How to Become
a Video Game Designer
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
A MarketWatch report said the video game industry will grow by 20 percent in 2020. It has grown even more in the past year. Due to COVID-19, this industry is bigger than sports and movies combined. If you’re passionate about video games and you have a creative edge, you should become a professional game designer.
You will need up-to-date, in-depth resources to start one of the most successful career paths in 2021. In this comprehensive guide, you will learn about degree requirements, career timelines, in-demand skills, and more. To find out how to become a video game designer, read on.
What Is a Video Game Designer?
A video game designer is in charge of creating and designing games for consoles or digital platforms. Usually, they work for a game design company and launch new ideas as part of a team. Some video game designers work as independent freelancers and develop projects for clients on their own.
Video Game Designer Salary and Job Outlook
According to Glassdoor, the average video game developer earns around $70,000 a year. This salary depends on the company, the hours of work, your experience, and more. The most well-paid game developers make around $120,000.
A Recruiter.com report says the game designer job outlook has been low since 2004. But the same study explains that, in 2018, more than 7,000 new jobs were created, with an annual growth of over 11 percent per year. These figures shot up in 2020 as the pandemic increased video game popularity.
Entry-Level Video Game Designer Job Requirements
An entry-level game designer needs to know fundamental tech skills. To get a job as a video game designer, you must have a good balance of design and programming skills. According to ZipRecruiter, the average entry-level video game developer salary is $57,146 in the United States. Even as a beginner, you can make a good living.
How to Ace Your Video Game Designer Job Interview
The interview stage in the job process is one of the most important. You need to prove your knowledge and experience and show that you’re a good fit for the company. If you want to become a game designer, you should make sure you ace your job interview.
Tech companies value technical skills, so be prepared to go through a technical interview or assessment process. Below are some of the most common questions you might be asked in a video game designer job interview.
Common Video Game Designer Job Interview Questions
- What tools do you prefer to use when designing a video game?
- What would you change about your favorite video game?
- What steps do you follow to create a video game?
- What is your experience as a game designer?
- Describe your creative process when you work on a game.
- What made you decide to work in game design?
What Degree Should I Get to Become a Video Game Designer?
To become a video game designer, you should get an in-person or online degree in computer science or game development. Game design degrees are hard to find, but you can choose a more broad subject and narrow it down as you go. One of the most effective ways to prepare for the game industry is with education.
Currently, most companies hire professionals with an academic degree or certification of their skills. College, bootcamps, and online courses are the three most popular ways to certify your experience as a video game designer.
Below are some of the degrees you can pursue to prepare yourself for this career path.
Associate Degree in Computer Science or Game Design
An associate degree can be the first step to start your career path as a game developer. An associate degree in computer science can teach you general programming and software engineering concepts. You can also look for a degree in game development or design.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the annual cost of these degrees is between $10,000 to $26,000, depending on the type of school you choose. Associate degrees take approximately two years to complete.
Bachelor's Degree in Video Game Design
A bachelor’s degree in video game design takes four to five years, depending on the program and your schedule. This option includes up-to-date content, internship opportunities, and special projects. You can also opt for online college if you want to study from home.
If you get this degree, you can get a higher salary than an associate, depending on where you work and your experience. Although college is one of the most expensive options, with tuition close to $50,000 per year, it can still help you get a high-paying job. That is the main reason why you should get a bachelor’s degree in game design.
Master's Degree in Video Game Design
You can pursue a master’s degree after finishing your bachelor’s. The main advantage of this option is that you can focus on a particular area of game development and create your own niche. This is a great way to find your place in the industry.
In two or three years, you can graduate, improve your performance, and have a more advanced professional profile. Make sure you have a lesser degree before you apply for master’s programs because you should have lots of experience first.
Video Game Design Doctoral Degree
If you want the highest academic title, then a PhD in video game design is for you. This process can take anywhere from three to eight years. Some people even take longer. To start, you need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.
Your reputation in the video game world can increase when you get a PhD. You can participate in research and new projects to help you reach your goals. You can reach top positions in any development company with your experience. If you want to become a prominent figure in game design, you should get your doctorate in video game design.
What Does a Video Game Designer Do?
A video game designer can assume several responsibilities in the field. Tasks in this industry will depend on the department where you work, the project, and your capabilities. Below you will see some of the most common tasks of a game developer.
As a game designer, you should have the creative chops to think of new, innovative ideas. This task is team-based or individual, depending on the characteristics of the game. A game usually has a complete story, so the creative process usually begins with a script. You also need to think of characters, setting, soundtrack, and more.
If you work with a team, you will often have to look over other people’s designs. If you’re in a higher position, you may have to test and analyze the game interface’s operation. You must consider commands, character movements and reactions, images and design, special effects, and other elements.
