How to Become a Video Game Designer: Skills, Steps, and Pay

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

If you enjoy creative writing, playing games, and using technology to create unique experiences, video game design could be a rewarding career for you. Learn more about this role and the steps to take to join this exciting field.

[Featured image] Two game designers are working together on a laptop and desktop in an office.

Video game designers combine storytelling, visual design, and technology to create player experiences for gaming consoles and computers. Tasked with realizing the foundational elements of the games we love, video game designers create the digital worlds, characters, rules, narrative, and aesthetic elements that make video games engaging, visually interesting, and fun. 

Game design can include any genre, from sports to fantasy and adventure. They can be single or multiplayer, casual or challenging, thought-provoking or simply entertaining. There are even educational games used in school settings. 

In this article, you'll learn what you need to do to become a video game design, including the required skills, training, and experience you can expect. At the end, you'll also explore online educational courses that can help you start building job-relevant skills today.

What does a video game designer do?

Game designers often work as part of a team and might focus on one aspect of game creation, such as level design or art direction. The team’s goal is to create a game from concept to player experience.

Common responsibilities of a video game designer include: 

  • Creating stories, characters, and mapping each game level

  • Writing gameplay rules 

  • Collaborating with other video game designers and programmers who create characters, scenery, and sounds

  • Beta testing newly completed games to identify bugs and to ensure it runs correctly 

Read more: What Is a Video Game Designer? Career Overview + FAQ

Important skills for video game designers

To be a successful game designer, you'll need a balance of technical and workplace skills to solve complex problems and to bring a game concept to life. The following are some skills that may be essential to your success as a game designer:

  • Drawing and sketching to storyboard

  • An understanding of game levels, level layouts, and architecture

  • Communicating and collaborating with team members

  • Having creativity and imagination to conceptualize games

  • Creating characters and plots to make a game entertaining and challenging 

  • Knowledge of programming languages like C++ and Python

  • Design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator

Read more: What Is Character Design? + How to Get Started

Salary and job outlook

According to Glassdoor, the average total salary for a video game designer in the United States is $117,124 as of December 2023 [1]. This figure includes an average base salary of $97,543 and $19,581 in additional pay, such as profit-sharing, commissions, or bonuses.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes video game designers in its special effects artists and animators category. According to the BLS, 8 percent job growth is expected for this field from 2022-2032— faster than average for all jobs in the country—and had a median salary of $98,950 as of May 2022 [2].


How to become a video game designer

If game design is your passion, the following steps will help you qualify for a job in video game design.

1. Get your degree

Although it is possible to become a video game designer without a degree, obtaining one can give you a competitive edge in your job search and offer opportunities to explore different design roles and gain the skills needed to succeed through coursework.

According to Zippia, 74 percent of video game designers have a bachelor’s degree, 12 percent hold an associate degree, 6 percent possess a Master's degrees, and just 5 percent have a high school diploma. Relevant majors include photography, computer science, and graphic design [3]. 

Bootcamps and certificate programs are also great ways to learn video game design skills. They can be completed in a much shorter time than a two- or four-year degree program and are great ways to enhance your resume with job-relevant skills and real-world experience.

Explore online video game courses

Want to learn more about storytelling in video games?

Consider the Story and Narrative Development for Video Games offered by the California Institute of the Arts on Coursera to learn more about interactive storytelling in video games. This beginner-level course takes about nine hours to complete and is part of a four-course program teaching game design and designing a game document of a project you create.


2. Build specialized skills.

Video game design encompasses various duties and skill sets, from storytelling to sound design and art direction. With a specialization, you can pursue the part of game design you’re most passionate about and differentiate yourself from other game designers in the process. 

You could develop expertise in character design, 3D design and animation, or user experience (UX) or user interface (UI) design. Or you could consider upgrading your skills by learning a language like JavaScript or C++. 

Video game developers primarily use game engines such as Unity and Unreal to run games. Knowledge of game engines may help you understand the entire game design process, including its development. If you want to develop these skills, consider Michigan State University's Game Design and Development With Unity 2020 Specialization on Coursera. This beginner-level course can be completed in about five months. 

3. Craft your resume and portfolio.

Stand out to employers with a resume that clearly showcases your skills and experience. Research video game designer job listings and ensure your resume includes relevant keywords to make sure you get noticed by the applicant tracking systems (ATS) employers use to filter applications quickly.

A portfolio is your chance to show potential employers your video game design skills in action. As you build your education, skills, and experience, you’ll work on projects that demonstrate your expertise and point of view. You could even design your own game as a solo project. Add these examples to your portfolio and prepare to discuss them with future clients and employers.

Some essential components of a portfolio include: 

  • About me section

  • Link to your CV, resume, and LinkedIn

  • Examples of your work like designs, gameplay, and well-documented projects

Read more: 10 Ways to Enhance Your Resume.

4. Participate in the video game design community.

To stay updated on technological gaming changes and trends, you can join organizations and attend workshops. Both will give you an opportunity to network with other video game designers to build your professional connections.

Build video game design skills on Coursera

As a video game designer,  it’s essential that you have an understanding of storytelling, game play mechanics, and world building. In CalArt's Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization, you’ll build a foundational understanding of the experimentation and exploration of video game design, story, character development, and winning gameplay before programming begins.Upon completion, you’ll earn a Professional Certificate for your resume, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile. 

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Salary: Video game designers,2_IN1_KO3,22.htm.” Accessed December 21, 2023.

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