Become a Game Designer – Careers & Outlook

As a video game designer, you’ll be able to create the world of a medieval character or even a whole new world. Your work at designing new games for video gaming enthusiasts gives gamers the opportunity to escape from real life and will add to a growing library of entertainment and art for a new generation.

From 16-bit games and the explosion of video games in the 1990s, gamers and designers are now able to play in virtual reality or augmented reality. The demand for talented game designers like you means that this is an occupation that is growing.

While building and designing new games can be difficult, with many steps, the end reward comes when you know gaming fans are snatching your game up.

What is a Game Designer?


Becoming a game designer requires you to complete several steps, though many designers create their own paths. When you are working in this field, you might develop plots and storylines for new games. Or you could focus on creating game levels and unique game mechanics while also designing the entire environment. You may also focus solely on developing characters and creating their interactions and improving the AI for NPCs.

Steps to Become a Game Designer:


  • Step 1: Enroll in a Video Game Designer Program

  • Step 2: Complete an Internship for Video Game Designers

  • Step 3: Graduate and Find a Job in Video Game Design

  • Step 4: Look for Certifications that Make Your Skills More Valuable

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Step 1: Enroll in a Video Game Designer Program

One of the best ways to become a game designer is to find a bachelor’s degree program at a college or university. Because video game design is primarily a creative endeavor that allows gamers to play games they enjoy, you may be able to find video game design degree programs in film schools and creative media programs. You’ll learn the skills you need to create games that could stand alongside God of War, Pokémon, Call of Duty, Lords of the Fallen, and more.

Ideally, you’ll be able to find a video game design degree program with its own student game studio. Before you begin using the studio, you may receive coding support from professional graphic designers. This mentoring, along with the student studio, means you’re going to be able to develop your own game by the end of the semester. At least, that is often the goal of these programs.

Step 2: Complete an Internship for Video Game Designers

Participating in an internship while you’re in video game design school gives you a definite foundation that serves to strengthen what you learn in your classes. If you are an international student attending university classes in the U.S., you can request the opportunity for an internship from companies within the gaming industry. Based on the strength of your resume, these businesses will consider your resume for an internship. These types of internships may be competitive, so it’s good to have some backup ideas or try to find a game designer you really love and talk to them about your own game ideas or helping them make theirs a reality. Who knows what doors you might open for yourself by just reaching out to these possible mentors.

For U.S. students attending video game design classes at a U.S. college or university, you may have the chance to spend one semester in California, working on an internship. Companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Facebook, and Electronic Arts offer these opportunities so that you are able to learn working in a real-world setting.

Because opportunities are opening up for a game designer careers, you should explore as many internship programs as you can find, and who knows? You may be involved in creating the next big game, such as Mario, Minecraft, or League of Legends.

Step 3: Graduate and Find a Job in Video Game Design

When the end of your time in school is getting close, you might be thinking about ordering your cap and gown but you’ll also likely be thinking about that first great job you’re hoping to land. If you’ve been looking at job openings for video game designers that fit in your career path, good! By now, you should have a good idea of your technical skills; this helps you to choose job options more quickly.

Depending on what you focused on your classes, which may include visual effects, game designing, or creating game levels, you’ll make yourself even more valuable to a future employer. You’re going to see job opportunities primarily in three states: California, Texas, and Washington. If you are able to pick up and move to any of these states or others, you’ll be seen as an employee willing to make adjustments for your career. However, it may be possible to find some remote work with smaller game studios who are looking for someone who meets their particular style. You should keep your eyes open for these opportunities as you approach the end of your degree program.

Step 4: Look for Certifications that Make Your Skills More Valuable

You aren’t required to earn certificates or even necessarily a degree to begin working a game designer. Still, having one completed that you could list on your resume will be helpful. A bachelor’s degree in game design opens doors that may not be open to you otherwise. Knowledge of some scripting languages can also help you. These include Python and Lua, among others.

By learning desktop design applications, such as 3D modeling programs, you’ll enhance your video game design career significantly. And building a game design portfolio which contains the work you’ve done on previous games will also get you noticed by potential employers. You should also demonstrate that you have the technical skills you need. At first, you’ll likely work in an entry-level profession from which you can advance. Use your time and experience in any internships you completed while you were in college. Even before you graduate, begin applying for a position. The video game industry is competitive, so don’t wait for the “perfect” job.

What Does a Game Designer Do?


Depending on your specialty, there are a huge number of roles you can fill. Your overall responsibilities are to work within a team and create a plan that allows you to develop a new game from start to finish. You may split into smaller groups of video game designers so you can work on and complete smaller steps. Once each team has worked on their goals, they will meet with every other team and report on what they have done.

Video game design involves many processes such as art direction, level design, and others. Depending on your area of expertise, you may work in one of these areas or as a programmer, music composer, sound designer, character developer, or story writer.

You may focus much more on user interface (UI) or usability, which would make it your job to make games easier for players to understand and use without asking for help. You may help create a menu or interface that makes game-playing fun or removes the aspect of constantly dealing with inventory and spec manipulation. It really just depends on the types of games you choose to work with.

You may also work as an animator, working with either 2D or 3D spaces so you create character and scene motions that are more realistic. You’ll work on complex animations that makes the world of that game look more natural and ensure that character movements make sense.

Game Designer Skills to Acquire


Game design is a specialized field in which you need to learn or develop unique skills that professionals in other fields may not need to have. First, enter a degree program in video game design. There, you’ll learn the basics of gaming, usability, creating and developing a game from start to finish, and plenty of other skills.

