The Lazy Designer

Building a Team? The First Ingredient

As a design manager with BioWare I was involved in the interviewing and hiring and reviewing of many designers. There were certain qualities I was always looking for. Designers didn’t need to fulfill all the requirements but there was one aspect, the first ingredient, if you will, that for me was mandatory.
It was not talent or genius.
It was enthusiasm. Passion, if you will. An eagerness to build, to create and to share those creations with an audience. Passionate game developers build great games. Genius is needed… especially in specializations like graphic rendering or gamebot intelligence but passion sustains the developer during the long crunch hours and the many travails and reversals common to all projects.┬á
There’s a saying among writers that most writers don’t actually want to write… they want to “have written”. Likewise some developers want to have the game development experience — build a game, have fun, reap the rewards — but aren’t keen on putting the actual work in. Building games is hard and demanding. I’ve seen geniuses flake out midway through crunch while others with perhaps a little less inate talent but with a stronger desire persevere.┬á
Now passion alone is not enough — to be hired the designer also had to exhibit the necessary skills, design endurance (which I’ll talk about in another post) and have reasonable communication skills (ogres are a great game opponent but fit poorly into teams).
So don’t dismiss the over-eager designer-in-waiting! They might surprise you.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.


  • dmoar1

    Great post, Brent. Passion is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for almost any role you can name in game development, including programming. I would go so far as to say that is true for anyone who is or wants to be successful in any endeavour in life.

    What’s that old saying? “Invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Passion is what gets you to deliver at those levels.

    – Don M

  • Cori N May

    I don’t know that I had most of that for a long time, but working on Dragon Age certainly has made me a more enthusiastic and eager designer. Usually.

  • Hydroxide

    I think “but not sufficient” is an important point. To quote “”‘s demotivator for incompetence: “When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there’s no end to what you can’t do.” I think you still need a degree of balance, or at least a willingness for those with the emphasis on passion to let their passion be channeled by the knowledge of the geniuses. One reason for geniuses to flake out midway in projects of any kind is that they feel their competence is bulldozed by the passion of the others who seem to march on without any real idea where they’ll end up.

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