Game Design 101: A Guide for Parents

Game Design 101

Perhaps you grew up playing Zelda, or maybe you look on with confusion as your kid plays Minecraft. If you’re a parent of a kid today, though, you’re likely quite familiar with the world of video games. Defined as an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface that creates visuals on a screen such as a TV or computer monitor, video games are one of the most popular entertainment choices for kids today. According to a study by NPD, video games are now more popular than ever with kids, with 91% of kids playing video games.

From MMORPGs to sports games, there are dozens of different types of games, which appeal to players who enjoy different aspects of gameplay, such as strategy, competition, design, or adventure. Regardless of your kid’s chosen genre of game, many young gamers consider game design as their dream career path. So what is it about game design that is so appealing to kids? Today we’ll take a look at the process of designing a video game and explore why so many kids want to pursue it.

What is the process for designing a video game?

Originally, many video games were made by a single designer, who was responsible for creating all of the aspects of a game from the visuals to the sound effects. Today, the process is more complex, as game design has evolved to incorporate new technology. Some game design teams have more than 100 people, including sound engineers, graphic artists, programmers, and testers.

Most video games start with a story, either created by a game designer or drawn from other inspiration sources like a movie or a book. Then, a team creates a storyboard consisting of sketches that depict scenes from the game, as well as technical information. These sketches help the team design the different levels of the game, as well as how characters progress through the game. This is called level design. At this stage, they also begins to design characters, often starting with sketches and then turning them into 3D models, which they then program to move and behave in the desired manner. The programmers also write the code that controls the game’s functionality, from how characters move to the physics of the game world. Last comes the finishing touches, including tweaking the game environment and testing the game for bugs, making sure it functions properly and smoothly for players. Finally, the game is released for people everywhere to play!

Why is game design a good skill for kids to learn?

Game design is a technical pursuit that requires a vast array of technology skills and knowledge, as well as creativity. In addition to the benefits that kids gain by playing video games, kids that go on to create their own video game acquire a valuable technical toolkit that will be an asset to them in many of their future pursuits. Learning game design can help kids use their love of gaming more productively, as it will teach them technical ability like coding but also skills like problem solving, trial and error, and critical thinking.

How can my kid pursue an interest in game design?

Since game design requires a considerable amount of technology skills and knowledge, it’s often easier for kids to pursue a guided learning experience than to attempt game design on their own. There are numerous online tutorials and free programs that allow kids to explore their passion for game design for free, but online courses in game design take it a step further by providing a comprehensive curriculum that will allow students to complete the process of designing a game from start to finish. Having a background in game design offers several possible career tracks for kids, from graphic artist to 3D modeler or character animator.

The Bottom Line

Although many parents see video games as an unproductive use of kids’ time, they actually provide an engaging way for kids to learn real-world skills and gain technology expertise. Many young gamers are interested in pursuing a future career in game design, or even just designing a game as a hobby. Parents can encourage their passion through enrolling them in an online course in game design, knowing that their kids will acquire valuable skills and knowledge that they can apply in many aspects of their lives.

2 thoughts on “Game Design 101: A Guide for Parents

  1. “Then, a team creates a storyboard consisting of sketches that depict scenes from the game, as well as technical information. This step is called level design.”

    That might be oversimplified. It depends on the team and their goals, but, most of the time, level designers are responsible for designing [and then creating] the experience that a player receives when moving through a level. Like a mash-up of architectural and film design, they’re the guys that subconsciously direct players towards the ‘most fun’ while tightly-controlling the game’s pace. For example, a room in a level will be designed so that all of its entrances/exits are visible to each other and the player would never have to stop to find where to go next. Another example: one rule for many level designers is to never require the player’s path to take a 180-degree turn unless, of course, you want the player to *feel* like they’re going backwards in the game.

    Unspecific to this article, everybody should know that videogame development is a double-whammy of both game design & software development. Game design has been around since the stone ages and asks ‘what is fun?’ while software development is an office job. All in all, it’s good to remember that videogames are designed on paper.

    On the question of ‘what is fun?’, here’s one of my favorite videos on game design (a good watch for both parent and child):

    Source: 15-year level designer who began his videogame career in elementary school (if you guys would ever like an interview — hint hint!)


    1. Thanks for your input, Brian! We tweaked that bit so as to not oversimplify the important process of level design. We also appreciate you sharing that video– what a refreshing perspective!


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