Video Game Designer

Video game design careers may appeal to candidates who excel at technology and possess the creative thinking skills to build engaging, entertaining, functional, and unique interactive experiences.

Candidates who want to obtain related degrees should consider their career options early in their education to ensure that they meet all professional criteria. For instance, some careers require a candidate to earn a bachelor's degree in a similar field, such as computer programming or computer science. Students who do not consider this factor may earn degrees outside those fields and consequently not qualify for employment.

Video game design careers may appeal to candidates who excel at technology and possess the creative thinking skills to build engaging, entertaining, functional, and unique interactive experiences.

Additionally, careers may require artistic excellence. Individuals who consider this detail early can build strong portfolios to develop and establish their expertise. Candidates can also earn certifications, such as credentials in relevant software and complete field-related internships.

In addition to designing games, graduates of game design programs may create software or webpages, oversee art projects for companies, or create artwork for television and movies. This page provides more information on these careers, along with salary expectations and professional resources for the field.

What Do Video Game Designers Do?

Video game designers develop user-friendly games for computers, mobile devices, and websites by brainstorming game details, building code, and testing products for efficiency. These individuals may create plots for games and organize ideas on flowcharts. Candidates must also solve problems that surface in early game drafts for usability and professional quality.

Designers concentrate on certain factors of game design, such as setting, and may work with other gaming professionals to build or test games. Game design candidates can perform these tasks for gaming companies like Nintendo, Ubisoft, and Gameloft. Graduates commonly find work as software creators, web developers, and graphic designers for technology companies.

Job Duties and Responsibilities

Professional responsibilities for video game designers include developing characters' stories and traits, game plots, settings, and game rules. Candidates may also create obstacles within games, such as puzzles, and advise other professionals involved in the game's design on ways of improving game quality. Individuals must adapt game details as needed for playability and consumer appeal. To perform these tasks, designers should boast strong technological skills to design graphics or develop code.

Designers must also discuss project goals with clients and incorporate those concepts into games.

Key Skills for Video Game Designers

Video game design degrees build a variety of field-related skills, including technological and analytical abilities. These abilities may manifest in hard skills, such as mastery of a particular technology, or soft skills like time management. Candidates can pursue training and credentials like certifications for using particular programs. Other relevant certifications may include the project management professional credential. Together, degree programs and certifications verify that individuals hold relevant skills and knowledge to excel in careers related to video game design.


Creativity

Many jobs as video game designers require candidates to create programs or products both aesthetically appealing and functional. Creativity is necessary in this process since individuals brainstorm innovative designs and make choices on product appearance.

Technological Skills

Video game designers use extensive technology, such as editing and design software. A candidate with a video game design degree may also create programs or choose formats for websites, magazines, or movies, all of which call for an understanding of technology and software.

Problem Solving

Candidates must determine how all elements of a project can fit together. Initial drafts of these projects may also include deficiencies for which designers must find resolutions.

Time Management

Professionals in careers that relate to video game design frequently work with deadlines. Additionally, candidates may only tend to certain aspects of a project. With this format, individuals would need to finish their responsibilities quickly enough that other employees have time to complete their contributions.

Attention to Detail

Small glitches or faulty layouts can disrupt a game's usability, and poorly chosen color schemes or aesthetic elements can detract from its visual quality. For these reasons, candidates should pay strong attention to detail to ensure efficiency for all product elements.

How Much Do Video Game Designers Make?

Graphic designers in advertising, public relations, and related services make more than $10,000 more per year than graphic designers in the printing and related support activities industry.

Salary expectations for video game designers vary with experience, with candidates in their first year averaging a $50,276 salary and designers with a minimum of 20 years of experience averaging $91,270.

Your specific industry impacts on your salary. For instance, the median pay for multimedia artists and animators who work for software publishers exceeds $80,000, while candidates in the advertising, public relations, and related services industry can earn a median of $67,330. Graphic designers in advertising, public relations, and related services make more than $10,000 more per year than graphic designers in the printing and related support activities industry.

Your location may impact earnings, as well. As an example, web developers earn more in Washington than in any other state, with Washington's average pay exceeding the national average by more than $18,000. Higher degrees and certifications can increase pay, too. World Education Services reports that candidates in visual arts average $1.966 million in a lifetime with a bachelor's. Master's degree holders average $2.3 million, and doctorate-holders average $2.5 million.

What's My Earning Potential as a Video Game Designer?

