How Can I Become a Video Game Designer?

A career as a video game designer could entail developing the storyline, levels, environments, characters and special effects in a game, though some designers may focus on just one aspect. Read here to learn more about becoming one, including degree programs you could enroll in and career prospects. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Video Game Designer?

Video game designers use high-end computer software to create interactive games. These individuals work with a team to complete their projects and usually specialize in one area of the game, such as character creation or storylines. They often first map out their vision with a hand-done mock-up or blueprint. They can create all kinds of visual effects and animations, including 3-D models. Below, you can learn some details about a career as a video game designer:

Degree RequiredAssociate's, Bachelor's
Education RequiredComputer science, Game design, Animation
Key ResponsibilitiesCreate storylines, design characters, make sure the game flows well, edit and remove various elements
Job Growth (2014-2024)*6% (for all multimedia artists and animators)
Median Salary (2015)*$63,970 (for all multimedia artists and animators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Video Game Design Programs are Available?

Schools offer certificate, associate's degree, bachelor's degree and master's degree programs in video game design. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) also lists computer science, English and art as possible majors for aspiring game designers. Some computer science programs even offer a specialization in game design. While certificate programs enrich the knowledge of students interested in video game design, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have a college degree.

In a game design program, you'll learn about the technology of game development, the cultural dimension of video games, design theory and game aesthetics. Courses cover such topics as 2D and 3D graphics, animation, storyboarding, game analysis, game math and project management. Compared to bachelor's degree programs, associate's degree programs may emphasize technical topics over theory and aesthetics. Many programs end with a capstone or final project in which degree candidates create a game. Some allow students to choose a concentration, such as sound design, animation or programming.

What are My Employment Prospects?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for multimedia artists and animators should increase by 6%. There were 64,400 of these jobs in 2014. Demand for video games continues to increase, particularly as mobile devices begin to provide another gaming platform. As online gaming continues to grow in popularity, so will the need for game designers. However, competition from overseas software developers may somewhat offset these trends.

What Job Duties Will I Have?

As a game designer, you'll be responsible for the overall game-playing experience. During the initial brainstorming phase, you will determine a game's theme, rules and missions. Roughly conceived narratives, scripts, sketches and storyboards are common tools at this stage, which ends with the writing of a detailed design document. The design document includes maps of game settings and flow charts depicting the order of game events. Throughout the development process - coding, artwork generation, demo and testing - you will edit, add or remove elements to control a game's pace and adjust the degree of difficulty for players.

Several designers might be employed on very large projects. The lead designer takes responsibility for a game's feel and overall concept. A level designer collaborates with programmers and artists on the creation of game sections. Writer-designers generate in-game dialogue and text, and they sometimes write hint books and manuals.

What Could I Expect to Earn?

In 2016, Payscale.com listed that video game designers, earned a salary range of $34,374 - $108,273. Those with entry level experience made around $56,000, while those with 20 years or more earned about $100,000. The BLS reports that multimedia artists and animators made a median salary of $63,970 in May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers to multimedia artists and animators include art directors, computer programmers and graphic designers. Art directors manage visual projects for various brands and entities. Computer programmers create software and computer applications. Graphic designers create visual pieces for publications, companies and many other establishments. All of these fields necessitate a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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