3 Life Lessons for New Designers

Games always seems like a mystery to “outsiders.” But really, it’s not. We’re just ordinary people with ordinary stories. If you want to get into games, but don’t know how–or worse, think you can’t–here are my 3 life lessons that helped me get to where I am today.

Lesson One: Do everything, enjoy nothing.

Before I got into games, I didn’t even know what “modding” was. Hint: it’s what game developers call the act of making a modification to an existing game. Such as Skyrim, the base game made by developers, and Skyrim mods, made by fans.

What I did know, however, was that I did everything you could sign up for. Since a kid, I was involved in piano, dance, and vocal lessons. I also did sports (only soccer), but took tennis lessons, golf lessons, and swimming lessons since I was three. In high school, I took debate, theatre, and band. I did everything so much, I would collapse at least one week a semester and somehow I never realized it was “burn out.”

Doing a ton of things and figuring out what you like and don’t like is critical to becoming a good game designer. Debate taught me how to speak. Band taught me how to lead. Drama taught me how to put on a good show.

And the show must go on.

Lesson 2: Never stop learning, constantly know nothing

When I got to college, I had the bright idea to speak about a cool little indie business idea I had. I would sell products like coffee mugs, but then readers could go to a website and see the story they were based from. These would be original stories, and would engage my “consumers” in a way they could talk about the stories of their products as characters.

This bright idea had me win the school’s competition, and others, and then evolved way outside my technical scope.

My storytelling platform was going to “change the world.” How it “put you in control of the story, not as a reader, but as a creator.”

I had no idea that I was talking about games. I loved describing how the world would work, how the readers would engage with content, and most importantly, how they would impact the world, the narrative, with their choices.

And I learned my biggest lesson: you don’t know everything and you never will.

So you better start now.

Lessons 3: Find what you love, do it so much you hate it.

I loved writing, yes, but in games–I loved systems.

Systems are the foundational structure of a game. For an easy example, think of playing a game and taking damage. When a player takes damage, that damage amount translates back into a “health system” to identify not just how much damage they took, but from what, if it could be reduced, and finally calculate the damage they actually took.

In narrative, systems provide the foundational structure for both the player’s choices and how the player sees the story.

I loved it.

I can’t design systems and write. At least, not at the same time. And I didn’t want to choose.

But I had to.

Not to sound bad, but I hate working in systems. It’s messy and complex and down right dirty–but I still can’t get away from it. It’s worth it. It lets better writers and better designers, do their jobs ten times as faster so they can work just as hard and accomplish more. And that’s why i love it too.

Find what you love, know so much about it it sets your heart fire, and most importantly.

Don’t be afraid to do something everyone else tells you you can’t.

Lauryn Ash

Interested in how these life lessons shaped my career? Read about it more in my games story.