Gaming has come a long way since the days of Space Invaders and Pacman. Today, graphics are hyper-realistic, and games can span from super simple to highly complex. The number of gamers across the world has also increased. In Africa, they have more than doubled in the last 5 years – from around 77 million to more than 186 million. 24 million of these gamers are in South Africa alone. This incredible increase is driven by mobile technology, which has had made mobile gaming more accessible to more people.
Other technologies such as virtual and augmented reality as well as online learning systems are becoming more mainstream. Simulations and game-based learning approaches are increasingly being incorporated in training and development programmes. Big brands like Burger King and Nike are including games and gamification into their brand communication strategies. This, as well as a global shift to remote working with a favourable exchange rate, means that employment opportunities and the need for South African game designers and developers has increased.
What’s the difference between game design and game development?
A game designer is involved with the genre of the game as well as who it targets. Once this has been established, the designer then comes up with the concept and rules of the game. When this broad outline of the video game is ready, a game designer begins to focus on the details. These include the storyline, characters, maps, plots, ways of winning or losing, user interface creations, the different levels that will be applied and more.
Game developers bring the game designers’ vision to life. They incorporate the ideas, sketches, drawings, storyline and layouts into lines of code to create a game that is playable. Over and above coding, a game developer is also involved in software-programming and engineering, sound effects, rendering, testing and other processes to ensure that the game remains true to the vision and is working as it should.
What skills and qualities are required to become a good game designer or developer?
In addition to excellent game design and programming skills, game designers and developers need to be able to do the following:
This skill is very important in this career as video game creation is a collaborative effort. From brainstorming, designing, developing and revising, teamwork is key to success.2. Manage their time efficiently
As this is a deadline-driven industry, time management is a highly sought-after skill. If a designer or developer fails to do their part in the project, this negatively impacts everyone else involved.3. Think critically
Gamers expect to find difficult tasks and obstacles built into the games they play. Therefore, it's important for game designers and developers to think critically so that they can plan and strategise effectively4. Communicate well
Whether it is communicating with team members or ensuring that a particular message reaches the game's vast audience, effective communication is a must.5. Be creative
It goes without saying that designers and developers require an active imagination and creative mindset. After all, they're responsible for producing the best challenges and puzzles for gamers to overcome.6. Tell stories
Storytelling captures the attention of the audience, and this couldn't be truer for games. From character development to creating compelling plots, game designers need to be able to add humour, suspense and conflict into their games.7. Be adaptable
This industry is constantly changing and being adaptable will serve designers and developers well.8. Persist
Game design and development is not an easy job. It is tiring, intense and consuming. However, it is also a very satisfying career. Being able to persist and work through the process will be rewarding.
What qualification is required to become a game designer or developer?
A relevant degree like the IIE BCIS Degree in Game Design and Development from the IIE-Vega equips students with the necessary skills to enter the industry. This programme takes a holistic approach, developing students’ knowledge and skills across all the main aspects of creating games. This includes the principles of designing games for different contexts, programming and game development skills, game art, 3D modelling and animation skills. A strong focus on multi-disciplinary group work together with exposure and participation in local and international events such as game jams, Comic Con Africa and Games Week Africa equips graduates with the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence to enter industry in diverse roles such as modellers and animators, game designers or developers.
What are the key characteristics that separate graduates from this qualification from others?
Graduates from the IIE BCIS Degree in Game Design and Development have a holistic understanding and knowledge of the different roles and skills of the game design and development team. This means that they can work in either of these roles. The qualification equips graduates to work as independent game designers and developers, or they can join established companies in the gaming and simulations industries. Some graduates have even successfully launched their own independent games on platforms like the Google Play Store and Steam while still studying.
The IIE BCIS Degree in Game Design and Development has two distinct streams - equipping students with the design and animation skills required as well as the ability to programme the more advanced features of the game.
The main learning areas that are covered in this qualification include:
- Game Design - includes game and general design theory and animation
- Game Development - consists of writing C# programmes to provide advanced functionality
What are some of the stereotypes associated with this qualification that are untrue?
- Students interested in this degree do not need any prior experience in gaming but an interest in and curiosity about how games are made, what makes them fun and what makes people play them is beneficial.
- This qualification is not about playing games. It is about making games and requires hours of dedication.
- Students do not need to have IT or art school experience to enrol for this qualification, although it can be advantageous.
- Although currently this field is dominated by males, there is a significant portion of female students who are rising in it.
If you think you have the skills needed to be a game designer or developer, and love everything about games and how they work, find out more here.
To immerse yourself in the industry and immerse yourself in helpful content and courses, take a look at the following sites: