A little snippet about game design from Blizzards almightly Lead Game Designer, Ghostcrawler.
“Do you know how many professional game designers I know who were trained as game designers? Zero. I imagine that will change over time though. This is, happily, one of the few industries where talent > experience > education. “
One of his atypical responses to angry forum posters making fun of design decisions because he was trained as an oceanographer. The entire thread, if you dare so brave the WoW forums, can be found here.
I am not writing this to pick on Ghostcrawler. I don’t care where he came from, or what degree he has, or how he got to where he is right now. I am going to analyze that statement of his to have a closer look – only because I want to know if that is true. It is a pretty bold statement from the man at the helm of the ultimate cruise ship experience. He may even be right – but i’m not so sure. Truth searching after the break.
Let’s discuss each of the traits, before working out the ranking of them.
Talent: How do you define talent? Is it a natural affinity for an action, set of actions, skillset, natural attributes, – a combination of the aforementioned, or simply all of them? Is Talent something inherent or learned? I don’t work for, or have insight into the industry. Is the industry really full of talent-full, experience-less, uneducated go getters? Perhaps that would explain the quality of patch releases (hello, Blizzard 3.1) and game launches (hello, WAR, AOC, et al.)
Experience: If history has tought us anything it is that people rarely make the same mistakes twice. This is what makes experience a beautiful thing! Mark Jacobs is a great middle MMO manager who had a great title under his belt (DAOC) and proceeded to make DAOC 2 (WAR) in the same fashion. That wasn’t a mistake at all – but things have changed in MMO expectations and uh, experiences. Creating the same game using his experience wasn’t a failure – it has a healthy population base, perhaps even growing. He used his experiences with DAOC and built the same kind of game with additional experiences with design decisions from a 2004 title (WoW) to try and produce a 2008 title. The importance of this point is that experiences change with progression – a good way to do things 4 years ago may not be a good way to do things now. However, if you absolutley did it wrong 4 years ago you would be apt to not make the same mistakes now.
Education: While GC specifically states game design education we definitely need to delve further. Education, especially University, doesn’t just teach a specific skillset – more importantly it teaches the ability and capability to problem solve, analyze, and communicate in a coherent and academic manner. That is why employers in many industries tend to care less what your degree is in, and simply look for a degree to begin with.
I would argue that Talent is the sum of natural expertise, learned experience and studied education. The absence of any of those pillars produces a far weaker sum – therefore, Talent = Experience + Education (with a dash of natural skillset). If the industry is indeed looking at it from a Talent > Experience > Education – without quantifying where that Talent comes from – would help explain the state of the gaming industry as it stands currently. True talent can’t exist without the experience or education.