What is a Video Game Designer and how to become one?

A video game designer is the visionary behind a video game, responsible for creating its entire concept and structure. This includes designing the game’s storyline, characters, levels, challenges, rules, and gameplay mechanics.

Collaboration with a team of developers, artists, programmers, and other professionals is essential to ensure the game aligns with the intended vision and offers an engaging experience. Additionally, technical limitations, budget constraints, and deadlines must be considered while devising the game’s design!

To excel as a video game designer, one must possess a deep understanding of game mechanics, player psychology, and the latest video game trends. Creativity, innovation, and excellent communication, and problem-solving skills are crucial.

Staying updated with the latest technologies and software tools in game development is an ongoing requirement. Also, being a video game designer demands a combination of technical expertise and artistic creativity, making it a profoundly gratifying and challenging career for those passionate about gaming and eager to craft memorable gaming experiences for players.

Depending on circumstances, game designers can specialize in a specific game element and work within a team for a commercial or independent game development company. They might even work solo or as a freelancer, conceiving, creating, programming, and publishing their own titles.

What Does a Video Game Designer Do?

A video game designer creates the gameplay, mechanics, and overall user experience of a video game, shaping its story, characters, and challenges to engage and entertain players.

In the realm of video game design, a video game designer is the mastermind behind crafting games for computers and gaming consoles. Their role involves brainstorming game concepts, developing characters, plots, and settings.

Essentially, they determine how players will interact with the game, constructing levels and establishing the playing duration. In some instances, game designers may even contribute to the game’s code to ensure seamless audio and video integration.

Game Designers Tasks

In general, there are 8 tasks almost every video game designer is responsible of. These include:

1. Conceptualizing Game Ideas: Video game designers spearhead the creation of novel game ideas or design concepts for existing ones.

2. Developing Game Mechanics: They craft the rules, systems, and mechanics that constitute the game experience. This encompasses gameplay, level design, and user interface.

3. Creating Storylines and Characters: Game designers spin captivating storylines and characters that draw players into the gaming universe.

4. Balancing Game Difficulty: Striking the right balance of game difficulty is crucial to ensure the game is challenging without becoming frustrating.

5. Prototyping and Playtesting: Designers construct prototypes to evaluate game mechanics and collect feedback from playtesters, leveraging it to enhance the game.

6. Collaborating with Artists, Video Game Developers, and Lead designers: Video game designers work closely with artists, programmers, and lead designers to breathe life into their ideas during the game development process.

7. Staying Up-to-Date with Video Game Industry Trends: Remaining well-informed about the latest technology, trends, and developments in the gaming industry is vital to keep games relevant and competitive.

8. Project Management: Managing projects, adhering to deadlines, and operating within budget constraints is a critical aspect of the role.

A Day as a Video Game Design Professional

A typical day for a video game designer is a blend of creativity and adaptability. Your day revolves around crafting game plots, settings, and characters, allowing your creativity to flourish. Building captivating worlds that engross players in immersive gaming experiences is your objective.

One of the advantages of this position is the flexibility it provides. Many designers prefer to work from home, adjusting their schedules to their own requirements. This flexibility fosters a healthy work-life balance, nurturing creativity.

Additionally, a significant portion of your time is devoted to enhancing existing games, refining gameplay, graphics, and user experiences. This iterative process hones your skills and contributes to making popular games more engaging and enjoyable.

All in all, being a game designer provides the flexibility of remote work, the opportunity to shape enthralling gaming experiences, and a dynamic and fulfilling profession that allows for personal growth and creativity in the ever-evolving realm of video game development.

How Much Does a Video Game Designer Make?

The gaming industry is rapidly evolving, showcasing numerous game studios with distinct features. Consequently, game designer salaries vary significantly based on the studio’s characteristics. However, in general, here are some reported averages on how much video game designers earn:

  • Junior Video Game Designers’ Salary: In the US, they earn an average annual salary of approximately $55,954 per annum as per ZipRecruiter.
  • Senior Video Game Designers’ Salary: They receive an average yearly salary of about $89,425 according to PayScale, with a base salary ranging from $69,000 to $111,000 per annum. The total pay, inclusive of bonuses, can range from $71,000 to $134,000.

