What Does a Video Game Programmer Do?

Video game programmers bring video game concepts to life. They write code that will become a playable video game. There are several job options in video programming, so continue reading to learn more about this career field. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

The title of video game programmer does not describe a singular occupation. In fact, video game programmers typically specialize, allowing them to focus their skills and work as part of collaborative development process. Specialty areas focus on the different components of a video game, such as audio, graphics, and artificial intelligence.

Important Facts About Video Game Designers

Median Annual Salary (2014) $83,410 per year
Entry-level Education Bachelor's degree
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 6% growth (for Multimedia Artists and Animators)
Similar Occupations Computer programmers, web developers, art directors

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O-Net OnLine

Audio Programmer

In many games, music works as a warning system, to set the mood of a scene, or to alert you to something that has happened. For example, magic and weapons usually have sounds cued to their use. As an audio programmer, you attach sound to the action and events within a video game.

You'll write utilities and software that combine sound with graphics to make them seem natural. To accomplish this, you have to understand basic programming and a variety of digital audio production techniques. Different consoles use different formats as well, so you may have to covert the audio for a game that comes out for PlayStation into a format for Xbox 360.

Special Effects and Graphics Programmer

When your character walks into a room, you might knock over a chair. A cat might leap out of a corner to startle you. The colors in the room will set the mood for the type of action about to take place. If your character uses a knife to pry open a cupboard, the door may fall off, light may gleam from the side of the blade as it's turned, and the object inside the cupboard may trigger text asking if you want to pick it up.

If you work as a graphic programmer, creating all of these visual cues is part of your job. You use a combination of graphic arts and programming skills to give a 2-dimensional platform a 3-dimensional feeling. You also must be able to compress data so that it will flow in real-time without creating lag as things load.

Artificial Intelligence Programmer

Your experience in a game may change depending on what level of expertise you set the game on. You may be attacked by three zombies on an advanced level, but only one on a beginner level. The rate at which you are attacked, the responses to your attack methods and other aspects of the battle may also change. To accomplish these adjustments, the game must be programmed using artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, tells the game how to react, such as how many zombies to throw at you, how fast or slow they'll move, and how they'll react to your battle strategy.

Your work as an artificial intelligence programmer will use some of the same programming skills used in robotics. You'll use psychology to program non-player-character reactions and apply engineering theory when interactions take place between characters and objects. Like a graphics programmer, you have to find algorithms and ways to condense or rewrite code so that the game will continue seamlessly without lagging.

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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