth taking a chance, even if you don't match all the criteria. Companies will appreciate your enthusiasm and may delay the start of your contract until you graduate.

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