Last updated on August 27th, 2020 at 05:38 pm

People love playing games. Actually they play too much. The trend is here to stay though, and it allows hundreds of game studios to thrive, and to earn millions of dollars each year. If you also want to eat your fraction of this juicy pie, you have two options:

First one is trying your luck as a freelance game designer, racing with the big dogs who operate huge budgets and employ dozens of employees. Not easy to do in 2021 really… It was a big chance in 2007 to 2009, and if you started as a freelance game designer back then, you could have been sitting on the other site of the table today–interviewing job candidates, trying to hire new talent for your prospering game studio.

Too late for the party? It’s never late really. The best tables and the best girls may be taken, but you can still enter the place and dance… Video game designers earn more than $70,000 each year in average in the US. That’s not bad either, is it? You just have to pass the interview, and secure one of those jobs. Let’s have a look at some questions you may face while trying to do so.

 

Why game design?

You have a few options for an excellent answer. One is telling them a story. Perhaps you have been an avid gamer all your life. You’ve played everything, understood the concepts, the characters, and also what distinguishes a great game from an average one. But you can’t live from playing only (unless you are an elite pro gamer).

And so you decided to turn your hobby into full time income. Since you understand games so well, and happen to know some programming and stuff, you see no reason why it shouldn’t pan out.

Another option is praising the potential of the field. Games are here to stay, and many people spend 30+ hours each week gaming. That’s a lot of time in one’s life. You know that this is perspective field, and see the impact you can have while designing games.

And because you happen to meet the job requirements (bachelor’s degree from video game design, or a few years of experience), you see it as a perfect match, an ideal job choice for this stage of your professional career.

 

Why do you want to work for our studio? Why not one of our competitors?

Every owner or executive thinks that they have the best studio, they they design the best games. Or at least that the next big thing on the market will be from their production.

Obviously this is far from the truth, but it gives you an idea what you should focus on while answering this question. Games. Their games. Do a good research, and check their most popular games on all platforms (iPhone, android, etc), as well as the latest addition to their collection.

Try to find something you like, and play the demo for a few minutes. Do you like the visuals, sounds, characters? Or perhaps the overall direction they take in their design, the easily recognizable brand which is reflected in each and every game they release?

You should find something that resonates with you, something amazing in your eyes (or at least pretend that you consider it amazing), and shower your interviewers with some words of praise.

Of course, if you got a recommendation from an existing employee, and they praised the working environment, company culture, employee benefits or anything else, you should cite is as a secondary reason for your choice. The primary reason, however, should always be their work, the games they design.

Please tell us something about your experience with designing games

The right answer to this question can be summed up in two words: Excellent portfolio. That’s exactly what you should prepare before the start of your interview–if you haven’t done so already.

Now, it doesn’t matter if you worked for another studio before, or did just a school project, or designed something in your free time, or freelanced. Even drawings and ideas for games (concepts) are good enough to get a place in your portfolio.

Once they ask you about your experience, you should take the portfolio from your briefcase. Showcase them the various games you participated on as a designer, and try to always explain your role in the process, programming languages you used (if you were coding), and the goal of each project, and whether it met the goal.

It is also important to talk with enthusiasm. They should get an impression that you enjoy your work immensely, and will continue enjoying it while working for their studio.

 

In your opinion, what is the most successful game when we look at the last 12 months and the game that flopped terribly? Can you define why one was successful and the other failed to succeed?

They are testing your knowledge of the market, as well as if you can tell a good game from a bad one.

There are hundreds of successful games released each year. Obviously if you apply for a job with a studio that released any from the top 10 games for the last twelve months, you should pick their game as the most successful.

The reasons why a game succeeded differ a lot from one game to another. And since you do not have access to their books and do not know how much they spent while advertising the game, for example, you should not refer to marketing efforts.

Try to find something about the gaming part instead. Maybe you love the easy user interface, or how addictive the game is. The colors, the visuals, or the strong brand, anything. Or that they picked the right moment to ask user to make in-game purchases, and that really shot them up.

Paradoxically, the game which flopped can also be within the top 100. But their ratings are terrible, downloads are decreasing, or the company spent much more money developing and marketing it than they made from sales, or from in-app purchases.

Here you have it easier with identifying the reasons why they failed–just check the reviews, and find out what people complain about the most. It can be speed, problems with compatibility, or simply that the game did not deliver on the promises….

 

What programming languages do you have experience with?

This is a an easy question as long as you have experience. C++ and Java are still on the top of the list for game designers, though you may benefit from knowledge of other languages as well. If you have experience, just tell them how long you’ve been coding in the language, and refer to your portfolio, showing them a few examples (to give credibility to your answer).

However, the demand on the market of game developers is so high, that they may give you a chance in the company even if you are just starting with learning languages. Because at the end of the day, game design is not only about coding, and you may have your role in creating concepts, characters, in drawing and visualizing things. Or you may swipe the floor in the office :).

Anyway, if you lack programming skills, you should do two things:

  • Ensure the interviewers that they are on your list, that you are currently learning programming, or will do so in the near future, because you understand it will broaden your horizons and possibilities when it comes to game design.
  • Refer to your other strengths, reasons why they should hire you though you lack coding skills at the moment (artistic or copy writing skills, huge experience with playing games, etc).

Special Tip: Download all questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:

game designer interview questions, PDF

Do you have a concept of an interesting game on your mind? Something you’d like to work on in our studio?

New ideas are always welcome. What’s more, in certain cases the studio can have plenty of programmers, but they lack ideas, they lack people who will tell the programmers what they should work on. If it is a case, you may get this question in an interview. And you should have an idea on your mind.

Now, you do not necessarily have to come with something disruptive–though if you have a superbly innovative idea for a game, something that hasn’t been done yet, you should certainly outline it in an interview.

But you can also just look at some of the most popular concepts and games, and try to think about some minor innovation, adjustment, something that will make it slightly better, a new twist if you want.

The most important thing is to show that you have some ideas, can think creatively, and do not hesitate to speak openly about them in the interview.

 

Other questions you may face in an interview for a job in game design

  • How do you imagine a typical working week in our game design studio?
  • Do you have any experience with agile development?
  • For sure you know our most popular game “ABC Game”. What would you improve about the game, for example for the next release or update?
  • Do you prefer to work on a team or independently?
  • Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to one of your colleagues. What did you do to eventually get your message over?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • How would you define quality?

 

Conclusion, next step

Getting a job in a game design studio is not the hardest thing in the world. Demand still exceeds the supply, and studios virtually fight for both experienced designers and young talented coders or graphics, who are eager to learn and grow with the company.

As long as you prepare a nice portfolio of your past works, and demonstrate enthusiasm for game design and decent knowledge of both the industry and the work of their particular studio, they will typically give you a chance, and hire you (at least for the trial period). I hope you will make it and wish you good luck!

Matthew

May also interest you:

Matthew Chulaw
Latest posts by Matthew Chulaw (see all)