Does Game Design Require Coding?

Creating a video game can be exciting, and once you design the first one, you will want to do many more. 

The impact of the video game industry in today’s world is very high. There are currently about 2.69 billion video games in the world, according to Statista. And more and more people are spending money on this type of leisure.  

For designers looking to go into this profession, they are often put off by the thought of the need to have a programming skill. But the question we should be asking is: does game design require coding?  

Well, many who are into game design don’t actually need to code. What’s most required of the game designer is some basic scripting skills. And this is not very hard to learn. Basically, there is no need to learn to code as there are programmers whose job is to code and are very fantastic at this. 

How to create a video game from scratch and be successful  

You’ve come to that point where you want to get started in creating a video game. You know what kind of game you’re going to play, how it’s going to be played, it’s all in your head.   

Now all you have to do is find and install one of those famous “video game engines” or find someone who knows how to use one. However, starting like this with your head down will hardly give you a good result.  

To be successful, it is necessary to prepare yourself, to learn to avoid the pitfalls, and to understand what it is. 

Indeed, a video game is fun. You can easily spend hundreds of hours in front of this hobby, which is easy to learn.   

However, we can say that it is also easy to create: a few images here and there, some sounds, and when the player presses this key, this happens.  

This feeling of simplicity is all the more present when we look at the games of talented creators such as Notch (Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft), Eric Barone (Stardew Valley) ) or Jonathan Blow (Braid). Success is within reach. 

However, when we look at the testimonies of these creators, we realize that they worked hard and sometimes had failures, to arrive at the result that we know. For example, Stardew Valley is about five years of solo work before the game could evolve (in particular, the game has undergone several graphic overhauls).  

The same is true in development studios where each game is the result of several months and years of often intense work. In short, the public only sees what is successful. We rarely talk about failed projects. 

Nevertheless, we should not be discouraged. It is perfectly possible to create a video game. You have to understand that this is a full-fledged project and as with any project, to be successful, you have to take it apart, get organized and work. 

The programming skill required 

First of all, creating a video game does not necessarily require programming knowledge. You don’t need to know how to code. It just takes a little logic to get there. 

Even a professional programmer may not be comfortable with making a video game. Of course, he will not be helpless, but the problems of a video game are different from those encountered when creating a “classic” application. 

The logic needed in a video game is domain-specific. The need to know how to program is greatly reduced by the democratization of video game engines. Finally, with a video game engine, if we had to recreate a 2D platform game, à la Mario, we would set the following rules: 

  • when the player presses the right key, Mario moves to the right; 
  • when the player presses the left button, Mario moves to the left; 
  • when the player presses the A button, Mario jumps (the jump is to be defined, often by a simple mathematical operation, mixing addition, multiplication, and some conditions); 
  • when Mario hits an enemy and he is above, the enemy dies;  
  • otherwise, Mario loses a life; 

This succession of simple rules makes it possible to set up the mechanics that form a 2D platform game. The rest (animations, program progress, loading of resources, etc.) is managed by the video game engine. 

To practice logic, you can install Scratch and start reproducing the rules stated above. 

In short, programming should no longer be a barrier, everything is done to make it simple. 

In some video game engines, the implementation of the above rules can be done by nesting logic bricks (as can be done in Scratch). 

What makes a good video game? 

Even if the program seems to be the center of a video game, a video game is very rarely good without images or sound. And obviously, if the program bugs, for example, due to miscalculated collisions, the game is unplayable. 

Another point to mention is that despite perfect graphics, a crisp soundtrack, and a bug-free program, a game can still be bad with its gameplay. Indeed, just by a bad calibration of the statistics of a character (points of life, etc.), or a bad conception of the levels, the game can become frustrating or uninteresting. 

In reality, the gameplay is key to making the game fun and that should be your first piece of work before you even have good graphics or sound. 

Right now, you’ve got a gameplay idea in your head, however, it’s only by implementing and testing it (and having it tested) that you will realize whether it’s actually fun or not.  

Maybe you want to replicate and improve the style of a game you know. However, this will be less obvious than you think, because the game already has a multitude of details that will not be immediately visible to you (and therefore, difficult to transcribe). 

A simple game can take work and thought. If we dissect a great classic such as Super Mario Bros., we can notice that the first level is intelligently constructed. The level acts as a discreet tutorial where the player learns that he must go to the right, that he can jump, kill monsters, collect bonus items. 

