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Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

October 30, 2019

Information Technology

Video game industry jobs: designer or developer.

Video gaming

It’s easy to understand why so many people dream of making the next Mario Kart or Halo. Gaming is an extremely popular hobby all around the world. It seems like an amazing prospect to turn your hobby of video games, into a career. While making video games is a very exciting prospect for many people, some don’t know that there’s a huge difference between game development and game design. While video game designers are involved in all the creative aspects of making a game, game developers or programmers are responsible for the actual coding and technical aspects of putting a game together. 

If gaming is your passion and you dream about turning that passion into a career, it’s vital to know if a future as a video game designer or video game developer is the best fit for you.

What can I expect as a game designer?

Before you decide if you want to be a game designer or game developer, you’ll need to know what each of those job titles are responsible for, how to get started, and what to expect. So what should you expect if you decide to become a video game designer? 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, video game designers work for production studios, large and small, and they are the dreamers that envision everything about what the game. The team of game designers will start by writing detailed descriptions of their ideas for the game, including the plot, characters, and gameplay. The best game design concepts are selected to move forward to production. Game designers will work closely with the developers and artists to make sure the game designs are being followed. Game designers usually use scripting languages that allow them to test concepts within the game design. 

There are multiple kinds of job titles for game design including lead designer, content designers, game mechanic designers, level designers, and writers. Each of these job titles in game design contribute something unique to the overall game design team.

Lead designers collect and organize the ideas into a cohesive document. They manage the work tasks, schedules, and documentation for the entire team. Lead designers are in charge of helping with new ideas, problems, and the entire process of the game design. 

Content designers need to have creativity, because they are the brains behind the details of the game design. They focus on the plot and characters for the game design, and they have to help set a realistic strategy for the game’s universe. They are involved all throughout the game process to offer their insights and ideas.

Game mechanics focus on the specific pieces of gameplay that make it a game. Their job titles actually depend on the genre of video game that they are working on. For example, if it’s a fighting game, they’re called combat designers. These game mechanics focus on the specific elements of a game that help it function within the overall game design.

Level designers create the environments that characters will live in in the video game design. These designers choose the appropriate setting to help players really get into the game. Dark, shadowy environments or bright cartoon-esque areas can make a game feel more interesting and exciting. 

Writers have the role of creating the text and dialogue inside a video game. Some video game designs rely heavily on conversations, and writers have a lot of work creating the scripts. Other genres have less need for writers because they are more based on puzzles or formulas. 

Video game designers and the skills they have are key to making sure the game is created in a way that will be cohesive and enjoyable for players. Their work is the basis for the story, characters, and inner-workings of the entire game.

Video game designer salary.

As with many IT and technical careers, video game designer salary opportunities are really great. On average, a video game designer salary can be around $72,520 per year, according to the BLS in 2018. Of course, the exact salary will depend on the location, role, your experience, and the employer.

If you’re considering becoming a game designer and looking to increase your average salary, a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree can help boost your salary potential. In fact, employees with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn $24,000 per year compared to those with a high school diploma. It’s a fact that higher education increases how high of a salary you can earn, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science can give you the skills you need to become a video game designer, and give you the credentials to increase what kind of salary you can earn.

Game developer - hands

What can I expect as a programmer/developer?

Video game developers have a unique perspective on a game. They see lines of code that determine how the computer will handle everything in the game, from the rules to the graphics. Programmers (often called developers) build the video game from the ground up, under the guidance of the development team. The game developers will use different types of coding languages depending on what they need to do, and what platform the game is on. 

There are many different types of game developers involved in a video game development. There will be a lead programmer, artificial intelligence programmer, graphics programmer, network programmer, physics programmer, tools programmer, and user interface programmer. These different kinds of jobs will all play important parts in the creation of a video game. 

The lead programmer will assign work and develop schedules for the rest of the programming team. They are well-versed in code, but spend a lot of their time in a supervisory and management role. They meet with other departments to discuss issues and find solutions during the development process.

Artificial intelligence programmers will create the reactions for computer-controlled opponents and allies based on a player’s actions. AI enables the computer characters to respond realistically, and strategically to the player. Some video game design will require more advanced AI than others.

Graphics programmers create the tools that allow the artwork of a game to come alive. They use math knowledge to implement complex algorithms and produce 2D and 3D graphics. These video game developers work closely with artists to figure out how to incorporate the artwork into a game.

Network programmers write the code that enables gamers to play online, across the world. They develop security measures that prevent cheating, and make it possible for players all around the world to compete against each other.

Physics programmers set up the laws that a game should follow or ignore. This could be gravity, environments, weather, and more. They use coding to create the rules of the game, guided by the designers and their vision for the overall game. They determine how the different objects of a game will interact, they code in the explosions, splashes, and collisions involved in video games design as well.

The tools programmer writes code to automate tasks, making the overall development easier. They write code that simplifies the process of creating new levels, or importing artwork into the game. Their job usually depends on what the specific game will require.

The user interface programmers create graphical menus for the game. These can vary from simple to complex. They also build the heads-up display, which is vital for players. They usually work with designers and artists to make sure the systems are straightforward, and align well with the game design.

Game programming is vital to make the actual idea of the game come to life through coding. Without the work of game developers and their programming, there would be no software and no actual game to play.

Game developer salary.

Video game development is basically software development, and a degree in software development or computer science will usually be required to help you get a job in game programming. According to the BLS software developers make over $105,000 per year on average. This game developer salary average will largely depend on where your job is located, the actual job title, and the type of video game you’re working on.

Similarly to video game designers, higher education can go a long way to help you increase your game developer salary. Game developers will need to be well-versed in code to qualify for jobs and a higher salary. Consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in software development, and then a master’s degree in management or IT to help you be prepare for a future as a game developer. This advanced education will put you in the path of a higher salary as well as other job opportunities.

Video game remote

Video games are a billion dollar industry.

If you love video games and are considering going into the industry, now is the perfect time. In 2018, the video game industry had a revenue of over $43 billion, which is 18% higher than the previous year. The demand for designers is projected to grow a full 8% by 2026, and the demand for software developers will grow 24% by 2026. There is great job security and incredible possibilities for those who are interested in a video game career. The average game developer salary will likely increase, and the salary opportunities for all IT professionals involved in the video game industry will also likely soar.

If you’re ready to get started on the journey to an exciting career in the video game industry, consider getting an IT degree from WGU. This degree can help you be prepared for the journey, qualified for jobs, and knowledgeable for your future career.

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