Video Game Designers
The video game industry is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, with sales of video gaming hardware, software and accessories exceeding $18.6 billion in 2010, according to the industry tracking company NPD Group. More enthusiasts have access to video entertainment than ever before, through both home gaming console systems and hand-held mobile devices – and their demand for new games shows no sign of stopping.
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If gaming is your passion, you may find a career as a video game designer to be a good fit for your skills and interests. But you may be wondering just what a video game designer does, and what training and education is required for this field. And just as important, you’ll want to know the job opportunities and typical salary of a video game designer.
Video Game Design Job Duties
Video game designers often focus on different aspects of bringing games to market. Graphic artists work on designing characters, backgrounds and animation. Texture artists ensure textures are properly mapped onto 3D objects and backgrounds, to add a sense of realism to the game. Sound and audio designers work on sound effects and background music. Computer programmers are responsible for making it all work properly, through coding, programming and testing.
Game designers work as a team on core features like storylines and role-play mechanics. They collaborate on creating the setting, environments, structure, rules and story flow. Game designers also focus on the user experience, interface design and game modes. They often work closely with testers and conduct their own testing as well – to be sure the finished product performs according to the specifications.
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Findings bugs and other problems before a new game hits the market is a major part of every project; designers are responsible for identifying player readability issues and other frustrations, and to offer solutions. They then help to fine tune the product to meet customer expectations.
Additional typical job duties for video game designers include documenting, managing production schedules and prototyping. Balancing the scope of a game project with timeline expectations is important to every successful project.
Education and Training Requirements for Video Game Designers
Specific training and education for video game designers varies according to the specific position, but a background in computer programming and game design is essential. Most employers show preference to candidates with experience in game designing, which can be obtained through specialty training at video game design schools or through internships at game development companies.
Programmers will need a foundation in computer science, which typically includes instruction in systems design and security, various programming languages, networking, and database management. Graphic artists typically need to be proficient in photo manipulation software and user interface (UI). In addition, they need strong illustration and graphic or industrial design skills.
A variety of degrees are offered by video game design schools, and include:
- Game and Simulation Programming
- Game Design and Game Development
- Game Art
- Digital Entertainment and Game Design
- Game and Simulation Programming
- Game Art and Design
- Game Development
Typical courses cover instruction in visual design, modeling, programming languages, game programming, game design, interactive development, critical game studies, and games and society.
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Essential Game Design Skills
Problem solving, analytical, and communication skills are essential to success in this field. Strong presentation skills are also beneficial, as game designers are often responsible for describing a game’s vision and function to the team. In addition, prospective game designers must work well on a collaborative team, and be willing to put in the hours necessary to bring a project to completion. The ability to meet deadlines is essential.
Employers hiring game designers often look for experience with massively multiplayer online games (MMO or MMOG), model building, game mechanics, spreadsheet formulas and scripting, and social networks.
Video Game Designer Job Outlook and Earnings
As projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for video game designers is projected to increase at a steady pace through 2018, with 7 – 13% growth. A rising job rate may not guarantee employment in the industry.
According to 2010 data reported by the BLS, the median annual salary for video game designers was $79,240. Because salary potential and actual job growth rates may vary depending on location, education and experience, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine actual earning potential and job growth possibilities.
Career Options for Video Game Designers
Many game designers begin their careers as 3D artists or computer programmers. They are often avid gamers, with a deep understanding about how a game’s UI works, which comes only from hours of playing. After gaining experience, video game designers may advance to senior design positions, project manager roles, or to developer and engineer positions.
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Are You Interested in Becoming a Video Game Designer?
If you’re a passionate gamer who would enjoy getting paid for what you love to do, you could find satisfaction as a video game designer – one of the 21st Century’s in-demand computer programming careers. Now that you know the skills, education and training required to break into this exciting field, you’re ready to start planning the path that could take you behind the scenes of the next video game sensation.