How to Become a Video Game Designer

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover what it takes to be a video game designer and the similiar career paths, salary details, and job growth. Learn about the education requirements, and the necessary experience to succeed in this role and whether this career is right for you.

[Featured image]:  Two video game designers are standing in front of a desktop computer working on a video game level. There are two plants on the desk and windows covered with curtains.

Designing a video game can be a satisfying career for creative individuals who like to tell stories and play games. Whether your passion is sports, action-adventure, puzzle-solving, or strategy, you can learn more about the requirements to start a video game design career and the different job opportunities.

What does a video game designer do?

As a video game designer, you’ll create games for computers and game consoles. You may do everything from brainstorming game ideas to developing the characters, plots, and settings. Typically, you’ll work as part of a creative team.

Not only will you conceptualize ideas, but you’ll also work out the details of how players will play the game, create the different levels, and determine the length of playing time.  Game designers often write the code for gameplay and ensure the audio and video run smoothly.

As a video game designer, you might work on a project from start to finish, or you might have a different specific role. Some roles are a crossover from a similar creative area. For example, some game designers might work as a sound engineer or game tester. Others might compose the music, or they might work as a level designer.

Multimedia artists and animators

Median annual salary (US): $78,790 [1]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2020 to 2030): 16%

Multimedia artists and animators, also known as game designers, create graphic and interactive images for a game. They can also work in television, film, or be self-employed.

Art directors

Median annual salary (US): $100,890 [2]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2020 to 2030): 11%

As an art director of a video game, you’ll oversee the graphic designs and ensure they convey the visual concept intended for gameplay. Art directors can find career opportunities in advertising, publishing, and television. 

Graphic designers 

Median annual salary (US): $50,710 [3]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2020 to 2030): 3%

Graphic designers create visual elements for video games. Your job might include selecting the images, fonts, and colors for projects using digital platforms such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. 

Read more: What Does a Graphic Designer Do? (and How Do I Become One?)

Web developers and digital designers 

Median annual salary (US): $77,200 [4]

Job outlook (projected growth from 2020 to 2030): 13%

As a web developer or digital designer, you might work to ensure the game is navigable and that all functions work properly. Your duties could include making sure the game is user-friendly and has an appealing look.

How to be a video game designer

To become a video game designer, you should obtain a bachelor’s degree in multimedia design or a closely related field.  Knowledge of programming and other technical skills are important to enhance your resume for your job search.

Video game design is a competitive field, and college internships can help build your experience and skills. Both school and internships can provide you with projects to add to your portfolio. However, if you’re not attending school, consider taking a bootcamp to help enhance your resume and provide additional portfolio content and knowledge in a shorter timeframe. 

You’ll need both workplace and technical skills. Take a look at some of the skills employers may seek in a video game designer.

Workplace skills

As a video game designer, you’ll need a variety of skills to create games that are enjoyable. You’ll not only apply your skills, but you’ll learn new ones: 

  • A passion for gaming

  • Communication skills

  • Creativity

  • Flexibility

  • Problem-solving skills 

  • Willingness to work as part of a team 

Technical skills

Video game designers need technical skills to carry out the functionality of video games. Employers also like to see candidates who have strong video game-playing experience. Some skills include: 

  

  • Ability to use computer graphics 

  • Animation skills 

  • Adobe Photoshop proficiency

  • Familiarity with design theory

  • Knowledge of software and hardware development 

Earn a degree.

A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement to become a video game designer with 74% of professionals holding one and 12% holding an associate [5]. Degree programs are offered in game design, but other degree programs can qualify you for a career in video game design. 

Some of the other degree fields aspiring video game designers may pursue include:

  • Computer science

  • Interactive arts 

  • Computer animation 

  • Graphic design

  • Computer engineering

  • Digital art

Complete an internship.

Internships can be available and sometimes required when studying for your degree. You can find internship opportunities on company websites and job posting sites like Indeed or LinkedIn

An internship can give you real-world experience to help determine if you want to pursue a career in video game design. You may find some paid internships, while others might only offer college credit. Paid or unpaid, an internship can boost your resume. 

Learn new skills.

If your college coursework doesn’t cover computer programming, you can upgrade your skills by taking a coding course. Playing more games can introduce you to other gamers who can offer suggestions for future games and how to improve on current ones.

Design your own games.

You can design games for your portfolio if you don’t have enough content. By designing a game, you can improve your skills, and you can have others test it out or even market it if you feel it may appeal to gamers.

Build a portfolio.

Your video game design portfolio should include your contact information, resume, and a link to a game you designed. If you have work in progress, be sure to include it. You should also include reviews of your game if available. 

Actively participate in the field.

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.

Job outlook

According to the BLS, the game design field is expected to grow 16 percent between 2020 to 2030 as a result of more demand for video games and animation in television and movies [6].

Get started

Video game designing can be the right job for you if your passion is storytelling and integrating characters and plots into interactive gaming. You can use your creativity to design new video games for consumers and educators. 

You can learn the concepts of gaming design and take a course with Game Design and Development with Unity 2020 Specialization offered by Michigan State University. 

If you’re interested in online learning, you can find game design courses from introduction to game design to computer science graduate certificate programs on Coursera.

FAQ

Related articles

Article sources 

1.  US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Multimedia Artists and Animators:Pay www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm#tab-5.” Accessed 23 June 2022.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Art Directors, www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/art-directors.htm#tab-2.” Accessed 23 June 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Graphic Designers, www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/graphic-designers.htm#tab-5.” Accessed 24 June 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics.“Web Developers,  www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm#tab-5.” Accessed 24 June 2022.

5. Zippia. “Video Game Designer Education Requirements, https://www.zippia.com/video-game-designer-jobs/education.” Accessed August 12, 2022.

6. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Multimedia Artists and Animators:Job Outlook www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm#tab-6.” Accessed 24 June 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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