In a large video game project, you will have specialists in music, graphic design, script writing, image style, and much more. All these workers need their contributions to fit together in the game like a puzzle. Your task as a game designer is to help coordinate each section to make sure the game is seamless.
Essential Video Game Designer Skills
Video game designers require specific skills to work and be successful on any project. See below for some of the essential skills that every game designer needs.
This is one of the most important skills in the industry. To be a creative video game designer, you must analyze trends, see what gamers think, create unique content to generate more sales, and much more. You should know current trends in different demographics. Different gamers have different tastes, and you should cater to as large an audience as possible.
Knowledge of Game Engines
To work in a company, you must know game design tools inside and out. Some of the most popular game engines today are Unity, Unreal Engine, GameMaker Studio, BuildBox, ClickTeam Fusion 2.5, and Construct 2. If you want to work for a certain organization, you should look at which engine it uses and learn it first.
Behind every game development platform, there is a computer programming language. The most common programming languages for game design are C#, Java, and C++. Knowing how these languages work will give you a better understanding of design tools. You can use your code to manipulate the game and achieve the designs you need.
How to Become a Video
Game Designer: A Step-by-Step Guide
There is no specific path to becoming a successful video game designer. Everyone learns differently and has different goals. However, you should follow these general steps to become a video game designer. If you want to take this career path, pay attention to the step-by-step guide below.
Evaluate Your Opportunities
Before choosing an academic program, you need to assess your own situation. Colleges, bootcamps, and businesses may not be near you, so you may need a budget to move. You should also look at job opportunities in your area, and check out online bachelor’s degree options. Paying for a program can be a large investment, so do your research.
Enroll in a Tech Institute
If you want to become a video game designer, you should get a degree as soon as you can. Game design is a complicated and demanding career. Therefore, all educational programs require constant practice, extensive exams, and participation in the community.
This tip will help you with any skill. It doesn’t matter if you already have a doctoral degree. Your mission should always be to learn more, especially in a demanding industry like this. The Internet is a helpful way to study and learn new skills. You can work on personal projects and meet like-minded people in the field.
Make a Portfolio
If you work for a game studio, try creating prototypes for yourself. No matter where you work, you can also create your own indie games. Organize your CV and your portfolio and include everything you learn and create. If you want to get a promotion or just get a job in the field, you should have a good portfolio.
Find a Job You Enjoy
Most people are in this industry because they love to work with video games. You can find a video game design job that you’re passionate about. Some bootcamps and colleges offer job options to help you get into the industry after graduation. Getting a job is an excellent opportunity to translate knowledge into real practice.
A job does not always mean success. The game design industry requires creativity and perseverance to deliver new results. You need to constantly be innovating and creating new ideas. The best recommendation is to keep studying even after you graduate. Learn more, evaluate market trends, study user reactions, and explore new alternatives.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Video Game Designer?
The time it takes to become a video game developer depends on the path you choose. For example, if you want to learn at a bootcamp, you will usually spend six to twelve weeks studying. Schools like The Tech Academy offer short game development programs, after which you can get a job in less than a year.
If you choose to get a bachelor’s degree, you will spend four to five years at a university. Then, you can get an online master’s degree and a doctoral degree if you want to expand your opportunities. Your game design journey can take from one to ten years, depending on how much education you want to get.
Should You Become a Video Game Designer in 2021?
Yes, you should become a video game designer in 2021. This career is only going to grow in the next few years. The job opportunities and salaries are great. Your pay may increase depending on your level of experience and your academic degree.
Another reason to be a video game designer is that you can become a professional from home. Thanks to online courses, you can receive a certificate by attending remote classes. Remote education is a more cheap and efficient alternative. If you want to start your journey as a game programmer, you should do it in 2021.
Video Game Designer FAQ
Can I get a job as a freelance game designer?
Yes, you can. Many freelance platforms offer video game development job opportunities. ZipRecruiter estimates that the average salary for freelance game design jobs is $92,894.
How much does the tuition for a game development bootcamp cost?
Tuition costs vary by school, schedule, location, and program. At The Tech Academy, a coding bootcamp, the game development program costs $22,000 full-time or $26,000 part-time.
Do I have to learn programming languages to be a video game designer?
Yes, you do. Game development platforms work with programming languages like Java, C++, and C#. It’s important to understand these languages so you can make your games the best they can be.
Is it difficult to get a job as a video game designer?
Thanks to the high demand, it is becoming easier every year for game design experts to find work. The New England Institute of Technology job outlook says that in 2020 there were more than 287,000 video game designers in the United States, with a projected 9.3 percent increase in jobs by 2026.