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First posted: March, 2004. Latest update: 2009

Because of my website and my active presence in game design forums and discussion groups, I get a lot of emails and calls from high school and college students who have been assigned to research their careers. Teachers usually give students the same type of questions to ask me. I typically get at least a dozen such requests per semester. I used to reply by email but I just can't keep on doing that, because of the volume. I now prefer to reply on my bulletin board. And it just made sense to put the answers into an FAQ to save myself the work! (^_^)

There may be some duplicated Q's and A's below. The questions are numbered mainly so that folks can be specific with follow-up questions, or if pointing out duplications. I don't care if any numbers are missing, or some questions are numbered out of order - it was work to number them in the first place, and I don't feel like renumbering everything.

ALSO: In these answers, I frequently refer the asker to one of my FAQs or Articles or Lessons (I use the word interchangeably). Rather than my going through the extra trouble of making each and every reference a clickable link, I ask that you do a little of the work yourself. When I refer you to a FAQ, look in the nav frame at left - all the FAQs are numbered (this one is #37). You can always go read that FAQ, get your answer, then come back here. Click here if you do not see a Nav Frame at left - you need the nav frame to navigate this site!

AFTER you have read this, if you still have questions you need me to answer, ask it on my bulletin board. It's always a good idea to preface a question with, "I read FAQs 14 and 37 but didn't find the answer to this particular question about game design..." That way, you save time (otherwise I might just say "read FAQs 14 and 37" instead of just giving you the particular answer you seek.

Tom Sloper
Los Angeles, California


1. Please list 3 positive aspects of your career as a game designer.

2. Do you have any dislikes?

3. I'm sorry, that was a bad question, wasn't it?

5. Let me try again. Please list 3 negative aspects of your career.

6. For what duties or tasks are you personally responsible?

7. Okay then, what are the duties or tasks for which a game designer is typically responsible:

8. What are some of the challenges a game designer faces each day?

9. What exactly do game designers do?

10. What is the average game designers salary a year? Benefits? Career outlook?

53. I think it means, is there currently a need for people specializing in this career.

11. What is it like to work as a game designer?

12. Would you recommend this career to others and why?

13. What tools do you use?

14. No, I meant what tools do you use to program games?

15. (Sigh!) Do you have to be such a literalist?

16. Yeah, okay. So what tools do programmers use to program games?

17. What should you wear to be a game designer?

18. What is the process of creating a game?

20. About how much time and how many people does it take to create a single game?

21. What do supervisors look for when hiring a worker for this job?

22. What other sources should I consult to learn about this career?

23. How does game designing work? Does someone just come up with the ideas or does it take a long thinking process?

24. What is the chance that a videogame idea will be accepted?

25. What is an average day like as a game developer?

26. (Sigh.) What is YOUR typical day like?

27. One of these days I'll learn how to ask you a question that'll get me the answer I really want and need. What is, um, a typical game designer's typical day like?

28. What kind of hours does a game designer usually work?

29. How often do copyright and intellectual property laws come into the spotlight?

30. What can an artist, composer, or programmer generally do with his or her work after it is put into a published game? That is, what legal rights to they retain?

31. What are some common misconceptions about game design?

32. Do game designers start out with a different job and gradually work their way up?

40. What social skills are necessary for game designers to have?


33. What steps should I take to get into the game industry?

34. What advice do you have for a young person desiring to pursue a career as a game designer?

35. Are there any good books that will help me get started?

36. Sorry, bad question. Where can I find a list of good books that will get me prepared for a career as a game designer?

37. How about websites (besides this one)?

38. Would you recommend the career of game designer to others?

39. WHY would you recommend this career to others?

41. What advice would you give to someone considering a career in game design?

42. What other sources should I consult to learn about this career?

43. What advice would you give to someone who takes lower level math, has some good art skills, who wants this job when he grows up, who has a ton of ideas for games, and who has a pretty good idea how a game is made?

