Does Game Design Require Math?

While math is heavily involved in the process of making video games, there are certain aspects of video game creation that either require a little bit of math skills, or no math skills at all.

Where does game design stand on this spectrum? Being a game designer is a dream job for many gamers. If you’re one of these people who are interested in game design, then knowing how much math is involved in game design helps you prepare well for your dream job.

With that said, here’s your answer.

Does game design require math?

Some game design fields do not require any math skills, while other fields require knowledge in algebra, probability and statistics, and other math fields. Game content designers for example do not need any math skills in general, game systems designers on the other hand use math equations and probabilities extensively.

With that said, if math is your enemy, then I’m glad to let you know that your dream of working as a video games designer is possible.

You just need to focus on the game design type that either doesn’t require any math skills, or requires a little bit of math that you can learn over time.

However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t attempt improving your math skills. In fact, as a game designer, you will most probably be doing work related to all kinds of game design fields since you might not have the luxury to work at a company that can afford hiring dedicated designers for each game design type.

With that said, improving your math skill set constantly can boost your chances of becoming a successful game designer.

If you’re wondering what type of math each of the game design fields/types require, then the rest of this article will hopefully answer your questions.

Before we move on, if you would like to learn more about becoming a game designer without a degree, you can check this article.

What type of math do content designers need?

None. A content game designer rarely needs any math skills to get their job done.

In general, the content game designers are responsible for dealing with the dialogue between the player and the NPCs, the story and the history of the world, the backstory of some/all characters and the history of some of the landmarks that exist in the game world, and so on.

This all doesn’t require any math skills, unless you’re working on a certain niche game where math is part of the actual world and the stories that need to be written about the characters involve a lot of math.

What type of math do level designers need?

You might be able to survive as a level designer if you don’t know any math, however, math can be an excellent tool for you as a level designer.

Level designers layout the worlds of the game. They decide where everything should be placed, where the player should spawn, where the enemies exist, and so on.

With that said, knowing some algebra can be helpful in certain cases for level designers. 

For example, if the designers want to place moving platforms in a 2D platformer, they might need some math skills to decide on the best movement behaviors for their platforms.

It’s true that the level designer can just go for the “trial and error” method where they just try a bunch of layouts and see what works and what doesn’t. However, understanding the movement equations of the player can help the designer be much more efficient at their job.

What type of math do system designers need?

A system designer will need a lot of algebra and probability math.

System designers decide the progression of the game, the rarity of certain items, the stats of different game weapons, the combinations needed for crafting, the economy of the whole game, and so much more.

Basically, system design is all about “Balancing” the different numbers and variables in the game to obtain the optimal game flow and progression. 

It’s all about numbers when it comes to system design, and thus it’s all about math and rules.

One example is the use of probabilities. A system designer will need to carefully use probability functions to decide things like weapon failure rates, item rarity, enemy types, enemy strength, and any other system that might involve randomness.

Algebra is also heavily used by system designers. A system designer will need equations that govern the overall game progression, the strength and health of opponents compared to the player’s strength, the effects of the powerups that the player can acquire, and so much more.

As you might already have figured out, finding a good balance for the game without having any math skills is extremely difficult, and is nearly impossible in certain games where there are a large number of variables to deal with.

Does not knowing math prevent you from being a game systems designer?

Technically no, you can just throw in some random numbers and hope for the best, and then keep improving using trial and error, however, the knowledge of math can make you much more efficient as a system designer, and it can expand your options significantly.

What type of math do game experience designers need?

Experience designers are another type of designers that require math extensively. 

Experience designers are responsible for how the controls of the game “feel”. Their goal is to make the character controls “just feel right”!

For example, they decide how the character jumps, walks, dashes, accelerates and so on. In order to figure out the perfect answers to these types of questions, you need math.

Again, it’s mostly about algebra here, and the use of motion functions to dictate how the playable character moves and reacts to player input.

Let’s take the jump of the playable character as an example here. The experience designer will need to decide how high the player jumps, how fast do they reach the max point, and how fast do they decelerate to the ground level, and so on.

Should they use a simple gravity equation? Or should they alter the jump so that it feels smoother and more responsive?

This is just one mechanic out of many that a “game experience” designer will have to deal with.

What about UI designers? Sound designers? And others?

Both UI designer and sound designers do not need any math skills. The UI designer is responsible for deciding how the UI is laid out and how the game communicates its rules to the player.

A sound designer is responsible for deciding what soundtracks are to be played in what locations, and what sound effects are to be triggered after certain actions occur.

Generally speaking, none of the mentioned tasks require any knowledge of math, so if you are not interested in learning math at all, UI design and sound design can be a great option for you to enter the game design world.

Conclusion

While some game design disciplines require a heavy use of math, other disciplines do not require any math skills. Which one to choose from will depend on how much math you are willing to deal with, and how much passion you have for the type of tasks you’ll be working on in each of these game design types.

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