Posted by : Jameson Durall Sunday, August 01, 2010

Interviewing a Game Designer is not an easy thing to do, especially if the Designer is relatively new to the industry.  So, I thought I'd go over some of the things I look for in hopes that it will prepare new candidates for an interview process at a major game company. The thing I'm seeing a lot from new Game Designers is that they aren't coached on how to interview for a Game Design job.  They need to be prepared to think on their feet and be able to answer questions that delve into what type of designer they are and how they think about design.

In an earlier post I talked about getting a Game Design Education and I strongly suggest this to anyone considering a career in Game Design.  It will provide you with at least a basic tool set and knowledge base for what we do in the games industry. It also shows that you are serious about being a Game Designer and you can be taught, which is huge since we are always learning in this industry. The education goes a LONG way to getting your foot in the door but once you're in the interview process there's two main things that I'm looking for.  

The first thing I want you to do is show me your work. Bring any working levels you've built, dialogue scenarios you've set up, board games you have designed, school projects you participated in, etc.  Showing physical examples of your work will not only prove that you are a capable designer, but hearing you talk through it will give me a lot of insight into how and why you designed certain things. Be prepared to talk bout all the planning up to implementation and precisely why you chose particular elements in the examples you are showing.
The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses

Most candidates coming out of school have an almost shocked look on their face when I ask them questions like: "Run me through the planning process you had for designing this level and why you decided to place elements X and Y in the locations shown"  They will often say things like, because it was more fun this way...but often have trouble explaining to me why.  Designers need to be able to analyze why something is fun and be able to effectively incorporate that thinking process into their initial designs.  I always suggest The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses to any designer that wants to improve how they think about design.

The second thing that I look for is "how do you fit in?"  Adding a new Game Designer is like adding someone to our family.  It's very important that they mesh with the team so conflict doesn't easily arise and people will enjoy working with them. I want someone who takes direction without being defensive, works well with others, thinks well on their feet, and isn't easily angered.

My favorite place to interview someone is in the Lunch setting because this gives me real insight into how they interact with others on a social level.  The interviewer has to be capable of looking past expected nervousness and observe how well they communicate without their resume or demo reel in front of them.  I tend to ask more laid back questions in this environment like: "What are the main differences between designing for a single player level and a multi-player level?" or "What is your favorite and least favorite genres and why?" With questions like these, I can let them talk for a while and see what their thought process is.  One very important thing to keep in mind, is that you better know what you're talking about if you bring up a point in discussion.  I will very likely ask a follow up question for more detail because I often hear candidates throw out industry buzz words to sound impressive and I want to see how much they know about those topics.

My last piece of advice is learn to think on your feet.  I'm going to try and throw you a curve ball every now and then so get used to thinking outside the box because I want to see how creative you can be on the spot.  If you have an example of your work with you, I'm probably going to ask you to do something like add a new feature that I come up with out of thin air.  Design is not about quick decisions, So I'm not concerned with your actual answer as much as hearing you talk through how that feature would impact the entire game and how you would integrate it and compensate for it.
Let's All Find Awesome Jobs

For general interview tips, check out Let's All Find Awesome Jobs by my buddy Kevin Fanning.

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