Games are usually made in teams. Digital game production processes typically require programming, graphic design, audio and music. All of these aspects bring something into the game experience, and to the game design. A small game company might consist of just three developers with the titles game designer, game programmer and game artist.  Audio and music is often outsourced from independent artists or freelancers. In bigger productions, again, the roles can be divided into several different areas and sub-responsibilities, where everyone still works together, building toward a shared vision of the game.  

Since games are made by people, the biggest challenges in game development are usually human related. Game development requires a lot of communication, good leadership nurturing a productive atmosphere, and skillful producers taking care of the practicalities of the process. Game studios are typically located at physical premises, even though the modern world has a lot of opportunities for distance work. It is important to work on the concepts face to face to maximize the shared understanding of the work and design direction. When you are in the same space, it is also much easier to show examples and point to prototypes – in essence, communicate through concretising your points instead of using abstract and vague impressions destined to afford miscommunication and subsequent frustration.  

Fig 1. There are many boxes to fill in a team project. Well working teams utilize the skill sets and combinations of a variety of creative professionals.

In many modern game development processes, a wide variety of different professionals not typically associated with game development are also utilized for consulting: such as architects, interior designers, mathematicians, historians, physicists, zoologists, ethnographers, fashion designers, educational scientists, teachers, engineers – almost any profession, depending on the game. Specialists usually account for a smaller amount of hours in the  total hours of the development, since many productions require extensive hours of programming and art production just to make the game interactive in the first place. However, in smaller productions, every member of the team might end up wearing multiple hats by stepping into different roles than originally planned. Especially game designers sometimes need to do research on topics that they were not familiar with beforehand to replace the role of the specialists, or understand and communicate with the specialists in the process.

Even though it is quite common to talk about teamwork in game development, instead we could actually talk about “teaming”. In teaming the problem solving is based on the unique affordances of the team itself. Very few have the possibility to build their dream team by recruiting the best talent to very specific narrow roles, but rather, in order to get the best out of your team you should keep an opportunistic mindset to recognize the strengths and motivations of those you have at hand. This is a reality also in commercial game development – the war of talent in the game industry is fierce! 

Game development is all about the team, even in the eyes of investors; even more so than  about the idea. Since it takes huge effort, as well as funding, to build the dream team around your own idea, the question should perhaps rather be: how do you create something that stands out with the resources, people and networks that you already have access to? Maybe your team has someone who is very passionate about knitting? Why not then build an alternative controller for your game that has yarn tentacles. Maybe you have a bicycle enthusiast in the team? Then make a game that is inspired by Tour de France. Perhaps your team has two narrative designers: design a narrative-heavy game. Your game idea might be best built from the palette you have at hand, instead of thinking about an abstract game idea without considering how it is going to be made, and who does what. Be ready to be flexible with your own ideas and dreams – you will enjoy creating more if everyone’s strengths and interests are used optimally.

Learn more from: 

England, L. (2014). The Door Problem of Game Design. 

Fullerton, T. (2008). Game Design Workshop, Team Structures. pages: 348-362.