Video Game Designer

By TACP Staff on August 13, 2023

In today’s digital age, video games have become a significant form of entertainment, captivating millions of players around the world. Behind every successful video game is a talented and creative video game designer who brings the game to life. If you have a passion for gaming and a flair for creativity, a career as a video game designer might be the perfect fit for you. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to become a successful video game designer.

What Is a Video Game Designer?

Video game designers are the creative and technical professionals behind today’s most popular digital games – in some cases crafting entire virtual worlds that are populated with characters, items, and activities, or fully-immersive gaming experiences that blur the line between reality and fantasy. They are the digital artists and storytellers who create the rules of play, worlds, scripts, characters, and narratives that engage a player’s imagination.

From console games to PC titles, video game designers develop the concepts, storylines, and gameplay mechanics that create an engaging player experience. It is a career path that requires an understanding of game design theory, knowledge of scripting and programming languages, and creative storytelling abilities.

What Does a Video Game Designer Do?

The role of a video game designer is multi-faceted and involves a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key duties and skills required for a successful career in video game design.

1. Conceptualizing Game Ideas

One of the primary responsibilities of a video game designer is to come up with creative and innovative game ideas. They brainstorm new concepts that would engage a wider audience and captivate players. This involves thinking outside the box, exploring different genres, and pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the gaming industry.

2. Developing Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are the rules, systems, and mechanics that make up the core gameplay experience. Video game designers are responsible for designing these mechanics to ensure that the game is fun, challenging, and engaging for players. They determine how the player interacts with the game world, the objectives they need to achieve, the obstacles they must overcome, and the rewards they can earn.

3. Creating Storylines and Characters

Storytelling is a crucial aspect of video game design. Video game designers create compelling storylines and develop memorable characters that draw players into the game world. They craft intricate narratives, build backstories for characters, and create dialogue and cutscenes that drive the story forward. The goal is to create an immersive and captivating experience for the players.

4. Balancing Game Difficulty

Balancing the difficulty of a game is essential to ensure that players are both challenged and engaged. Video game designers must carefully calibrate the game’s difficulty curve, ensuring that it ramps up gradually and provides a sense of accomplishment as players progress. They must strike a delicate balance between making the game challenging enough to keep players engaged, without being too frustrating or overwhelming.

5. Prototyping and Playtesting

Prototyping and playtesting are crucial steps in the game design process. Video game designers create prototypes to test and refine game mechanics, levels, and overall gameplay. They gather feedback from playtesters and use that feedback to improve the game. This iterative process helps identify and address any issues or areas for improvement, ensuring that the final game delivers the best possible experience for players.

6. Collaboration with Artists and Programmers

Video game designers work closely with artists and programmers to bring their ideas to life. They collaborate with artists to create captivating visuals, design environments, and bring the game world to life. They work with programmers to implement game mechanics, ensure technical feasibility, and address any technical issues that may arise during development. Effective communication and collaboration are essential for a successful video game design process.

7. Staying Up-to-Date with Industry Trends

The gaming industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies, trends, and developments emerging all the time. Video game designers must stay informed about the latest trends, tools, and techniques in the industry to ensure their games remain relevant and competitive. They need to be familiar with the latest gaming platforms, software tools, and programming languages to create cutting-edge experiences for players.

8. Project Management

Video game designers are often responsible for managing projects, meeting deadlines, and working within budgets. They need to have excellent organizational and time management skills to ensure that the game development process stays on track. They must be able to prioritize tasks, delegate responsibilities, and effectively communicate with team members to ensure the successful completion of the project.

Steps to Become a Video Game Designer

Becoming a video game designer requires a combination of creativity, technical skills, and experience. To get started in the industry, it is important to nurture your creative and technical abilities, as well as gain experience in game design. Most employers prefer to hire video game designers who have a degree in game design, computer science, or a related field, so it is important to build a strong academic foundation in these areas.

In addition to formal education, aspiring video game designers should also try to gain hands-on experience working with game design software (such as Unity or Unreal Engine) and programming languages (such as JavaScript, C++, and Python).

