The weekend on social media, as it is prone to do, threw out some “interesting” discussion, this time on the idea of game designers. Without outright naming the person who kicked it all off - honestly, you can just head to Twitter and see for yourself with only a couple of clicks - it was put forward that “Any yahoo can call himself (or herself) a game designer. Where do we draw the line between game designer, and NOT game designer?”.
Things got… heated. Some folks attempted to engage with some suggestions, but honestly, there’s only one answer to this one - if you, at any time, have thought about making or changing a game, spent even a few moments roiling a few ideas around your head… you’re a game designer. Doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the industry for decades and have a roll of credits longer than your arm, or if you played Catan for the first time ever some time last week and are wondering “what would happen if I set up the tiles and number tokens in this specific way?”. The mere thought of how you could possibly change the way people interact with a game system means that you’re designing something - so congratulations, you’re a game designer!
Arguments continued to rage on. Points thrown back and forth about whether you need to have a published title before you can consider yourself a game designer. Surprise - no, you don’t. Hell, you don’t even need to have a completed prototype to bestow such a title on yourself. There are countless fantastic games that I’ve played from people who have never had their name on the front of a ‘proper’ box. Just because you’re relatively new to the industry, that doesn’t make you a ‘NOT game designer’. Sure, you may not have as much experience as someone else, but you can still lay claim to the name.
Have you self-published something you came up with? You’re a game designer. Wandering into your local playtesting group for the first time ever with a scrappy prototype in your backpack but didn't show it to anyone because you're worried about what folks will say? You’re definitely a game designer. Sat around your kitchen table with a bunch of friends wondering how you can house-rule something to make it work in a game you just spent £60 on? Are you DMing a Kids on Bikes campaign for a group of mates on Zoom each week? Are you sitting in your office, surrounded by Spiel des Jahres awards and excited about the next thing you’re working on?
They’re ALL game designers. Sure, it’s a matter of scale, but it all boils down to the single fact that they’re working on something that happens to be game related, and that’s all the definition they need.
Honestly, there’s no need for such an over-protective attitude to being a game designer. Yes, working on games is a cool thing to do, to be able to say with pride that you’re working on something that you think is creative and incredible - so why wouldn’t you want to be able to share that experience with as many people as possible? Regardless of what level they’re at?
We constantly push for games to be as open and inclusive as possible. We want to welcome folks to our table, have them enjoy the games we enjoy - but also treat the people around that table with the respect that you’d like them to afford to you. The folks who actually make your games are already a niche within a niche, so alienating them by demanding they fall on either side of a line marked ‘you are this vs you are NOT this’ isn’t helping anyone. The world’s already divisive enough without locking people out of a hobby. The mere suggestion that there needs to be a line drawn is ludicrous.
It doesn’t matter where you are on the scale. Whether you’re an established pillar of the industry or a first-time tinkerer, the message a vast amount of us what to promote is clear: You ARE a Game Designer. And no matter who you are, there’s someone out there who can’t wait to see what you’re working on! Saying that…