Salaries for graduates of video game design programs vary, based on factors like job title, location, and industry. As an example, graphic designers in the District of Columbia boast a higher average salary than candidates in any other U.S. location, with the federal executive branch offering the highest average pay among industries. Experience level also influences pay since salaries frequently rise with experience.

Pay by Experience Level for Video Game Designers
Entry Level (0-12 Months) $50,000
Early Career (1-4 Years) $59,000
Midcareer (5-9 Years) $71,000

Source: PayScale

How Do I Become a Video Game Designer?

Education Requirements

Many careers related to video game design require each candidate to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as computer science, computer graphics, software engineering, or game design. An exception to this rule involves web developer positions that may only call for an associate degree, although specialized positions in web development may require a bachelor's degree.

Companies may prefer candidates with a relevant master's degree since these advanced degrees verify field knowledge beyond the bachelor's level. Specifically, master's programs may explore player experience, biometrics, and business aspects of video game design more than undergraduate options.

Experience Requirements

Art directors may need five years of experience in a related profession, such as graphic design or photography. For other design-related positions, experience may come through an internship where candidates can apply technological and design knowledge in practical settings. This process involves working under pressure in a non-scripted environment and communicating with professional teams for the benefit of consumers. Specifically, graphic designers may need this type of experience.

Other professions may consider independent learning as experience, like multimedia artists and animators. However, these candidates may need to submit portfolios as additional evidence of expertise.

Types of Game Designers

Candidates with video game design degrees can develop technological skills for constructing prototypes and final products that are professional, user-friendly, and entertaining. Programs often require coursework that reflects these tasks, such as player experience, game mechanics, and computer-human interaction. These skills apply to a variety of careers where individuals consider audience and purpose to construct effective media, like software and websites. The following table provides examples of these professions.

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators discuss plans with clients and build models by hand or with software. Professionals may design these images or effects for movies, television, or games. These artists often work with deadlines and in groups. Companies may require a candidate to possess an art-related bachelor's degree for these positions. A candidate who earns a degree in video game design, then, may qualify for game-related professions.

Median Salary: $72,520

Software Developers

Software designers consider the needs of computer users and create plans for relevant, secure software. These developers may run tests to determine the software's continued efficiency and recommend upgrades when applicable. Often, candidates need a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field for these positions.

Median Salary: $105,590

Art Directors

Art directors can make artistic decisions for movies, magazines, and newspapers. Directors must consider client goals and budget needs to build effective products. Candidates may manage other employees within art departments and reveal final projects to customers. Many of these directors are self-employed. Directors who work for companies, though, may need an art-related bachelor's.

Median Salary: $92,780

Graphic Designers

Graphic designers determine formats and artistic elements for media, including brochures, reports, and advertisements. This process may involve discussing project goals with clients, altering projects with software, and revealing ideas to customers. Candidates may make large-scale decisions, such as logo design, and tend to smaller concerns, like selecting color schemes. Often, a candidate needs a bachelor's degree related to graphic design for these positions.

Median Salary: $50,370

Web Developers

Web developers create websites that reflect clients' technical and aesthetic needs. This process includes codes and testing to ensure the functionality of the website. Candidates may need to consult other designers for their expertise and include audio/visual components to the site. Developers may need a bachelor's degree to work with certain companies.

Median Salary: $69,430

What's the Expected Job Growth for Video Game Design Careers?

All of the careers on the previous table include positive growth projections by 2026. In particular, the BLS projects faster-than-average growth for software developers (24%) and web developers (15%). These increases relate to the expansion in digital technology that the BLS expects to continue, such as smartphones, virtual shopping, and social media.

However, advances in digital communication may negatively impact candidates in certain industries. As an example, the BLS projects a 20% increase in graphic design positions in the computer systems design and related services industry, but a 22% decrease for the same profession in the newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers industry.

Where Can I Work as a Video Game Designer?

Program graduates may qualify for positions where they design software, build websites, draw gaming images, or oversee artistic projects. Some locations, however, provide higher employment chances than others for particular careers. For instance, California offers more multimedia artist and animator positions in higher concentrations than any other state.

Candidates should pay attention to location and industry when choosing careers, as video game designer salaries vary based on these details. As an example, graphic designers in the advertising, public relations, and related services industry typically earn more than professionals in other professional fields.

Locations

Candidates experience different salary and employment expectations based on their location. Art directors in New York, for instance, earn an average of $126,440, which exceeds average salaries for any other state. However, certain metropolitan areas in California offer higher salary averages for these directors, including San Francisco and Redwood City.

