How To Create A Game Design Portfolio That Stands Out

It wasn’t long ago that having an online game design portfolio was unheard of. In fact, when most people think about an online portfolio that showcases skills and experience, what usually comes to mind is a colorful web page with galleries of concept work and other forms of art– either that or pages with short stories, articles, and other written work.

But in this ever-growing industry, developers are realizing just how important it is to have more ‘designers’ in their team to figure out how to make their games fun. At the same time, more people are competing for that famed ‘game designer’ role more than ever.

If you’re planning to make a portfolio and want to know what it takes to stand out and best convey your skills and abilities as a ‘designer of games’, check out the following tips that could help you catch the hiring team’s attention and possibly earn you a job.

Show You’re Already Making Games

You can’t convince someone that you’re a ‘game designer’ simply by putting it on your resume. If you really think you’re destined for a career as a game designer then, simply put, you should already be making games!

And no, we don’t just mean a big-budget AAA game or even a high-selling iOS title. We’re talking about anything: a few simple Flash games, a card game, or even a table-top game made with materials you purchased at your local arts and crafts store. Anything that shows the person looking at your portfolio that you actually have a passion for designing games.

Just because the developer you’re applying to makes digital games, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to see your experience with non-digital games. Of course, with so many resources these days that allow even someone without programming knowledge to whip up a project, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few digital games to boast about as well. If you have access to a computer and internet then you have no excuse. So check out some of the free products like GameMaker, RPG Maker, or Adventure Game Studio and make something!

Let Us Play Those Games!

The only thing better than showing pictures of the neat games you made and talking about the challenges along the way is to actually let us play them. Of course, with physical games like table-tops and card games it’s unlikely that the hirer reading your instructions is going to actually build the game themselves just to check out, so this is geared more towards digital games.

Remember those products I mentioned in the last section? All of those allow you to create a game that you can actually share with others with hardly any work. Provide a link or downloadable version of those games so people checking out your portfolio can actually play the game you claim to have made.

Talk About Your Experiences

Developers are interested in finding someone with a genuine passion for making games, but more importantly, they want designers that can actually articulate their experience. This means talking about challenges you ran into along the way, as well as breakthroughs and failures. Any designer will tell you that although playing games is fun, making them can be a difficult but enlightening learning experience.

Are you able to explain why you think that 2D platforming game you made with Flash is fun? What were the challenges of making a card game that players of all ages, from 10 years old to 50 years old, can enjoy? Can you explain why your game is intuitive enough for anyone to pick up but engaging enough to keep them playing for hours?

If you can prove you have an eye for determining what makes a game fun and what makes it boring, you’ll certainly impress the people looking for designers that know what it takes to design a good game.

Don’t Rely On The Design Docs

Lacking programming or artistic skills but still wanting to prove that you can design a good game? You can’t just add a detailed game design document or two to your portfolio and expect visitors to read all 200 pages of it before realizing you’re the next Miyamoto. Yes, knowing how to write a good design doc is important, but it will probably not land you the job by itself.

Why you ask? Think about what a game is for a second. It’s an interactive medium that can’t truly be enjoyed unless it is in motion, and for this reason an awesome-sounding design doc could very well turn out to be a terrible game. But if you can prove that you prototyped your game idea and actually learned from the experience as it was being played, you’re more likely to impress.

This doesn’t mean you should toss your game design doc in the recycle bin. After all, the ability to write a design doc is certainly a tool all designers should possess. However, as mentioned before, the doc alone won’t be enough when the other 99 guys applying for the same job have a link to a playable game they designed. Would you rather read about how a game plays or actually play it?

Conclusion

With your portfolio, you are trying to convey your ability to look at games from a design perspective, whether it be a simple indie title or a trading card game you made out of pieces of cardboard. The best (and perhaps only) way to do this is to actually make games. So focus on demonstrating your passion and desire as a game designer and your portfolio will no doubt stand out because of it.

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