You’ll learn about planning and scope as well as developing problem-solving skills. You’ll also delve into the economy of developing a game that is immediately ready for the market. In a degree, you’ll learn how to grow skills in video game design, 2D concept art, level design, 3D modeling, real-time lighting, and texturing. Because so many employers of video game designers require their employees to hold bachelor’s degrees, it’s a good idea to get started on this as early as you can and gain as many secondary skills as possible along the way.

You can also use this time to network with people who are involved in the community of video game design. This will help you keep up with the video game industry and learn about the technologies used in creating games.

You should have an active imagination, art skills, and be skilled in tech. Having a passion for gaming is also a must and communication and problem-solving will help you to get past roadblocks in design.

Game Designer Career & Salary


Where Might You Work?


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You can look to states like Washington, California, and Texas for your job opportunities, though remote options might be available as well, even from larger game development studios. You may want to specifically zero in on Seattle, San Francisco, and Austin where the employment of video game designers, game developers, graphic design professionals, and those looking for a position as a level designer are more plentiful.

As you consider your options in these cities, know that San Francisco and Los Angeles have roughly 150 gaming studios and Austin and Seattle have around 100. This is a large part of why your chances are better in these areas.

If your career goals are to work in video game design or some aspect of this field for as long as possible, entering professional organizations aimed at video game designers make it easier for you to be considered more seriously. You’ll also benefit from the networking and opportunities found by attending their video game design conferences.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty, a video game designers average salary is around $48,000 annually. You’ll need a combination of skills that encompasses artistic ability and technical skills to set you apart from other job seekers.

Career Outlook


The job growth for animators and multimedia artists (which includes video game designers) was projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2028 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The higher demand for more realistic digital effects in the games themselves has driven this demand, as well as the move toward new consoles and games on mobile devices and computers. The tendency of video game companies to hire video game designers from overseas is often based on the fact that those design professionals are willing to work for less money, which means more competition for video game designers based in the U.S.

Between 2019 and 2029, the job outlook slipped slightly to 4%, which is around the average for all occupations. This projected growth is, again, due to the increased demand for visual effects and animation in movies, television, and games.

Sales for video games were higher than $10 billion in 2009, which involved the employment of more than 32,000 game design professionals in 34 states. Because the development of video games, whether on mobile devices or computers, is so complex, it requires many professionals with skills in a variety of areas collaborate in the development—from preproduction to postproduction. Hopefully, as entertainment continues to be a large industry, video game designers will have excellent job prospects for years to come.

Jobs


As a game designer, you may be required to know computer languages and scripting knowledge. While you may not work in these areas, you may still have some say in sound, story, and level design. Never fear, because you’ll be working shoulder-to-shoulder with producers, artists, and programmers to ensure that the game is progressing as projected.

As a game designer, your knowledge and skills will be the most in demand—you are the one who develops ideas for game play, mechanics, and style. After discussions and decisions are made, your game may be the one chosen for building. Being a storyteller with imagination means you have the ability to visualize and tell the story. But, no matter your specialty, you are likely to be able to find a position within the video game industry.

  • Video Game Designer/Producer (Design and Management):
    This may be a full-time or contract position for a producer who would work with the production and design people. You would be responsible for designing game features, as well as the layout levels, then you would bring them to life in the game.
  • Software Engineer, Server - Video Games:
    In this position, you would be responsible for building, maintaining, and troubleshooting bespoke game systems (which are created and made to the individual buyer’s specifications). Your employer expects you to have a strong understanding of backend service development, distributed systems, and networked game development. You will also work closely with tech leads and video game designers, creating one-of-a-kind systems and services.
  • Game Designer:
    In this position, you may work for a gaming company with a portfolio of mobile, online, or console game including MMO role playing, strategy, puzzle games, and more. Your responsibility is to develop systems gameplay and creative content. You’ll work with employees in other disciplines to keep the gameplay experience moving efficiently, and this includes gameplay design, implementation of creative design and the extraction of data.
  • Associate Designer (Contract):
    In this position, you may work with live service teams who move the daily creative work that ensures games are always fun, attention-grabbing, and fresh. You create fun content in terms of both programs and features. You make sure the games are of the highest quality by working with the QA team to make sure everything does what it is supposed to do.
  • In-House Video Game Designer:
    A full-time, in-house game developer may in the future be required to have experience in developing for both desktop and virtual reality environments. Or you may work within an E-Learning course design and animation team. Your responsibilities may include developing and designing simulations and interactive games for Oculus Quest 2, Pico G2, Oculus Risk, or other up and coming consoles.
  • QA Video Game Tester:
    In this role, you perform quality assurance testing in a facility for a video game industry leader. While this position may offer a long-term position, it may end up being temporary (8-12 months), though these types of positions may be extended. You’ll test games before they are released to find errors and bugs in each level.
  • UX Designer:
    This position requires you to have a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design, Human Factors, or a similar program. You may also be required to have up to several years of experience working with UX design.
  • Instructional Designer:
    In this position, you’ll help to design and develop experiences in learning and practicing. You’re responsible for creating learning activities that engage students’ attention, as well as creating attention-grabbing course content that allows students to retain new knowledge and transfer it to long-term memory.

Find Game Designer Jobs Near You


Advancing from Here


Depending on your skills at work, you may be able to advance up the career ladder without more education. Communication skills are one of the most important to have, as you’ll need to be able to communicate clearly orally and in writing. This is how you get your ideas across. If you are skilled as a game programmer, you may be promoted to senior programming positions. Time management skills are vital to a change in your job title. Basic knowledge in game development and building websites can also help.

Another way to advance is to earn a college degree in artificial intelligence or management. You could even complete business and management training and open your own studio.

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