What Is a Video Game Designer?


Updated December 22, 2022

Follow your passion for video games, and learn what it takes to become a video game designer. Find job responsibilities, salary outlooks, resources, and more in this guide.

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Video game designers create games that run on computers and gaming consoles. They develop flowcharts and storyboards for their games, write code, and fix glitches. Video game designers usually work in an office environment.

Computing professionals with an interest in software development may enjoy video game design careers. The job is well-suited for collaborative workers, since game design is often a team effort.

Typically, video game designers need a bachelor's degree. Some employers also prefer certifications in C# programming or UX design. Like other tech-oriented jobs, education can sometimes be substituted for experience.

Explore in-depth information about video game design, including day-to-day tasks, key skills, and career outlook in our guide.

What Does a Video Game Designer Do?

Video game designers develop concepts into playable games. Depending on the position, these professionals may work on specific sections of a game or contribute to the overall product.

Working in teams, video game designers develop concepts through storyboards and flowcharts that describe gameplay. Then, they write code to create the game and test for bugs. Designers may focus on the game's setting, characters, or visuals.

Video game design can be challenging when it comes to deadlines or bug fixes. The following section explores some of the skills aspiring game designers need for success in the field.

A Day in the Life of a Video Game Designer

Day-to-day tasks for a video game designer vary depending on position or project. Often, these professionals meet with team members to give and receive updates, form daily plans, and work on coding their part of the game. They might also find and fix bugs in the system.

History of Video Game Design

Video games are nearly as old as mass-produced computers themselves, with early games appearing in laboratories in the 1950s. Some of the first games included a version of tic-tac-toe and a digital tennis match.

In the late 1970s, video game design evolved. With arcade games like Space Invaders leading the way, groundwork for video game design involved leveled progression through increasingly challenging obstacles. The addition of an axis of abilities, where characters gain temporary skills, added a new level of complexity to the design process.

Today, players expect high graphic performance and interactive story experiences. Gamers play on desktop computers, external consoles, and mobile applications, allowing video game designers to specialize their skills for specific platforms.

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Video Game Designer Salary and Career Outlook

According to Payscale, video game designers earn an average annual salary of $67,050 as of March 2022. Various factors influence salary potential, including education, location, industry, and experience. With 5-9 years of experience, for example, video game designers earn an average salary of $78,030. Those with 10-19 years under their belt make an average of $90,220.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes video game designers within the broader career category of software developers. The BLS projects employment for software developers will increase 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Average Annual Salary, March 2022

The average salary for a video game designer is $67,050

Source: Payscale

How to Become a Video Game Designer

Video game designers often need a bachelor's degree to enter the field, which takes four years of full-time study. Employers may prefer professionals with coding experience. In some cases, aspiring designers may substitute a degree for coding skills learned through a bootcamp.

Technical skills are important for landing a job in video game design. Employers require knowledge of programming languages — such as C++ and C# — and game design engines like Unity and Unreal Engine.

Aspiring video game designers can build a portfolio that highlights their previous work with coding and video game design.

The links below offer more information about how to get started in video game design.

Key Soft Skills for Video Game Designers

  • Teamwork: Video game designers work collaboratively. Designers need good interpersonal skills and a willingness to work with others.
  • Problem-Solving: When issues arise during development, video game designers must find solutions without breaking code elsewhere in the game.
  • Creativity: Video game designers are storytellers as well as computer programmers. They create intricate worlds, interesting scenarios, and intriguing gameplay characters to make players want to spend more time in the game.

Key Hard Skills for Video Game Designers

  • Programming Languages: Video game designers need fluent knowledge of coding languages like C# and C++.
  • Analytical Skills: Good math and analytical skills are essential to coding-heavy jobs like video game design. Mathematical reasoning helps with computer programming.
  • Software Development Skills: In addition to programming languages themselves, it is helpful when video game designers understand the basic principles of software development.
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Jobs and Specializations for Video Game Designers

Rooted in software development, video game design can provide experience for a great number of related jobs. Video game designers can advance in the field to work as supervisors, directing whole projects. They can also work in fields like computer programming or web development.

Career paths for video game designers include:

  • Computer Programmer: Collaborating with software developers and engineers, computer programmers write code for software and applications. They need deep knowledge of programming languages like C++ and Java.
  • Web Developer: Web developers handle website design and operations. They create webpages according to client or employer needs. They also create content, refresh layouts, and monitor traffic. They study how much traffic a site receives to prevent malfunctions.
  • Video Game Producer: Video game producers oversee projects and start conversations across multiple departments. They keep product development on schedule, perform market research, and participate in marketing efforts.
  • Technical Project Manager: In the video game industry, technical project managers work with specific teams to maintain content schedules. They often break projects into multiple parts, establishing milestones and goals. They solve problems, prioritize tasks, and support their team through project development.
Career Required Education Required Experience Median or Average Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2020-2030)
Computer Programmer Bachelor's degree N/A, open to entry-level candidates. $89,190 -10%
Web Developer Bachelor's degree N/A, open to entry-level candidates $77,200 +13%
Video Game Producer Bachelor's degree Several years of experience in the video game industry $79,730 (March 2022) N/A
Technical Project Manager Bachelor's Degree Several years of experience in game development $95,040 (March 2022) N/A

Source: BLS, Payscale

Resources for Video Game Designers

Aspiring video game designers can find many resources when they join a professional organization. The section below describes several top resources for video game designers.

Professional Organizations for Video Game Designers

Founded in 1996, the AIAS provides a strong community for video game designers and artists. This group offers memberships for organizations and people. Members can access digital roundtables and discounted registration to the annual summit.

Any game developer can join the IGDA, a global nonprofit that promotes core values like professionalism, expression, and leadership. Members can participate in a mentorship program, access an online library, and take advantage of professional discounts.

The IGDN offers membership to all game designers, including board and card game designers. The organization emphasizes a commitment to diversity in the field. They offer scholarships, awards, a mentorship program, and conventions.

Dedicated to protecting the intellectual property of video game designers and other entertainment-based coders, the ESA advocates for their members through legislative awareness and enforcement. Members can access research, working groups, and discounts.

Video Game Design Career Questions

What is video game design?

Video game design is a subset of software development. Video game designers create games that users play on desktop computers, mobile platforms, or consoles. They develop story ideas, worlds, and charts that detail how users progress through the game. They are responsible for coding the program that runs the game.

Do software developers work on video games?

Yes. The BLS includes video game designers within the larger software development career category. Like other software developers, video game designers use computer programming languages to create their products.

How much are video game designers paid?

According to Payscale, video game designers earn an average annual salary of $67,050 as of March 2022. Location, experience, and education level can all impact how much a video game designer earns.

Is game design a growing industry?

The BLS projects jobs for software developers, including game designers, will increase 22% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the national average for all occupations.

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