What is games design?
With 10 years of experience working in the games industry, Marielle Reuser is a practising digital artist for video games including AAA titles, such as Red Dead Redemption II.
Having worked for Codemasters and Rockstar Leeds as a 3D artist, Marielle’s artwork can be seen in Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption II. Having created 3D environments for award-winning titles, she now teaches as a senior lecturer on BSc (Hons) Games Design and BA (Hons) Games Art, specialising in environment design, character creation and digital sculpting, in addition to practice-based research at Leeds Beckett University.
What is games design?
Games design is an exciting route for an awarding career within a £7bn (UK, 2020) industry. Games design is just a small aspect of video game development, and gaming enthusiasts can join the industry as an artist to programmers, and as QA technicians to writers.
Games design refers to the use of creativity and design to develop education or entertainment games containing fun and engaging stories, characters, challenges, etc. Games designers are responsible for bringing games to life using preliminary research to write design documents and build bridges between writers, artists and programmers.
Games design is not just about playing games and ‘having ideas’. Gameplay systems, mechanics and features should all work together to create a fun and engaging experience for players. In my opinion, great games designers underpin their design choices with audience-based research and constantly ask themselves the question: ‘How can this be more fun for the player?’. Additionally, the games designer needs to have a good understanding of how to monetise the product.
How do I become a games designer?
The job market within the games industry is highly competitive. With games now outselling film in the entertainment industry, the video games sector is also highly lucrative and always in need of talent. To become a games designer, you simply need to do just that … make games!
Besides playing games, young talent should also get stuck in making games through, for example, participating in game jams. I suggest new games designers and artists should start working on their social media presence as soon as possible as this is a great way to find (freelance) work and like-minded people to make games with.
Bearing in mind that AAA entry-level roles get hundreds of applications a month, new talent must ensure that their portfolios stand out. As part of the application process, a candidate will need to show their passion and dedication through examples of previously created games or artwork on their websites or portfolio hubs, such as Artstation. By joining one of the games courses at Leeds Beckett University, students will be able to work on this portfolio through assignment work while being guided by skilled industry professionals.
How do I know if games design is for me?
Games design is not for you if you just play games. Successful games designers typically spend a lot of their time on making games with free engines like Unity and Unreal, ‘modding’ existing video games and / or participating in online challenges and game jams. If you are passionate about any aspect of video game creation and you have dabbled in design (digital or traditional media) or programming, games design could be a fantastic and rewarding education and career direction.
Tell us about your background
As a child, I was always drawing, and I knew from an early age I wanted to do something with art. As a student in the mid-2000s, I played quite a bit of Grand Theft Auto and I would never have dreamed about actually joining Rockstar Games as an artist. From an early age, I liked playing games such as Tomb Raider and Rayman, but my excitement for game art started with The Sims. I learned how to mod the clothing for The Sims long before I knew working as a game artist ‘was a thing’.
Dedicated video games courses didn’t exist back then, and I joined a BA Film Studies course instead. Eventually, I ended up working in web content for Codemasters, and rediscovered my passion for art and learned how to use 3D software. After studying game art for my MA degree, I joined Rockstar Games as an intern and after learning a lot, I found my way into the Art Department during the creation of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Eventually, I ended up working as a 3D environment artist on titles such as Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption II.
What achievements are you most proud of at Leeds Beckett University?
I’m currently working on a video game in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University’s Fashion students. FASHION X GAMES is an interactive, colourful world built with the Unity game engine, in which to explore the final collections of BA Fashion students from the comfort of your own home. With the pandemic rendering traditional fashion showcases and live events unsafe, our video game offers a great alternative to show off the designers’ hard work. The BA Fashion students turned their 2D designs into 3D artworks using Marvelous Designer, while myself and my students provided an interactive virtual space.
The game can be played in any internet browser, and we are hoping to launch soon. Please see our work in progress video on YouTube.
What are the career options available with a games design degree?
New talent can join the industry through the indie route or join an AAA studio. Skills are also transferable to other industries, such as serious gaming, visual development, film and TV, marketing, to name a few. As you study, you will find out where your talents lie, be they in narrative design, scripting, programming, 2D or 3D art, etc. You will eventually cater your portfolio to any of these disciplines. Leeds Beckett University alumni have also gone on to start their own businesses and create award-winning video games.
Marielle Reuser portfolio
Have a look through Marielle's personal portfolio.