Here are the steps you can take to become a video game designer:

#1 Gain a Strong Foundation in Computer Science and Design

As a video game designer, you’ll need to have a strong foundation in computer science and design. You can start building this foundation by learning basic coding languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, as well as more sophisticated languages like C++ and Python. It is possible to learn these languages on your own, without formal instruction, but if you’re serious about a career in game design, it is recommended that you enroll in a degree program or a coding boot camp to deepen your understanding of the subject matter.

You should also consider taking courses in graphic and user interface design, as well as 3D modeling software such as Maya or Blender. These courses will help you to understand the fundamentals of game design, such as how to create immersive environments, develop custom assets, and create user interfaces that are easy to navigate.

#2 Build a Portfolio of Work

As you gain skills and experience, start building a portfolio of work to showcase your abilities. This can include game design projects you’ve completed as part of your education, as well as personal projects or freelance work. A strong portfolio is essential for demonstrating your skills to potential employers.

#3 Consider Earning a Degree in Game Design or a Related Field

While a degree is not strictly necessary to become a game designer, many employers prefer to hire candidates with a formal education in game design or a related field. A degree program can also provide you with a structured way to gain the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in the industry. Look for programs that offer a mix of coursework in game design theory, computer programming, and art and animation, as well as hands-on projects and internships to give you practical experience.

#4 Gain Industry Experience

Many game designers start their careers by interning or working as junior designers at a game development studio. This can be a great way to gain valuable industry experience and make connections in the field. You might also consider freelancing or working on personal projects to build your portfolio and demonstrate your skills to potential employers.

#5 Continuously Improve Your Skills and Stay Up-to-Date on Industry Trends

As a game designer, it is important to continuously improve your skills and stay up-to-date on industry trends. This might involve taking additional coursework or training, attending industry events or conferences, or joining professional organizations like the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). By staying current, you’ll be well-positioned to take on new challenges and opportunities as they arise in your career.

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Video Game Designer Salary & Job Outlook

The salary of a video game designer can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and the size of the company. According to PayScale, the average salary for a video game designer is around $67,000 per year, with the potential for higher earnings as you gain more experience in the field.

As for job outlook, the demand for video game designers is expected to grow in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 22% growth rate for software development, which includes video game design, by the year 2029. This growth can be attributed to the increasing popularity of video games and the expanding market for interactive entertainment.

Related Careers & Occupations

People interested in creating video games for their career don’t always become designers. Three similar occupations give them the opportunity to use their strong technical skills or artistic sense in slightly different ways. These include:

3D Artists and Animators

People who work as a 3D artist or animator within the video game industry are responsible for creating the visual images contained in a game. They create sketch storyboards to visualize the story from start to finish before beginning their work. Some of the specific programs they may use in their work include Lightwave 3D, Macromedia Flash, 3D Studio Max, and Alias/Wavefront. These software programs enable the 3D artist or animator to create realistic characters and movements. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average salary of $70,530 in 2017 for the general classification of multimedia artists and animators.

Web Developers

Video game manufacturers rely on game developers to write software that enables games to operate without any glitches. Game developer are responsible for bringing the video game designers creative ideas to life through game programming and a key piece of video game development. Approximately 50 percent of people who work in the gaming industry are employed as web developers. The technical coding they create determines the precise movements of characters and other objects. Gaming computer programmers need to be knowledgeable about industry trends and advances in their own profession in order to produce games people will continue to buy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists an average salary of $79,500 annually for web developers, although it does not differentiate for those who work primarily with video games.

Game Testers

This can make an ideal position for students, interns, and those brand new to the video game industry. Game testers play beta versions of video games to help identify problems before the game goes into mass production. Potential problems include having the screen freeze, problems with character movements, and lack of realistic sound effects. Game testers need excellent written communication skills to create detailed reports about their experiences. reports an annual salary for full-time work as a game tester between $18,000 and $55,000 per year. However, many of these entry-level positions are temporary and do not pay any benefits.

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