Video Game Designer Job Market

Video games continue to increase in popularity since their original debut. Offering a wide range of virtual storylines and in some cases, nostalgia, they have quickly become one of the front runners in the technology industry.

Current video game platforms allow people to de-stress but also to connect with others with same interests without meeting face to face. Increasingly more complex systems are arising from multiple companies, all with a wide range of offerings and genres. To meet the needs of this demand, more video game developers are necessary.

However, breaking into such a specific field may seem like a daunting task, especially for those who do not know much about the industry. More importantly, there are still questions and concerns about how to start on the path to be a serious contender in this growing, competitive field. Read below for more information on the job market for video game designers and helpful tips for standing out.

The Difference Between Designers and Developers

Often people think of video game designers and video game developers as one and the same. However, the jobs are quite different, and it is imperative to know the objectives of each. Video game designers work on the concept and storyboard designs of the game. They are the ones that create the story, characters and mood of the entire game. Through concept sketches or storyboard art, they design a narrative that includes rough ideas of gameplay mechanics and how the game will work. It is the video game developers who take those designs and incorporate them into a series of codes to be played on the chosen console. Developers work with teams to ensure that the videogame technology itself is running smoothly and if there are any glitches during gameplay, developers are the ones who resolve the issue.

Video Game Designer Specializations

The job title of video game designer encompasses a variety of different types of game designers. In general, the designer teams are composed of several workers with different titles. There are four other occupations housed under the general title of video game designer:

  • Lead Designer
  • Game Mechanic Designer
  • Level Designer
  • Writer

The Lead Designer leads the project and ensures the ideas of the game integrate into a cohesive design. Lead designers are expected to manage design timelines, create a design document detailing every parameter of the game idea and meet with other departments to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Game Mechanic Designers determine how the game is actually played. This means determining how the characters fight, how the camera angles are controlled, and what actions are designated to what controls. These designers create a document explaining how characters should fight, walk, and interact with non-player characters and the world around them.

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Level Designers oversee the environment and the objects and characters housed within. It is the Level Designer’s job to create a world best complimenting the story narrative to immerse the players into the world effectively. Based on the type of game and storyline created, developers create the most suitable environment.

Writers are primarily responsible for the in-game dialogue and text of the characters within the game. Depending on the type of game, the dialogue may be heavily relied upon. A classic example would be role-playing games that weave many characters’ stories together. However, a puzzle-type game where few characters are present has little need for writers.

Skills and Training for Game Designers

Many jobs are available to prospective designers in this growing industry, but what are the skills and training necessary for the positions? While each job has its own specifics, there are certain skills that are universal for successful designers, such as:

  • Collaborative skills
  • Good communication
  • Programming and scripting languages.
  • Optional collegiate degree in game design, development or computer science

Collaboration is a large part of the video game industry. Every mainstream video game needs to have a wide array of people in different positions working together to create a unified product. Collaboration and communication go hand-in-hand. A person needs to not only work well with others but be able to communicate ideas or feedback effectively.

No concrete educational requirements are in place for video game designers but degrees in game design, game development, or computer science do provide a competitive edge. A prospective worker who has one of these degrees most likely has a background and set of skills incorporating programming and scripting language, which decreases the need for on-site training. In addition to understanding programming and scripting languages, it is helpful to understand a variety of computer software as certain jobs require the usage of 3D model programs.

Experience is another pivotal part of being able to work in video game development. It is quite common in the industry for video game developers to have previously worked on a different team within the company. Therefore, do not be discouraged when offered a position that is different from what was desired. It is important to build up skills and have experience to understand where everyone’s strengths are best utilized when designing a new videogame.

Salary and Projected Trends

The video game industry is continually growing and continuing upwards. In 2009 video game sales were beyond $10 billion and over 32,000 employees had been employed in over 30 states. On average, video game designers earn around $68,000 or more as an annual wage. However, depending on the specific location, experience, or position, the wages vary slightly.

Finding Work in the Industry

It can be quite difficult entering the video game industry, especially for hopefuls without a lot of previous experience. Companies look for employees who are already established and possess a lot of experience. It is not impossible to obtain an entry-level job at a large video game studio, but it may require creative thinking and flexibility. In many cases a prospective designer may first create his or her own small, original work or propose design modifications to an existing work.

Jobs can be found in smaller studios as well. Job seekers should utilize internet resources to identify all studios that are hiring, rather than concentrating only on the larger, better known companies. It is entirely possible to have a game developed in a smaller studio go viral, leading to sharp increases in notoriety and sales. In addition, checking online sites of developers, such as LinkedIn, can be lucrative as sometimes developers post available positions or reach out privately to see portfolios.

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