Everyone Tells Me How To Do My Job (And They’re Right, Damn It)

No, really!

Paul Barnett, whom I had very little dealings with when I was at Mythic, mostly yelling at him THE CHAOS FACTION BETTER BE DONE RIGHT! his first week from another table over at a Mongolian grill – something his tired, weary reaction told me happens to him quite often. Anyway, he has a blog (or rather, a Myspace, because he’s British and thus very emo), and he posts what he expects from designers as a creative director.

Creating systems that are hard to explain to normal people
If you can’t explain it clearly, quickly and to people with different skill sets then you are not going to get your idea realized. It really isn’t important if you have a great idea if you can not express it. Coders are dumb on design, same with artists. Producers? Real dumb. Studio heads, boy you talking about big dummies and as for publishers they don’t understand the word dumb. So add all of that together and you are faced with a harsh reality. You need to explain your great design in a way that all these dummies can understand so it can get in the game and the players can see it.

I have to say in response – Paul, that video. It’s made my life hell. Ever since it made it out to the net, everyone expects me to be as charismatic and flat out funny an evangelist when talking about my own project. Thanks a lot, bucko.

Psychochild on the other hand hasn’t posted any videos to Youtube making all of us look bad, but he still tells me how to do my job too!

The primary job of a designer is communication. This means you need to get used to doing a lot of writing, meeting, and explaining. Your ideas are actually secondary to the main focus of explaining those ideas. A designer with mediocre ideas and great communication skills is better than a designer with super ideas and no communication skills in a project of more than one person. Given this focus on communication, it should come as little surprise that people who design tend to write a lot and have blogs.

Why is communication so important? If the designer cannot communicate those ideas, then the ideas are stuck in his or her head. Other people working on the project need a guide for how to implement the project, which is the purpose of the game design document. Without this central focus, the project is hard to hold together. And, the implementors will have their own issues to worry about: the designer should be able to communicate details that the implementors do not think about. If the designer provides inadequate documentation and then gets angry when the final result is not what he intended, it’s not good for anyone involved.

So basically, designers need to speek gud, because if the most brilliant ideas ever concieved remain in their brain, it’s not going to do anyone any good at all, is it?

This is something I’ve been struggling with at work as well. I can write up a storm, but put me in front of a dozen people and tell me to explain something and I go “fum fuh fuh” a lot. Because as Barnett expressed so perfectly in his infamous E3 video, the best designers are evangelists – not only do they come up with Keeno Ideas, but they are the keepers of the flame for their team – inspiring everyone that what is pouring out onto design docs and spreadsheets and visio charts and what have you actually is going to turn out to be something fun, really, and all this work is worth it.

It takes charisma, basically. Which is scary, because that’s not something historically I’ve thought I was good at. But it’s something I *will* be good at, because that’s what it’s going to take to get all this Keeno Idea stuff out of my brain and implemented. And I may not think myself that charismatic, but I am very, very stubborn!