Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 12:05

When society thinks about building a digital game, whether it’s an app game, 2-D platformer, or a full-fledged video game, some believe that a team of glasses-wearing coders are glued to a computer screen for 15 months. While some coders may wear glasses, there is so much more to creating a game than society may realize. It would take years to properly break down every aspect of game building in great detail so here are 5 central areas of game building, which some people may not have considered, in a detailed summary. 

1.    Art/ Design

Everything you see when playing any game from a downloadable, phone game to a new-release next-gen console game was drawn or designed artistically. It would seem that this department is underrated in society’s eyes when games are released; yet, concept art is essential, and some can be found in the main content of several games. These two links (Link A) and (Link B) are from the Batman Arkham Series and show the initial look the artists envisioned for the game. Digital artists are growing in demand and work with concept sketches like the ones listed above to create those images digitally. Levels, characters, and objects are the main focus for artists working on game building. Each category has several sub-categories that they encompass. Levels have the environment (ground, sky, terrain) and surfaces. Characters have bodies, faces, outfits, and movements. Objects have items, weapons, and wearables. All of these projects are carefully designed by artists. 

2.    Narration

Narration may be the most important piece of game building when it comes to a successful game. Good games have great stories. The narration area consists of dialog, plot outline, quests, and background information. Writers will take many months and write several drafts to complete a storyline for a game. Many professionals agree that stories are comprised of great quests. Quest expert, Dr. Jeff Howard describes quests as “a journey across a symbolic landscape when a player collects objects, interacts with characters, and overcomes challenges to achieve a meaningful goal”. Dr. Howard’s book, Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives goes into great detail about the concepts of narrative theory and the implications of quest elements in a game. 

3.    Development

This is as close to the stereotypical coder as it comes; however, there is much more than code that developers deal with daily. Sure there is the coding of the gaming engine, but there is also debugging, animating, and engineering. Engineering, you say? Yes. Environment developers build the game world from scratch. Consider buildings and structures and mountains and so on. There are many kinds of developers from physics developers to gameplay programmers; there is a little something for all developers. Debugging protects the game from itself to ensure that the game, in its entirety, runs smoothly. Bugs, described as errors or defects, will somehow negatively affect the game, sometimes in small ways like a floating bush, sometimes in big ways like falling through the environment. Because there are many kinds of bugs, the debugging team must be vigilant when searching for and correcting any errors or bugs. 

4.    Music/Sound

What is a game without sound? Sound increases immersion, which is the involvement and connection with the game. The better the immersion, the more interested the player. Creation, dialog, and action make-up the Music/Sound area in-game building. The background music sets the tone for the game and can have a large impact on how the player feels while playing the game. Game audio would be the sounds the player hears when their character’s sword collides with a shield or the blasters on a spaceship or the rustling of a bush. All of the seemingly routine sounds that players expect, but hardly notice must be created and input somewhere in the game building process. 

5.    Testing

Yep, testing. Each company has hundreds of QA Tester positions that will play pre-release video games and report back to the developers with criticisms. QA or Quality Assurance testers can make 20 to 55 thousand dollars a year; just for playing video games! Granted, it’s not just that easy. Testers usually start at a pretty low wage ($10 per hour) and are required to work, at a minimum, 40 hours a week. Also, the tester must submit highly detailed reviews in regards to several aspects of the game. According to a job posting from Activision, a publisher of the popular Call of Duty series, “You will be responsible for testing pre-release video games and verifying functionality, data content, performance, 1st Party compliance, usability/playability, and hardware/software compatibility”. So with an acute eye for detail, proper reporting skills, and love for video games, you can get paid to play and report on pre-released video games.

STEM Fuse offers an entire series of game building courses for all levels of experience: Game:IT. The Game:IT series starts at the elementary age level with Game:IT Elementary, and runs all the way through the high school age level Game:IT Advanced. In Game:IT Elementary, students will learn the most basic of game building concepts using an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop software called Scratch. In Game:IT Advanced, on the other side of the spectrum, students will learn to create a fully functional 3D game. Visit the STEM Fuse website to explore more about the multi-leveled Game:IT series.

Talk to you soon, Be well, and Cheers
Dylan Winthers


Works Cited

Howard, Jeff. "Introduction." Quests: Design, Theory, and History in Games and Narratives. Wellesley, MA: A.K. Peters, 2008. N. pag. Print.
"Life At Activision/ Careers." Activision | Life At Activision. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2015.

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