However, while the design makes the game fun, it should also be understood that players will first watch a video or screenshots of the game. This first impression should also be worked. Therefore, if the graphics aren’t good enough or consistent enough, potential gamers won’t even try your game. 

Who builds the video game? 

When looking at video game content, it becomes obvious that a triple-A game like Red Dead Redemption has credits where hundreds of people are mentioned. Also, even for a large team, the project spans several years. So it is clear that this is a huge project. 

Each member of the team will have a specific role and will be an expert in achieving it. This is how you can find an animator who has only worked on the animation throughout the project. The same will be the case for a programmer working on rendering the game. 

In a small studio, making a less elaborate game, the work is also spread over a long period. On the other hand, an artist will have to work here on several graphic elements of the game: the interface, the textures, the animations, etc. Likewise, the programmer will have to work on the menus as well as network communication or even the rendering. 

Both cases (large studios or independent) have advantages and disadvantages. Indeed, in the large studio, a specialist will only take care of his preferred field, but this can lead to a certain weariness. 

In a small team, the creator will also have to work on aspects that interest him little or not at all. 

If you’re into making an amateur video game, you’re on your own. Therefore, in your project, you will be required to have multiple roles and be versatile. So expect to also work in areas that you do not know, or that you do not master.  In short, you will need to get out of your comfort zone. This is also what makes the experience rich and interesting. 

Do not expect to find a collaborator from the start of the project. Indeed,  it is almost mandatory to have a functional and advanced project to interest people and be able to attract future colleagues. 

The goal is to set up an organization to prevent demotivation from taking hold. Also, this organization helps to see progress and to always have seen the objectives. 

Tips for starting 

Write down ideas 

It is important to have a document to write down all your ideas. Even if some of them seem far-fetched or impractical, write them down. Sorting will be done later. 

For example, you can create a folder in which you will keep your ideas (in a text file), but also images (possibly your drawings representing certain ideas), sounds, or any other resources. These can be inspirational or can be modified for reuse in the project, or another project. 

It can be convenient to access the suggestion box from anywhere, anytime. For example, your Ideas Document may be available on Google Docs to fulfill this goal. 

Eventually, ideas will become tasks. 

Organize tasks 

In addition to the document or folder to keep your ideas, you will have to write down and organize the tasks to be done. 

To make it easier to perform tasks, you must follow a few rules: 

  • a task should only concern one thing to do; 
  • the title should be clear (by reading the title you should already understand what to do); 
  • the description of a task makes it possible to indicate as many details as possible to achieve it (pitfalls to avoid, constraints to be respected, details of what is wanted); 
  • a task should not be too global. Choose small tasks by cutting out large ones. 

A good division of the tasks allows us to have only “simple” tasks and have them quickly achievable. So, you’ll want to implement them. 

Once completed, you will remove the task from the list, giving you a sense of progress. 

By having task tracking, you will have a better view of the progress of the project, but also, it will be easier to resume a task after having put it aside. 

Tip: The tool to fulfill this role can be a bug tracker, the Trello web application, or more simply a text document or a table. Do what you want and above all, don’t spend your energy or your time installing and administering a heavy bug tracker. 

Plan stages of progress (milestones) 

A project must have long-term milestones and objectives. Indeed, it is not enough to have ideas and corresponding tasks. It is necessary to have a broader vision and to take important steps marking the concrete evolution of the project.  

For example, the first step will be to build the Proof Of Concept. The second can be the realization of a demonstration to distribute to your friends. 

The milestones are just a grouping of tasks that need to be completed by a given date. They must be defined as soon as possible and indicate (document) what the game will contain on a given date. 


Creating a video game is a unique and rewarding experience, whether successful or not. Moreover, few are those who succeeded the first time. You don’t necessarily have to be good at programming to start. However, no creator has succeeded without having previous experiences in the field of video games.  

These can be varied: collaboration on a project, professional experience, making smaller games, with or without success. However, failure should not be an end in itself. Each experience allows you to learn and be better prepared. 

This article has attempted to provide an introduction to making your own video game and helping you avoid common pitfalls. So all you have to do is get started and above all, don’t give up on the first difficulty. 

Have fun creating!