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Game Design++

veryone knows that a designer of games is a game designer.  In a professional capacity like in a studio, a designer creates content and features of a game and fine-tunes it. This is the usual requirement but of course there are vast deviancies, based on the job requirements, type of game and sometimes even the studio. But something that is a little harder to find in the game industry is the Game Manager, or Game Designer ++.

Let’s be clear, the Game Manager is not the producer. Management of a game is a task that goes above and beyond the duties of a designer, something that companies are a little uncomfortable about giving the task to a game designer in the  traditional sense. Game Manager is basically a product manager where the product is a game. Some companies make that clear with the job posting being tagged as a ‘Product Manager’, but there are some extra requirements of such role. Those include:

  1.  Play Games. Duh. You can’t manage something  that you know nothing about. Like good designers, the best managers played their games and played a lot of other games too. They should be aware of why players like or dislike a particular system. They should have a feel for the game and a sense of what would add to or detract from the experience. This can help out with and in the next two areas.
  2. Analytics. Live games are living products.Most top games now are free to play, which means they contain functioning in-app economies with sometimes millions of players. All of this activity generates a ton of data. An ideal game manager should be able to wade through that data, understand it and use it either reactively to solve problems or proactively to design and test new features. Depending on how responsibilities are divided, this may include skills like directly running SQL queries and other analysis. But most importantly it involves having the conceptual understanding of how to organize information and look at it to test and validate hypotheses.
  3. Vision and Taste. The game manager should have a vision in his or her head of what the game should be as a whole. And then they should have the taste to be able to look at a piece of art, read a design doc, or listen to a piece of music and know whether it’s right for the game. And if something is off, they should have some idea of how to tweak that element in order for it to better serve the vision of the product.
  4. Baseline Skills This is just a general bucket of things that managers  need to be really good. They need to be hardworking and relatively organized since they will likely need to ship products (new content, levels) every week. They also work with people who do all kinds of different jobs (design, engineering, art) so they are able to converse and collaborate with all of them, speak their language and understand their needs and limits.

As you probably might have figured out, these duties are more prevalent for games which has live services or are an ever-running product, so I doubt that you’d find a game manager for Uncharted. A lot of these are just extensions for what game designers do, and hence the title of this post.

Vasant Menon