Marcus from Triolith has a good short list of things he’s learned since he finished his bachelor’s degree in game design.
It may come across as obvious to some people, but it’s worth reviewing. It’s so very, very easy to get wrapped up in the immediacy of school that the larger picture can get blurry and sometimes lost.
A good list for any game design students.
1. Design skills will only get you halfway
This is a pretty crucial point, because this is probably the most glaring problem with anyone who thinks that they will become an employed game designer right after graduation. Because anyone can design, anyone can come up with ideas; you aren’t special. Not in that regard.
However, if you have design skills as well as other skills, you will become a heck of a lot more versatile and independent. It doesn’t have to be programming skills per se; drawing skills or even musical skills will also get you a long way. Just please don’t rely solely on the belief that you are the Best Game Designer Ever because you have ‘a lot of ideas’.
2. Make games
Sound like a no-brainer? You’d be surprised (and probably aghast) at how few people in my designer class, myself included, who made next to no games during our spare time. Sure, games were made in design and game mechanics classes, but seeing a classmate showing a game he/she made on her own was almost a sensation. I’m ashamed at the fact that it took me a graduation and a period of job rejections to make me realize I didn’t have jack squat to show employers what I was capable of. No wonder I didn’t get any job offers, I myself didn’t have anything to offer! So please, at the very least go and download Game Maker and start reading up on the tutorials. You will never get better at anything unless you practice.