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Game Designers Are Our Unsung Heroes

A lot of us know that there are programmers, artists, sound engineers and writers involved in developing a game. But what most people don’t know is that behind all of them, is someone that unites the technical aspects and defines the experience. These unsung heroes are the Game Designers.

Today we won’t be talking about their roles but instead we’re going to talk about their place in the industry, especially one that is small and growing in Malaysia. According to the Casual Games Sector Report 2015, Southeast Asia, is the World’s Fastest Growing Games Region.

Malaysia Info

(Credit: Newzoo, 2015)

The Game Industry in South East Asia is rapidly growing quickly and is set to rival renowned gaming countries such as Japan and America. IGM, International Games Magazine covered a story titled “Made in Malaysia” and written inside is a statement by Bazil Akmal Bidin from IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Malaysian Chapter Coordinator. According to him he estimates that there are no more than 50 game studios in Malaysia.

When it comes to looking for a job in Malaysia, you’ll usually find roles for a programmer or artist but very little for a Game Designer. Even the positions you do find come with certain language proficiency requirements as well as a large number of experience, which is difficult in an industry that has only just begun to grow. So, why are Game Designers so unpopular here?

GameFounders 2

Many Game Companies in Malaysia Are Still Young

In a survey taken by MDEC in their South East Asia Games Industry Initiative Report, the average age of a Game Company in South East Asia is between 1 to 3 years. This includes Malaysia as well.

Most of the studios are fairly indie and while they are actively recruiting programmers and artists; designers are a different story. For most of these companies, they may not actually know what the true role or function of a designer is, or even how much they can contribute or how much they’re worth to a company.

Roll Spike 2

(Roll Spike, Mediasoft Entertainment)

There is also common a misconception that the job of a Game Designer is to give ideas. That is not necessarily true, ideas on their own are cheap because the truth is, and everyone can come up with ideas. An idea can come from anyone, therefore companies here will not usually hire a pure Game Designer without any other skills. They would prefer to hire someone with an extra set of skills such as art or programming, to make them worth their while in a company.

Game Design

The Nature of a Game Designer’s work is Intangible

Every company will have a method to evaluate their employees, but how are we going to evaluate a Game Designer’s performance or how do we even determine the KPI of a designer? It makes sense when you tell someone, that an artist can draw 5 houses in 2 days or that a programmer could deliver the source code in 3 days. But, how do you actually tell somebody about a designer’s evaluation? Does he make good games? Has he created good levels? Furthermore, what is a good game and what is a good level? It differs with every person.

Velocibox 1

(Velocibox, Shawn Beck Games)

So what’s the specific role of a Game Designer, it can take up a whole article to explain in detail the work that a Game Designer does. In short, a Game Designer creates the experience of the game. When you feel like a real racer in Need for Speed or you fall in love with exploring Skyrim, it is the designers that you want to be thanking. But, can you actually visually see their work? Definitely not, but the results of the game designer’s efforts are there.

Tiny Guardians 1

(Tiny Guardians, Kurechii)

Game Designers mostly end up being solo indie developers in Malaysia, due to these constricts and lack of visibility. If Malaysia is to grow into a country that could compete with the other superpowers of the Games Industry then one of the biggest steps that we need to take is to realize the significance of a Game Designer in the development of a game.  I have high hopes for Malaysia, that one day we will rise to be seen as a formidable competition by other countries in Game Development.



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