How to Become a Video Game Designer?

Some perceive becoming a video game designer as a challenge in the current competitive industry. However, if you possess a passion for storytelling and integrating characters and plots into interactive gaming, video game designing could be your ideal profession. Here are 7 steps to guide you on this path:

1. Develop a Strong Foundation in the Basics of Game Design: Acquiring a solid foundation in game design is pivotal. This includes understanding the fundamentals that contribute to creating engaging and enjoyable games.

2. Learn the Essential Programming Languages: While immersing yourself in diverse games offers valuable insights, understanding the technical aspect is equally crucial. Acquiring knowledge in programming languages is vital, with languages like C++, C#, Java, and Python being essential.

3. Get Acquainted With Video Game Design Tools and Software: Familiarize yourself with game design tools and software, such as Unity and Unreal Engine, which serve as the backbone of game design and development.

4. Build a Portfolio of Work: Create a portfolio showcasing your best projects. A strong portfolio sets you apart, demonstrating your design thinking, process, and the types of games you can create.

5. Pursue an Education: Consider pursuing formal education in video game design or development. Many universities offer programs tailored to the rapidly evolving game development field.

6. Gain Industry Experience: Seek opportunities for hands-on experience through internships, part-time jobs, or freelance positions. This real-world exposure allows you to apply your skills and learn about the production process.

7. Upskill With Online Courses: Given the dynamic nature of the gaming industry, continually upskilling through online courses keeps you updated with the latest advancements, making you more competitive in the job market.

How Much Experience Do Video Game Designers Need?

Experience requirements for a video game designer can vary among employers. While some companies hire designers without prior experience, having a background in game design sets you apart from candidates without any.

Gaining experience through internships or relevant projects during your studies is a great start. Your portfolio of work is a vital aspect that employers consider, showcasing your skills and suitability for the role.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Video Game Designer?

Although the industry doesn’t specify particular education requirements, many employers prefer candidates with a college degree. A bachelor’s degree in computer science, video game design, or video game development equips you with the necessary skills for success in video game design.

Alternatively, completing game design boot camps or relevant certificate programs can also pave the way to a successful career in this field. It’s crucial to stay updated with industry advancements by joining professional organizations, subscribing to industry publications, and participating in workshops and training.

Game Design Programs in the US

Here are some esteemed undergraduate and graduate game design programs in the United States that can help you carve your path in this exciting industry and becoming a game designer:

Undergraduate Programs:

1. University of Southern California (USC) – School of Cinematic Arts

– Program: Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment

2. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) – School of Interactive Games and Media

– Program: Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development

3. DigiPen Institute of Technology 

– Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Art and Animation, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation

4. New York University (NYU) – Tisch School of the Arts

– Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Design

5. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) – School of Digital Media

– Program: Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Design and Game Development

Graduate Programs:

1. University of Southern California (USC) – School of Cinematic Arts

– Program: Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Interactive Media and Games

2. Carnegie Mellon University – Entertainment Technology Center

– Program: Master of Entertainment Technology (MET)

3. New York University (NYU) – Tisch School of the Arts

– Program: Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Game Design

4. University of Utah – Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program

– Program: Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE) – Specialization in Game Engineering, Game Arts, or Technical Art

5. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) – School of Interactive Games and Media

– Program: Master of Science (MS) in Game Design and Development

Are You Suited to Be a Video Game Designer?

Are you planning on pursuing a career as a video game designer? Then we have the perfect checklist for you! Below, you can see all the key skills good video game designers must have:

  • Drawing and Sketching for Storyboarding
  • Understanding Game Levels, Layouts, and Architecture
  • Effective Communication and Collaboration with Team Members
  • Creativity and Imagination for Game Conceptualization
  • Creating Characters and Plots to Enhance Game Entertainment and Challenge
  • Knowledge of Programming Languages like C++ and C#
  • Proficiency in Design Software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Strong Storytelling Ability
  • Broad Knowledge of Gaming Trends
  • Strong Analytical Mindset
  • Ability to Work Collaboratively as Part of a Team

Helder is our go-to guy, handling a bit of everything. Apart from that, he specializes in SEO Translation. Lately, he has been deeply involved in the video game industry, something that was quite restricted by his parents when he was younger.