California, Texas, and New York offer the highest employment level for multimedia artists and animators, and California, Oregon, and Washington offer the highest concentration of these positions.

Candidates should also consider licensing or certification requirements, along with the cost of living, as they relate to location. Individuals can review the following map for more information on locations and career expectations.

FL TX NM AZ AK CA NV UT CO OR WA ID HI OK MT WY ND SD NE KS MN IA MO AR LA MS AL GA SC IL WI MI IN OH TN KY NC WV VA PA NY ME VT NH RI CT NJ DE MA MD DC

Industries

Software Publishers

Software publishers build and promote software for various technological needs. In this industry, candidates can work as designers, programmers, or managers, with salaries varying drastically. Graphic designers, for instance, average $63,440 per year, while art directors average more than $125,000.

Median Salary: $83,180

Motion Picture and Video Industries

Candidates in this industry assist with filmmaking, from large-scale movies to television commercials. Related salaries for this industry vary. For example, graphic designers average $62,430 per year, while art directors average $122,180 per year.

Median Salary: $84,390

Computer Systems Design and Related Services

Career responsibilities in this industry may include building information systems and helping companies retrieve lost information. Candidates may also create websites or software for specific purposes. Design-related salaries vary, with graphic designers averaging a $60,410 salary and art directors averaging $108,540.

Median Salary: $78,850

Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services

Advertising involves promoting goods and services through techniques like magazine ads and social media campaigns. Public relations focuses on maintaining company image and consumer relationships through similar means. In this industry, commercial and industrial designers average $60,460 per year, while art directors average $108,130.

Median Salary: $73,780

How Do I Find a Job as a Video Game Designer?

Candidates who meet the video game designer education and experience requirements can search for positions through career sites like Indeed and CareerBuilder. Professional organizations and design websites may also offer field-related job boards. These sources include Design Observer, The Art Career Project, and Game Job Hunter.

After finding a position, each candidate must submit an application, resume, and cover letter. Some companies may also require transcripts or proof of certification or license. For resumes, candidates should provide information on all related experiences, education, and credentials. Opportunities like internships, certifications, and advanced degrees can improve employment chances by verifying field expertise.

Each applicant may need to complete an interview by phone, online, or in person. For all of these options, candidates should prepare by brainstorming answers to typical questions and reviewing professional responsibilities for the position. Interviewees should also speak confidently and answer questions succinctly. For interviews with visual elements, candidates should also dress professionally, and each applicant should submit thank you notes after interviews as a professional courtesy.

Professional Resources

Professional organizations often host conferences, maintain job boards, and offer training opportunities for members. These groups may also provide field-related resources through webinars, blogs, and scholarly publications.

  • Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences AIAS connects its users to the D.I.C.E. (design, innovate, communicate, and entertain) Summit. This summit includes workshops, roundtables, and speakers. The group also provides D.I.C.E. awards. Winners are showcased at AIAS's exhibit at the Strong Museum.
  • Black Shell Media This group connects site viewers to videos and written resources related to video game design. It also provides a blog that explores topics in game remakes, marketing, and team-building for gaming products.
  • Digital Games Research Association DiGRA hosts international conferences in places like Italy, Australia, China, and the United States. Candidates can view archived articles from a past conference. DiGRA also offers a digital library.
  • Entertainment Software Association This association advocates for game companies like Wizards of the Coast, 505 Games, and Capcom. The group also offers resources on media violence, intellectual property, and First Amendment rights in the gaming industry.
  • GameDev.net Candidates can explore hobby and career prospects related to game design through this site,and also participate in forums for game design, visual arts, and audio concepts. The site hosts workshops on topics like drawing, C++, and game development.
  • Gamers Outreach Gamers Outreach offers technology to hospitals for video games to help ill children through extended stays. Video game designers can volunteer, raise money, or advocate for this field-related humanitarian cause.
  • Gamkedo This resource provides courses, along with online gaming projects, candidates can complete in groups. In addition to experience, participants benefit from guidance from field professionals. The group caps membership at 148.
  • Indie Game Developer Network Group members can benefit from online peer coaching, and non-members can participate in the network's mentorship program. Candidates can also earn awards for categories like most innovative, best setting, and game of the year.
  • International Game Developers Association IGDA informs its users of various international events to provide resources on topics like social media and business management. Members can receive access to the IGDA career center for information on open positions.
  • Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction This group delivers the Human Factors in Computing Systems conference each year. These events may include courses on research, design, and geography. Candidates can also use the group's digital library.