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By TACP Staff on July 15, 2021
“Getting to the next level” is no longer a phrase used just to describe romantic relationships or exciting career advancement. In fact, you might very well hear a 5-year-old scream “I just got to the next level!” Game level designers are highly-skilled computer artists who work as part of a game team to develop and produce the various levels found in video gaming.
A game level designer is a type of game designer that works to create various levels and steps that progress through a game. These professionals often work with level editors, which are tools created by the game programmer, which assist level designers with creation of the level so that they don’t have to modify the actual game code. The game level designer must work to ensure that each level created is consistent with the other levels so the game has a uniform look and feel. Game level designers often work with other video game specialists who create visual and structural elements of a game.
Level design involves creating entire levels of gameplay, from map features like cities, rooms and tunnels to environmental conditions like day/night, weather and resources, specifying locations of items and entities, start and exit locations, scripted event locations that are triggered by gameplay, adding non-player characters, dialogue and more. Designers need a strong video game design background as well as deep knowledge of the programs and tools utilized to create game levels.
Game level designers spend most of their time with computers and computer-aided design equipment, so offices are the most likely the place to find one of these professionals. If they work within an agency, they may often have to meet with other department heads or professionals in order to collaborate regarding current projects. However, many game designers work from home or are self-employed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which labels game level designers as multimedia artists and animators, reports that about 57% of these professionals are self-employed.
However, if the freelancing life doesn’t sound appealing to you, it’s great to know that several fantastic industries employ these professionals, including the largest employer, the motion picture and video industry. About 13% of multimedia artists and animators are employed in this industry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends that individuals pursuing a career in game level design obtain at least a bachelor’s degree in game design or a related major. An associate degree may be enough if a game level designer has enough experience and talent, but many employers will look first for the level of education. Individuals who have gained their degree should spend a fair amount of time in video game design, computer animation or related projects to build up their portfolio.
Related: Portfolio Tips for Video Game Designers
The annual median salary for multimedia artists and animators in 2018 was $72,520. This is an impressive number, and is significantly higher than the average salary for all other occupations. The BLS reports that the top 10% of earners brought home more than $124,310 while the lowest 10% earned less than $40,870. The highest paying industry for game level designers is the software publishers industry, where the annual median salary was $82,360 in May of 2018. The states where game level designers can earn the most money are: California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, New York and Washington.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of multimedia animators and artists is expected to grow at a rate slower than average – 4% through the year 2028. However, because the BLS groups game level designers with multimedia artists and animators, it can be difficult to obtain the true job outlook numbers for this specific career. As gaming technology progresses and individuals demand a higher-quality user experience, the demand for game level designers will increase. The BLS reports that there were 71,600 multimedia artists and animators employed throughout the US in 2018, and the states with the highest employment levels were: California with 10,760, Texas with 2,480, New York with 2,060, Georgia with 1,090, and Florida with 1,050.
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