How to become a game designer

Article Sources
  • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016: Multimedia Artists and Animators, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271014.htm; accessed August, 2017
  • Multimedia Artists and Animators, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm; accessed August, 2017
  • The Top 50 Game Makers, IGN, http://www.ign.com/lists/video-game-makers; Accessed Sept, 2017

Interested in becoming a video game designer? A career working in gaming and game design requires a bevy of skills. With the advent of arcade, console, computer, and now mobile and tablet games, game development has become an elaborate process regardless of the specific design job at hand. 

Here's information about skills video game designers should have, what education your average game designer should aim for, info about gaming jobs and careers, the average salary someone working in game design can expect, and insight into game design and gaming industry in general. When you're done exploring, be sure to check out video game development degree programs.  

What does a game designer do?

In a nutshell, the job of a video game designer is to build other worlds. Career game designers might:

  • Create graphics, animation, and visual effects (CGI)
  • Build 2-D and 3-D models and animation
  • Craft the video game look, feel, and layout
  • Research projects for game realism, working with game programmers, graphic designers, and specialists in related fields

    Gaming designers and specialists trained in a variety of disciplines -- think multimedia artists, programmers or animators -- collaborate to create great computer or video games replete with realistic animation and visual effects. These individuals don't need to be in the same room, city or even the same state to contribute to the team job. Not only are many game designers -- about 59 percent -- self-employed designers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), many work from home, regardless of their employment. 

    Still, consider commuting in to the bigger makers in the gaming world, such as Electronic Arts (EA), Capcom, Nintendo EAD, Konami and others when looking for a job with a video game developer. 

    How much do game designers make?

    As with any job or career, the average salary for video game and other game designers vary, especially with your background. Whether your background comes from a fine arts or graphic design angle, programmer, or a computer science angle, according to the BLS, the average annual wage for video game designers -- grouped under multimedia artists and animators -- in the U.S. was $72,200 in 2017. And for those working in game design, consider location when embarking on your career path. The top five states in terms of annual average wages were:

    • California: $82,680
    • Connecticut: $78,870
    • Massachusetts: $77,370
    • Washington D.C.: $76,530
    • New Mexico: $76,130

    Regardless of salary and whether you are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, NY or somewhere in between, those working in video game design might find more financial and job availability opportunities with higher education, such as a animation degree program or programming undergraduate degree, under your belt. 

    What are the educational requirements for game designers?

    If you are interested in pursuing a career in video game design, the minimum requirement for entry-level employment is typically a bachelor's degree, the BLS reports. Consider campus-based or online degree programs for your bachelor's degree in:

    • Game development
    • Graphic design
    • Computer science
    • Programming/Video game programming

    Some schools have dedicated degree programs in game design, but if you can't find one that suits you, remember it isn't the only educational option. Along with degree programs game development, completing a degree program in computer graphics, art, animation or a related field can also help you to prepare for this career.

    While it may be advantageous to possess artistic ability and talent, people lacking in those areas can often compensate by developing robust technical and computer skills -- abilities that might be preferred by some game design employers. Likewise, those who do not have strong computer skills may make up for it through demonstrable artistic talent.

    In looking to find video game designer jobs, consider building a portfolio of relevant work to showcase your technical skills, whether it be through on-the-job training while working on your degree, or through coursework.

    What skills do game designers need?

    Some qualities that might benefit designers in the gaming world may include:

    • Understanding game-play theory
    • Working successfully both independently and on a team
    • Artistic talent
    • Written communication skills
    • Computer skills
    • Creativity, such a strong storytelling skills or a penchant for hands-on artistry
    • Time-management skills
    • Ability to work long hours and tight deadlines

    If you've been called a gamer for as long as you remember or have always been enthralled by the world of gaming, you might as well make a career out of it, right? To learn more about how to become a video game designer, location salary info, and for a complete list of sources, check out the visual that follows.

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    How to Become a Game Designer
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