Game design: After your studies, a large number of industries entice you – your SZ

Mankind has big plans. The creation of a metaverse, for example, where life must become virtual and where people’s problems in the digital world must be solved. This also includes the idea of ​​using artificial intelligence to prevent the climate catastrophe. In reality, however, digitization does not work as well as desired, even for small everyday applications. The websites of many citizen registration offices are so confusing that there are always problems with booking appointments. But very few people who have already clicked through confusing portals will associate the solution to this problem with video games.

But in fact, such problems are dealt with in game design, a core discipline in the gaming industry. But it’s mostly about menus in a video game – still. Because game designers’ skills are in demand in more and more industries. Automotive industry, events or authorities: In many areas there is a growing need to find intuitive and appealing solutions to digital problems. And to get to the desired destination with just a few clicks or swipes.

For some game designers, their careers begin in the Intermedia Design course at the Trier University of Applied Sciences. About 50 students start their game design studies here every year. “Some of them have the clear idea that they want to work in the gaming sector afterwards,” says Linda Breitlauch, professor of game design. But not all. A maximum of two-thirds actually work with video games after their studies. The others go into other industries. “I do not think it’s a bad thing, it makes the other sectors better,” she says.

What exactly is the study about? “The core is to set up a set of rules. If I do X, Y happens,” Breitlauch says. The set of rules contains many questions: How do I show the player what options he has in the game? What do the animations have to look like to be understood? What technologies do I need to implement this? And of course: How do I design all of this in such a way that the player enjoys it, is easy to do and is inherently motivated? This can be a healing drink, for example. What does it look like to be recognized as such? How many so-called life points does he have to restore? Where in the game can you get the healing potion?

The goal is to make it as easy as possible to find your way around touch screens

It’s about “making something complex so understandable that it can be used intuitively,” explains the game design expert. In a video game, this is one of the most important disciplines. In an online game with hundreds of players, a lot of information has to be displayed on the screen. The challenge here: The view must not seem congested. Many games start with a tutorial that explains the basic methods. At best, without boring the user. Students also deal with how a game feels, how it responds to players’ input, how it conveys information. If you hardly notice these things in a video game, you are dealing with good game design. “That’s what game designers do from morning to night. And that’s exactly what makes them so interesting to other industries,” says Breitlauch. Especially for those industries where digital user interfaces are becoming increasingly important – when handles and switches, for example, are replaced by touch screens.

Robin Kocaurek is one of those whose career started in the gaming industry. The 32-year-old learned programming language and graphics software in his youth and developed his first games with his friends. He later studied game design at Mediadesign University in Munich and took his bachelor’s degree. In 2013, he founded his own company, Klonk Games, from the university. Kocaurek had ten permanent employees. But their video game was not successful enough. “After graduating, the demands were not so high. But at some point, people wanted more security,” he says. Due to the mediocre success of the game, it was difficult to find a follow-up project. Klonk and his team kept their heads above water with commissioned work. In this situation, wage increases and long-term planning were out of the question.

Empathy is one of the most important skills of game designers

In 2017, Kocaurek reoriented itself outside the gaming industry. “It was a decision against the financial structure of the gaming industry, but also against the extreme stress.” He is now working for an online platform for events. His job is to think about how humans interact with systems. The company offers virtual opportunities to participate in events. The participants move through a 3D environment via the browser and can thus participate in, for example, an online trade fair. Or for a Christmas party for which a digital Christmas market is created. At the various stands, participants can play Tetris against each other, take pictures or just meet for a chat. You move through the winter world with game characters made up of screenshots of their faces. Of course, such scenarios can also be made for other festivities.

“I worry about how people interact with each other. Do they have all the tools at hand? Can they do what they want? Do they even know what they can and should do?” explains Kocaurek. He acquired his expertise through his work as a game designer. He sees empathy as the most important qualification – the ability to put oneself in the place of others and thus be able to understand what needs and perspectives there are.

Alexander Jakobi, 35, also started in the gaming industry. Today, he works in a company in the automotive industry that develops software for cars. Game-typical applications are very important in the automotive industry. Every interface in the car, whether it is the air conditioning, the radio or the navigation system – they all need to work intuitively. But they must also give users the feeling of being able to discover something, of experiencing small successes. “Legin instinct should be awakened: There is a new function, what can I do with it now?”

Jobs in the gaming industry are often stressful and poorly paid

Jakobi studied game design in Munich from 2007 to 2010 and then gained experience in developing his own games. He also worked in a mobile game studio, where he also worked on payroll to win games. Players have the option of paying money to get ahead in the game faster, such as getting armor faster by buying it. “Getting the players involved and creating an emotional bond is very important,” he says. But it can also be exploited.

Jakobi left the gaming industry because he no longer wanted to get players to pay money. And last but not least, the fact that he no longer has to work 60 hours a week elsewhere and could make significantly more money than in the gaming industry. In the industry, sometimes very stressful work is paid relatively low. A starting salary in the gaming industry is between 2,600 and 3,000 euros. However, the situation has tended to get better lately – also because the federal and state governments are now funding individual gaming projects. For example, the role-playing game “The Wagadu Chronicles” by the Berlin studio Twin Drums is funded with 500,000 euros. The game wants to make pre-colonial Africa tangible and enrich it with magic and mythology. Financing of this kind also makes it possible to pay higher salaries.

If you manage to use the navigation in the new car with ease, then there was most likely a good game designer at work. And if it suddenly works intuitively and easily to make an online deal with an authority, then it must also be thanks to one of these creative people. In any case, the prospects that more game designers will devote themselves to making people’s everyday lives more comfortable are good.

Create a game while still studying

A game design education leads to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science – depending on whether the focus of the course is design or computer science. In addition, some universities also offer master’s programs where knowledge is deepened and where the subject is often dealt with across disciplines. It is also about the question in which other game design industries can still be used.

Most bachelor’s programs start with a basic phase in which theory is taught. The specialization begins in the 3rd semester: Should it be more in the direction of art design, programming or virtual reality? The course also includes a practical part where students complete their own game project. Many people therefore already develop and publish their first game during their studies – some even make money from it. An example of this is the game “Village Romance”, which became a huge success last year. The standard study period is six to seven semesters.

Selected offers include the game design course at University of Applied Sciences Berlinby Media Design University with locations in Munich, Düsseldorf and Berlin or the Intermedia Design course at University of Trier .

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