Subjects every designer should study

Let me start off by saying what this is not about, I am not promoting game design majors as a means to enter the game industry, nor am I saying a college degree is required in order to work as a professional game designer. This is about resources that are available to study different subjects.

The beauty of the game design field is there is no clear path to entering the profession. The downside to that though is aspiring designers often don’t know where to turn for resources to help them learn more about game design.

I do believe that regardless of whether or not you get a college degree, there are a number of subjects that you can study to hone your skills as a game designer. Let’s face it we’ve all seen rule books that were poorly written, graphic design on cards and boards that looked like a toddler took a dump with the crayon box and a myriad of other poor design choices even in modern tabletop games.

There are also a few subjects related to the business side of being a designer that everyone should be aware of such as public speaking and producing effective written communications

Design/Game Theory

What is it? Game studies or gaming theory is a discipline that deals with the critical study of games, game design, players, and their role in society and culture…….blah,blah, that’s the textbook answer and BORING

The reality though, it’s important to understand why games are made the way they are, how they’re constructed, how people (players) interact with different games and how decisions are made in games. Any basic game design course or book should cover basic theory.

Graphic Design

Graphic design is its own field of study for good reason and very few designers are going to be good at both graphic and game design, however it is important to understand some basic fundamental design concepts. Graphic design plays an important role in the entire product cycle, not just in the design phase.

Game board layout and design
Player aids layout and design
Card layout and design
Box/packaging design
Rule book layout
Sell sheets and other marketing materials


If you plan on designing wargames or games based on real world events, specific history classes will certainly become more important to you, however in this general context I would suggest a course or book on the history of the industry. Tabletop gaming has been a popular and vibrant business now for over 5 decades, so it’s important to understand what came before you.

Public Speaking

Everyone, I repeat EVERYONE should take a public speaking class and this is one I recommend taking in person. If you didn’t have one in High school or didn’t go to college, then I recommend going to your local community college. I know what you’re thinking, I want to be a game designer, why do I need to take public speaking. Well at the end of the day, you’re not going to be design games in a vacuum, you’ll be part of a larger industry and effective communications are part of business. At some point as a designer you’re going to need to be able to communicate your ideas in a public setting, whether that’s pitching your design to a potential publisher or if you decide to become a designer/publisher, you’re going to be at conventions. It’s important to be not only comfortable speaking to strangers in a public setting, but be effective in presenting your ideas.


Writing is another core skill for designers, particularly those interested in creating Role-Playing games, however even a standard card game or board game is going to have its fair share of written content to include rule books, text on cards and player’s aids. Designers may also create designers diaries, document their play-testing sessions, and create sell sheets to pitch their game to publishers all of which require concise writing skills. There is nothing worse than game materials that are poorly written and riddled with errors. The industry as a whole needs to get better and producing usable rule books.



Game Design

Introduction to Game Design Methods

The Mathematics in Toys and Games

Transmedia Storytelling: Modern Science Fiction

Videogame Theory and Analysis

Writing Science Fiction

English Composition: Research and Writing

Introduction to game design

Video Game Design: Teamwork & Collaboration

Business of Games and Entrepreneurship

Creative Writing

Fundamentals of Graphic Design

Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization

Introduction to Game Design

Presentations: Speaking so that People Listen

Principles of Game Design

Public Speaking

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