Monday, April 01, 2013

2012-13 Game Designer Survey results

Game Designer Survey Results

In the last half of December through the first part of February I distributed a survey for game designers on the Internet: "This is a short (10 questions, five minutes or less) survey for people who call themselves game designers, video or tabletop (which is as good a way to define who game designers are as any other)." In the end, 142 respondents have had a game published commercially, along with 46 self-publishers, more than half of the 346 respondents. Here are the results.

Because this was conducted through the free surveymonkey service, I'm unable to provide much in the way of analysis of the results. It was a proof-of-concept survey, and curiosity survey, rather than one with a specific aim. So I can be accused of violating my own survey rule, "only ask a question that can change your [the survey-taker's] behavior".

With nearly 350 responses, I think the proof-of-concept part has worked. Ultimately I intend to use information from surveys, as well as interview questions, in support of a book about being a game designer, how to become one, how to behave in order to be taken seriously by publishers, how to market games, how to license games, intellectual property protection, etc. In other words, all the parts of a game designers life that I did not address in my "Game Design" book for lack of space, and because I wanted to focus on the actual process of design in that first book.

Some observations:
While nearly a third of respondents are under 30 years old, the 30-49 group constituted more than 60%.

Respondents play even more video games than tabletop, though how much that is skewed by the many free-to-play and short experience video games we cannot say.

Nearly 50% have been to game meetings of a thousand people or more.

More than 13% have a game related degree or are working toward one.

A veteran game designer commenting on the survey told me that video game designers rarely read books, though they might look at one to help them solve a specific problem. I asked about game design books (#6) because my experience as a teacher is that people are much less likely now, than decades ago, to read a non-fiction book. Some students now don’t even get a copy of the textbook for a class. Part of that fault may be that most game design books are enormous, offputting tomes, many of them quite expensive.

As many have said, you’re not really a game designer until someone other than you has played your prototype. About 85% of respondents have reached that stage in their work. I also asked how many designs respondents are working on (#9), because to my mind veteran designers work on several (if not many) at once. More than 55% of respondents are working on at least three games.

Not surprisingly, I left out some choices in the question about sources of information about games and game design (#8). I didn't even list blogs, though I've written a game design blog since 2004. Duh.

Many people did not answer question 10, perhaps I should have added an answer “I don’t know what this is.” Still, the number who have supported crowd-funding (171, about half of respondents) is impressive.

Many respondents offered comments. I have read them all, though I won't include many here.

An Excel spreadsheet of the results is at .

I am happy to hear suggestions for questions in any further surveys. You can get in touch with me through my blogs or website (

1. How old are you?
Up to 15
0.29% 1
0.87% 3
6.65% 23
23.41% 81
61.56% 213
6.65% 23
66 or older
0.58% 2

2. How many different video games did you play in the past year?
6.38% 22
24.35% 84
24.06% 83
22.03% 76
26 or more
23.19% 80
Comments 52

3. How many different tabletop games did you play in the past year?
5.80% 20
22.90% 79
18.26% 63
20.58% 71
26 or more
32.46% 112
Comments 32

4. What size (in attendance) game conventions or conferences have you attended (ever, not just this year)?
21.22% 73
less than 200
16.28% 56
200 to a thousand
13.08% 45
More than a thousand but less than ten thousand
19.48% 67
More than ten thousand
29.94% 103
Comments 63

5. Have you ever before taken a class about game design (not programming, art, sound, or other game production topics that are not game design) - multiple answers possible?
67.25% 232
Yes, in person
17.39% 60
Yes, online
9.86% 34
Yes, and I'm working toward a game-related degree
5.22% 18
Yes, and I have a game-related degree
8.12% 28
I have taught such classes in person
8.12% 28
I have taught such classes online
1.45% 5
Comments 27

6. About how many books specifically about game design have you read?
22.54% 78
39.02% 135
23.99% 83
10 or more
14.45% 50

7. The furthest you've gone in DESIGNING a game (video or tabletop) is (choose the first one in the list that applies):
Had game published commercially (other than self-published)
41.64% 142
Self-published a game (or tried to raise funds via crowd-funding e.g. Kickstarter)
13.49% 46
Prototype submitted to publisher/game company/funding company
8.80% 30
Others played my working prototype
22.58% 77
Made working prototype
4.69% 16
Started to make prototype
4.99% 17
Wrote down a lengthy description (such as a game design document)
2.64% 9
Wrote down ideas about one
1.17% 4
Talking with others about one
0.00% 0
Other (please specify) 31

8. Which of the following sources of information about games and game design do you read regularly (you decide what "regularly" means)?
BoardgameGeek Web site 214
Any console-specific game magazine 8
Board Game Designers Forum Web site 77
Fortress:AT Web site 15
Gamasutra Web site 156
GameCareerGuide Web site 24
Gameinformer magazine 23
GameInformer Web site 18
GameSpot Web site 26
IGDA Newsletter/Web site 37
Kotaku Web site 67
PC Gamer magazine 8
PC Gamer Web site 15
RolePlayGameGeek Web site 29
The Escapist online magazine 59
VideoGameGeek Web site 18
Other (please specify) 84

9. How many games are you currently designing (have done something with them in 2012)?
4.05% 14
40.75% 141
40.75% 141
More than 5
14.45% 50
Comments 14

10. How many game projects have you SUPPORTED (not run) on Kickstarter or other crowdfunding locations?
40.21% 115
27.27% 78
12.94% 37
7 or more
19.58% 56
Comments 88

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