For video game designers, the dream of getting paid to create and play video games all day can be very real.
Video game designers are the information and aesthetic architects behind even the most popular video games. Whether a user plays a video game on a console, a computer, tablet, or smartphone, a video game design professional is behind it.
What do Video Game Designers Do?
Video game designers ask questions from the gamers’ perspective to create an engaging and intuitive experience. Elements of a video game interface, such as maps, operational logistics (lives, health, etc.), and even the way an avatar moves throughout its surroundings are all the careful work of a video game designer.
Video game designers create the entire experience for players, including:
- Develop the interactive storyboard of a game, such as characters, levels, rules, and the gameplay flow
- Narrative design: storylines, avatars, and interactions
- Create lo- and hi-fidelity mockups and prototypes to bring the game’s vision to life for stakeholders & other team members
- Collaborate heavily with others on their teams, such as sound engineers, visual artists, programmers, and stakeholders
- Product testing
- Some positions also require designers to manage specific projects and pitch new ideas
- Some positions depend on designers to develop style sheets and protocols for the company’s video game design process
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How to Become a Video Game Designer
While many fields in tech design do not outline a specific career path, video game design industry leaders do generally require a specific mix of educational background and experience to be considered an entry-level candidate.
A bachelor’s degree, a portfolio, and relevant work experience that showcase a designer’s skills are needed to be a competitive job candidate. In today’s job market, employers appreciate and expect a candidate to demonstrate the skills and experience detailed in their resume and cover letter.
Video Game Designer Degree Requirements
The industry standard to become a video game designer is a bachelor’s degree in design or computer science. Some designers even receive a master’s degree, though it is less common.
Choosing which bachelor’s degree to pursue a career as a video game designer depends on the type of job a student seeks. Because the field of video game design is wide and varied, it is recommended that students decide their discipline early on to purposefully select course material pertinent to their desired profession.
In addition to obtaining a bachelor’s degree, many hiring employers in the video game industry expect to review a student’s portfolio of previous work. This portfolio can be compiled through course projects, internships, and client work experience.
Earning a bachelor’s degree and compiling an impressive portfolio is the best way for a student or entry-level job seeker to stand out as a competitive candidate.
In addition to a student’s bachelor’s degree, there are a variety of certifications available for those seeking how to become a video game designer. Certifications can further hone a student’s expertise in a particular discipline of video game design. Other students who have obtained a bachelor’s degree in an art- or computer science-adjacent industry and wish to pivot their career to video game design may find a certification that will help them stand out as a strong job candidate.
Video Game Designer Degree Programs
Students will find a wide selection of college degrees and programs that can help them become video game designers.
Those looking to earn a bachelor’s degree in video game design should look at degrees such as:
As mentioned earlier, a student must have a clear understanding of the type of career in game design that they want to pursue to aid them in choosing the best bachelor’s degree to become a video game designer.
Many programs in the United States boast a rigorous curriculum and a high graduation rate that adequately prepares students to stand out as job candidates. Many well-known and accredited colleges in the United States offer great degree programs to become a video game designer. The top programs focus on the right combination of student collaboration, instructor direction and feedback, graduates’ preparedness upon completion, an industry-relevant curriculum and teaches the newest technological advancements, and job placement after graduation.
This list of the best colleges for earning a degree in video game design is not exhaustive. Students should always pursue a degree that will best prepare them for the desired discipline in video game design.
Most schools that offer a bachelor’s degree to become a video game designer offer both in-person and online options. Some also offer a hybrid of these learning styles. Students should choose the program and learning style that best suits their lifestyle and career goals when choosing a degree.
Video Game Designer Career Track and Salary
Video game designers enjoy a fulfilling career with many opportunities for advancement. Entry-level employees, like many professions, start with less responsibility as they become acclimated to the industry. Career advancement can include increasing project and team management, growth into a lead designer on a project, or starting one’s own business or consultancy.
Video game designer salaries vary widely based on experience, company size, specific skills and disciplines, and more. PayScale reports the average salary of a video game designer can range anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 per year, while ZipRecruiter reports that average salaries can top out at $122,000 per year.
Industry veterans in video game design recommend that entry-level video game designers find a job at a larger company to learn collaboration skills, industry trends, and other essential skills to being a video game designer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs in video game design will increase by 4 percent, which is the average rate in the next decade.
The most successful video game design job candidates have completed a relevant bachelor’s degree and compiled a portfolio to showcase in their application process. A concise, well-written resume detailing accomplishments, projects, and relevant courses will also help a graduate enter the job market.
User interfaces are now a part of daily life–from debit/credit card machines at grocery stores to smartphones to video games. As the interaction between users and interfaces has increased, designers need to construct these interactions.
Becoming a video game designer is a fulfilling career path for those excited by emerging technology trends, team collaboration, and a mix of technical and artistic positions. There are many opportunities for advancement in video game design, from leading a project and managing a team to starting an independent studio.