44. How do you advise people to become a game designer, once they've gotten their 4-year degrees?


45. Why did you want to be a game designer?

46. What steps did you take to become a game designer?

47. How did you get into the game industry and become a game designer?

48. What college did you go to?

49. Does that college have good programs for this industry?

50. What is your favorite kind of game to work with?

51. What kind of games do you dislike the most?

4. At what age did you become a game designer?

52. What other people, if any, had an influence on your career choice?

54. What is your salary?

55. There I go again, bad question. How about this instead: how much does a game designer make on average?

56. If you could do it again, what would you change?

57. How long have you worked as a game designer?

58. Did you always know you wanted to work with computers?

59. What type of formal schooling have you had in computers?

60. What changes have you seen since you have started this career?

61. Do you find it easy to maintain your interest in a project, even if it is dictated by someone higher up?

62. What do you think was the best game that you worked on, and why was it great?

63. Have you published any books or articles on your work?

64. Do you Yahoo!?


65. How have PC's effected the world of technology?

66. How do computers read disks and CD's?

67. What do you think has been the most important invention in the world of computers and technology?

STUDENTS! If you ask me a NEW question, one that is not answered above, I'll respond, your teacher will be mollified, it'll be added to this FAQ, and nobody will be hurt. Post it on the bulletin board. Like the following...


68. Do you think that this job is right for you?

69. If you got fired, is there another career you would like to try?

70. Are you happy with the software your company produces, do you have any changes you would make?

71. Do you use any skills in your field in other parts of your life?

72. What is the name of your company?

73. Is there any traveling involved?

74. When you started working in this feild were there a lot of pressures and stress involved?

75. If you didn't choose this job what would you have become instead and why?

76. Does your job have variety or do you repeat the same thing over again?

77. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

78.What are the opportunities for advancement in the field?

79. What have you learned as a result of doing game design? How has it changed you?

>From: "Sean
>Subject: my information interview
>Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 08:11:28 +0000
>Dear Mr.Sloper,
>Hi,how are you? its Sean [deleted].(34, high school, bouncer)Sorry it took me some time to write again I had my son visiting from [deleted].Im sending you the questions together rather than a few at a time in the forum.I am trying to get approval for the may/june session at my local community college. I will pass this on to the group that handles my disability funding to get it rubberstamped as soon as I get it back. I decided that I would send the questionaire to you in hopes that i can get better answers than in the faqs as they didnt cover all the topics.there are 18 questions total.Some of them are a little stupid like question 10, lol, but i have to ask them. p.s. I am referring to the career of game designer in these questions.
>my e-mail is [deleted]
>thank you very much Mr.Sloper for your time and effort in answering these questions.

Hi Sean,
These questions look much like the questions you asked before.

There were so many questions in this that weren't already covered in FAQ 37 that I'm going to append this to FAQ 37. Good luck with your endeavors, Sean... - Tom
Tom Sloper
Los Angeles, Calif., USA
March 21, 2005

>Name = Jensen
>Age-Ed-Occ = 13, middle school, n/a
>Date = 4/17/05
>Comments = I have some questions. If a game designer could answer them by tonight that would really help because the project is due tomorrow!!!

Good plan, Jensen. (^_^) You didn't mention what time zone you're in, by the way. As far as I can tell, your post was written a little after 9PM Pacific Time - and right now as I write this reply it's a little after 9:30PM Pacific Time.

Tom Sloper
Los Angeles, Calif., USA
April 17, 2005

Two high schoolers asking identical questions from the same computer, two minutes apart. Wow, talk about coincidence!

>From: chris
>X-Originating-IP: []
>To: tomster®Sloperama:com
>Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 6:07 AM
>Subject: job requirements
>hello my name is Chris. i am writing a paper for a school report and i have a few questions. first what are the requirements for employment in game design  and also  what kind of schooling you have to take in order to get meet these requirements.  also what colleges would you  recommend for this type of schooling. and finally i was wondering what some of your hobbies are. thank you for your time and i hope o get a reply soon.

>From: jake
>X-Originating-IP: []
>To: tomster®Sloperama:com
>Sent: Wednesday, March 12, 2008 6:09 AM
>Subject: Game Design
>Hi my name is Jake and I'm doing a paper on game design. was wondering if you could answer a couple of questions for me such as, What is the employment like in the game design field and what requirements do you need in order to get a job in that field, What kind of education do you need in order to be successful in this career, how many years you need of college to get a good job in the game design career, and what kind of hobbies do you have?

Hi Chrisjake, you wrote:

first what are the requirements for employment in game design
Okay, so your question is about game design - not game programming (FAQ 15) or 3D game graphics or game audio (FAQ 53)or Q.A. (FAQ 5) or game producing (FAQ 42) or game writing (FAQ 32). The requirements for the game design position are:

  • Experience at a previous game industry job (you must already understand the workings of the game biz);
  • At least a 4-year college degree (a bachelors, not an associates) in anything (I'm serious, it doesn't matter what);
  • Better written communication skills than you have exhibited, Chris. Note how Jake capitalizes the first word of every sentence and how he always capitalizes the pronoun "I"?

    what kind of schooling you have to take in order to get meet [sic] these [game design job] requirements.
    Read FAQ 3 (see the Frequently Asked Question links, above left).

    what colleges would you  recommend
    Read FAQs 44, 34, & 25.

    i was wondering what some of your hobbies are.
    Hiking and mah-jongg.

