Video Game Designer
Education and Training: Bachelor’s preferred
Average Salary: $50,000
Job Outlook: Fair
While you might think that a video game designer simply works on the graphical aspects of a video game, this is actually not all that a designer does. A video game designer is actually the person behind the entire design for the video game, including the layout of the storyline, the levels, and the different challenges a character will face. The game designer needs excellent skills in written and verbal communication, computer programming, and people management, as they are often in charge of coordinating the efforts of more specialized game developers, including those who create the artwork, sounds, and technical aspects of the game.
Almost all video games are developed by a team of video game designers. Lower-level designers will work on designing levels or specific aspects of the game, and each game will have a lead designer responsible for the overall feel and storyline of the game. Video game designers are responsible for creating a design document for the game, which includes every single aspect of the web of choices a player will have when playing a game. This document will control every other aspect of the game, so it takes great skill to get it exactly right.
Education and Training Requirements
Most video game designers have a bachelor’s degree in a field like English, computer programming, or art. However, the most important aspect of becoming a game designer is experience. Video game designers almost always work their way into the job by first testing games and then being a part of a specific aspect of the video game, such as character development, graphic design, or programming. This means that training is on the job, but it takes place over a number of years working within the video game industry.
Getting the Job
A video game designer, lead designer or not, gets the job only after working in other aspects of game development. Designers are often promoted from within the same company, although they can also get a job with a new company after developing their skills in other aspects of game development.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
Job prospects for video game designers are fair. While demand for video games is high, this is an extremely competitive field, and even breaking into lower-level jobs can require tenacity and excellent creative skills. Once a video game designer finds employment, future job prospects and pay will depend on reputation and skills. Those with a great reputation will be more likely to find lucrative jobs working on games for top name companies.
More experienced video game designers will work in higher level positions that place them in charge of lower level designers. Also, more experienced designers often develop their careers by moving into jobs with higher level companies.
Working Conditions and Environment
A video game designer will often work long hours if a project needs to be completed on a deadline, but this can vary from one company to the next. Designers often work in an office setting, though they may frequently bounce between other offices to speak with different people who are working on a video game project.
Salary and Benefits
It’s difficult to determine a true average salary for video game designers because there can be so much variance. Salaries can range from $33,000 per year to $87,000 per year, with bonuses and profit sharing often a part of the overall salary package. These full time jobs usually come with benefits and paid time off, though this will vary from one company to the next.
Where to Go for More Information
To learn more about video game designer jobs, check out the following resources:
Animation World Network
6525 Sunset Blvd., Garden Ste. 10
Hollywood, CA 90028
Entertainment Software Association
575 7th St. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20004
International Game Developers Association
19 Mantua Rd.
Mt. Royal, NJ 08061