So you want to be a… game designer

Making games has never been more accessible, with the game industry a huge opportunity for creatives to test their skills. But what does it take? Indie game designer Gregorios Kythreotis shares his advice

As one half of studio Shedworks, Greg Kythreotis is hard at work on forthcoming Xbox title Sable – an unconventional adventure game centred around a mysterious desert filled with ancient buildings. His route into the indie game industry is an unconventional one, largely self-taught and drawing heavily on his architecture degree.

He’s part of a new wave of designers, many of whom are bringing skills learned in other creative fields into the games world. As such, he has plenty of advice for aspiring games makers – everything from finding the balance between paid work and passion projects, and how to find the small wins that keep enthusiasm alive.

Decide which route to go down There are so many different roles, and almost two separate industries. There’s indie games, which are smaller but require you to be more of a jack of all trades, but maybe have one specialism that you have expertise in, and that helps you stand out. Generally you’re dipping into a bit of everything, including marketing, design and programming. Then you have triple-A big industry jobs, and the skillset required for those is quite different. You’re more likely to need a highly specialised skillset, and understand the more technical side of software and tools. The first thing I’d establish is what you want to go into – do you want a bigger industry that’s more sustainably financed but you’re working for other people, or indies where you have a bit more control over what you make, but are more likely to have to dip into everything, and you’re less likely to make money in a regular way.

Make the most of your existing creative skills It helps to have knowledge of other fields, because you’re creating something that’s a synthesis of all these different elements. Games are an amalgam of art, technology, music, animation and business. It helps if you have a strong skillset in another industry, especially something unusual. You’re seeing games that are animated using stop-motion, for example, so you could make a game using that skillset. Or if you were good at knitting you could make a game that involved that in some way. I think that’s a really good way of standing out – it gets people talking about what you’re making, and it’s a strong way to get started, especially if you’ve not worked on a game before.