August 14, 2020 Last updated August 14th, 2020 182 Reads share

Job Prospects and Career Outlook for Video Game Designer

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The video game industry is already thriving. It is set to further boom as games become more realistic and immersive. People of all ages love to step into an alternate world to become superhuman soldiers, soccer players, world saviors, space travelers, zombie slayers, and more.

If you like playing video games, you may want to go beyond and start designing them. However, you must know that playing and designing games are two completely different things. Video game designers require a specific temperament. They tend to be artistic, intuitive, and detail-oriented. It can be safely assumed that all video game designers love to play games, but vice versa may not always be true.

This article will help you Make a choice; it will give you a peek into the world of video game designers, job roles, salaries, and demand in the US.

Video Game Designers’ Job Outlook

Video game designing jobs are expected to grow at 10% between 2016 and 2026, which is as fast as the average for all other occupations.

Consumers will demand more realistic and high-quality games, movie and television special effects, and 3D movies. This will give rise to more complex innovations in video game hardware and software. Video game design studios will increasingly emphasize quality over quantity of video games. Multimedia artists and animators in video designing space will be in high demand.

The video game designing industry will continue to be highly competitive as new technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will evolve. The best way to thrive and be among the best is to put a strong foundation with a credible degree course.

Education Requirements for Entering the Game Industry

Of all the professionals working in video game designing, 54% have a bachelor’s degree, 28% have a master’s degree, and 17% have a doctoral degree. The best game designing institutes look for both qualification and your skill via your demo reel. A good game designing course should be able to –

  • Give you the experience of working with industry professionals on live projects.
  • Train you in the latest software and hardware that are used in the industry.
  • Help you develop soft skills, interpersonal skills, detail orientation, time management, and creativity.
  • Guide you with networking events, campus placements, and industry requirements.

As a student aspiring to be a game designer in the US, you can opt for associate or bachelor’s degree courses from a reputed institute like New England Tech.

An associate degree will prepare you for an entry-level position in video game design, visualization, animation, and digital media production. At this stage, you normally learn concepts in XHTML, JavaScript, intermediate game programming, 2D animation, game prototyping, 3D modeling, Unity, storyboarding, audio and video editing, and UI/ UX design. With an associate degree, you can become a game designer, character designer, or animator.

A bachelor’s degree will help you learn advanced programming (C++, Perl, Python), concepts, and 2D and 3D animation (3ds Max, Maya, Adobe After Effects). Learn to rig, texturing, 3D scripting, game engines, 3D sculpting, 3D modeling, analytics, and VR. After a bachelor’s degree, you normally open your career prospects to character design, advanced game design, and game programming.

Types of Game Designing Jobs

Game designing requires a team. In a small studio, one person may take on many roles, whereas, in a larger studio, each person may have a very specific role in the production line. Some of the common jobs in game designing are –

Designers

The role of video game designers is to dream and conceptualize all aspects of the game. This includes characters, gameplay, layout, plot and storyline, scenarios, maps, outcomes, difficulty levels, and UI. Designers are divided into further specific roles such as –

  • Game Mechanics Designers – As the name suggests, they focus on the mechanics of the game and the objects and characters. For example, in a combat-based game, their job is to plan and document how the combat mechanics should work.
  • Lead Designers – They collate and document the work and ideas from all designers into a cohesive document. Lead designers also manage work schedules and task allocation. They also liaise with different departments to discuss new ideas, solve problems, and ensure that the project is built according to the design.
  • Content Designers & Writers – The role of a content designer varies with the game genre. They are responsible for designing a game’s characters and plot. Some games which have speaking characters, require writers to write dialogues.
  • Level Designers – They use characters and special effects to create realistic environments of the game. For example, level designers of a soccer game may design an environment to emulate a live game with an audience, and even pump up the player with a great combination of environment, audio, and dialogue.

Programmers

Although it is the job of game developers to give shape, look, and feel to the concept using programming languages, game designers often have to work closely with them. Looking for wider perspectives of the production chain, game designers often double up as programmers in smaller studios. The following jobs, although primarily done by developers also involve designers –

  • Lead Programmer
  • AI Programmer
  • Graphics Programmer
  • Network Programmer
  • Physics Programmer
  • Tools Programmer
  • UI Programmer

Artists

Artists give life to a game through aesthetics and visual style. They design all of the artwork, including environments, characters, and objects. Some artists use sculpting and drawing to illustrate the idea, which is then transformed into digital media using 3D software. Artists also often design the game’s promotional material such as manual, packaging, and logo. Here is a brief snapshot of the specific roles of an artist –

  • Art Director – Defines the game aesthetics; co-ordinates between design and development teams to manage the schedule.
  • Lead Artist – There could be multiple lead artists for a project, each managing a team, planning methods and tools for the artwork. They ensure that the project adheres to the quality and style envisioned during the design stage.
  • Concept Artist – They follow the game’s aesthetic direction to envision and create landscapes, objects, structures, characters, and key moments. They often use sculpting, painting, and storyboarding, and work closely with game designers.
  • Modeler – Modelers create character skeletons in 3D software based on the art concepts, which are then used by animators.
  • Animator – As the name suggests, animators are responsible for giving movement and life to the 3D character skeletons provided by modelers. For example, animators make still characters move, run, or talk.

Audio Designers/ Engineers/ Programmers/ Composers

Audio artists develop, record, and digitally process all of the real and fictitious audios required in the game. This includes music, dialogue, and any other noises required.

Producers

The role of producers is to ensure that the game is released on time, and within budget. Their daily responsibilities include calling meetings, maintaining schedules, and liaising between developers and executives.

Quality Assurance Testers

Designers work in tandem with the testing team to ensure that the game follows the concept document as envisioned during the design phase. They try every possible permutation and combination to break the code so that the game development team can fix it.

Video Game Designer Salary

According to Payscale.com, the average salary of a video game designer in the US is $65,043. But it all depends on your skill and experience. Here is a breakup of median salaries based on work experience in the US.

Work Experience Median Salary
<1 year – Entry level $51,120
1-4 years – Early Career $61,067
5-9 years – Mid Career $73,344
10-19 years – Senior Level $91,313
20+ years – Late career $98,639

 

Clearly, gaining work experience, and that too, doing it the right way with a good degree course, is important. Here is a brief snapshot of median salaries by popular employers –

Employer Salary
BioWare $56,917 ($54,751 – $61,000)
Zynga ($56,718 – $97,793)
Electronic Arts $66,891 ($42,116 – $98,155)
Valve Corporation $121K – $130K ($119,735 – $131,205)
Gameloft $57,829 ($50,000 – $65,195)
Rockstar Games $83,811 ($51,000 – $103,000)
Microsoft Corporation $110,901 ($101,078 – $119,525)
Naughty Dog Inc. $90,817 ($60,960 – $147,320)
Activision Blizzard $71,717 ($58,438 – $97,479)
Ubisoft $82,616 ($75,848 – $87,000)

To Wrap it Up

I hope this gives you practical insight and actionable items to pursue a career as a video game designer. A deeper look at the game design and development field is a good next step. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. The key is to love your job, keep learning, develop new skills, and network with the right people. Opportunities and great projects will come your way if you can provide value to your employer.

Lastly, it is always good to start your career with a smaller studio where you are expected to do multiple roles. This will give you a strong foundation and experience that you may otherwise miss out on in a bigger studio.

game level designers -DepositPhotos

Carrie Weisman

Carrie Weisman

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