    What is the employment [sic] like in the game design field
    Read FAQs 14 & 37.

    Tom Sloper  /   トム·スローパー   /   탐 슬로퍼   /   湯姆 斯洛珀
    Los Angeles, California, USA
    March 12, 2008

    School interview assignment # one billion and four.

    >From: Sam
    >Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:23 PM
    >Subject: Online interview?
    >Hello, my name is Sam [deleted]. I am highly interested in the field of game design, mainly the story telling aspect of it. I am a student at [deleted] College and an English Creative Writing major. I have been assigned an interview paper on a topic that I don't know much about. I figured this would be the perfect time for figure out what it really takes to make a game from scratch to purchaseable.
    >I have provided a list of questions. Hopefully they are not too overwhelming all at once.
    >1.) What is the basic process in building a video game?
    >2.) I have had several different ideas on what a game designer is, but different people tell me different things. What exactly does the position "game designer" entail?
    >3.) Within that process, how do developers, designers, and artists communicate their ideas and work together?
    >4.) Where in that process do game designers fit in?
    >5.) Are there any specific archetypes you rely on when thinking of a new game?
    >6.) How do you formulate your ideas into a game?
    >7.) How did you break into the game design business?
    >8.) I have heard that for a game designer, the best thing is to learn everything possible. Essentially get the most broad education you can. Is there any specific degrees you think game designers must have in order to get hired?
    >9.) What is the most popular game you have worked on?
    >10.) What is the most difficult part in designing a video game?
    >11.) Easiest part?
    >12.) What is your favorite part in working on a new game?
    >13.) Do you follow any specific ritual when thinking of a new game?
    >14.) If you had a billion dollars in a budget for a game, what kind of game would it be?
    >15.) Where do you like to do your writing(like at work, home, car, bed, etc., etc.)
    >16.) Are there any real life people that influence any characters in your game?
    >17.) How much money is typically budgeted in a game?
    >18.) Not to be too blunt, but how long have you been working in this field and what is your salary?
    >19.) For a brand new game designer, what would you estimate the salary to be?
    >20.) How long do you typically work on a game?
    >21.) Is there ever a point where you work on more than one game at once?
    >22.) Out of your entire career, what is your favorite moment while working?
    >Thank you so much for your time. I highly appreciate it. Sorry to throw so many questions out at once.

    Hi Sam,
    It's important that an interviewer do his homework before contacting the interviewee and asking his questions. It's kinder to the interviewee (it's more "interviewee-friendly") if the interviewer see what the interviewer is about and if perhaps some of the interviewer's questions might already be answered by something that the interviewee has written and published before.
    It's also important to ask narrow questions (questions that do not require the interviewee to expound for an hour or to write a book).
    To get to your 22, no wait, 23 questions:

    Read FAQ 10. My FAQ links are above left.
    Read FAQ 14.
    Via design documents, meetings, email, IM, and person-to-person conversations.
    Read the FAQs I already mentioned above.
    It's inevitable to consider existing games when designing a new one.
    That's an extremely large/vague question. You'd need to narrow it down.
    Read FAQ 18.
    Read FAQ 3.
    Probably my work on the Shanghai series. But it's amazing how often I get emails from guys who played my Game Time watch (or one of my game calculators) when they were kids. Click "List of Tom's Games," above left.
    Trusting your own instincts when faced with opposing views of team members -- convincing others to trust your design decisions -- knowing that the game will be fun when it's actually implemented -- keeping it simple when there's so much pressure to add features.
    Writing the character specifications (when the game has characters).
    Designing the U.I.
    No. Every project is its own unique challenge, requiring a different creative process.
    I'd buy the Shanghai rights and make a new Shanghai game.
    I do my writing at the computer. But I do my proofing/correcting/improving with a red pen, either at the dining room table or at a table at McDonald's after breakfast.
    It depends. Read FAQ 62.
    Since around 1982. This information you could have found by exploring my website.
    That's an extremely personal question.
    See the yearly game industry salary survey at -- there's a link in my Game Biz Links page, but the very latest survey is at
    Between 3 and 18 months, typically.
    The time I went to Japan to work on the Space-N-Counter game calculator with the programmer at Toshiba. Read FAQ 19.
    Tom Sloper
    Los Angeles, California, USA
    October 28, 2009

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