Video Game Designer Salary + 2023 Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover how much video game designers make, gain insight into your 2023 career prospects, and confidently pursue salary goals.

[Featured image] A video game designer wears a VR headset and leans on a desk while reviewing a video game.

Video game design in 2023 and beyond

If you’re in the video game industry or looking to become a video game designer, you may be wondering how much you can earn. In this article, we’ll explore your earning potential and the factors that can affect your salary. 

To provide some context, let’s first look at some industry trends. According to Grand View Research's Market Analysis Report, the global video game industry is predicted to grow 12.9 percent by 2030. In 2022, the market value was over $220 billion and should exceed $583 billion in revenue by 2030 [1]. 

Perforce’s survey of more than 300 game design and development professionals predicts that streaming will be the biggest gaming platform by 2025 and that virtual reality, augmented reality, and the metaverse will have a growing impact on this industry [2].

These projections could signal higher salaries for video game designers in the years to come. 

Video game designer vs. video game developer

A video game designer creates games for computers and game consoles by designing storylines, characters, game objectives, methods of winning and losing, and user interfaces. While a video game developer focuses on the coding, software programming, and engineering aspects of bringing a game to life, a video game designer is responsible for creating the game at the conceptual, experiential, and aesthetic levels.  

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Read more: How to Become a Video Game Designer

What is the average salary for a video game designer? 

Glassdoor’s December 2022 salary data shows that video game designers make, on average, $85,768 in the US. This figure combines estimated base salary and additional pay such as cash bonuses, commission, tips, and profit sharing [3]. 

In the table below, we list Glassdoor salary average for game designers at different levels of experience so that you can see how your earning potential might increase as you develop your career. 

Years of experienceAverage US salary
0-1 years$70,236
1-3 years$72,536
4-6 years$81,095
7-9 years$90,228
10-14 years$117,671
15+ years$139,550

Factors that affect game designer salary

In addition to your level of experience, there are several other factors that can affect your earning potential as a video game designer.

Education 

According to Zippia’s research, 74 percent of video game designers hold a bachelor’s degree. On average, they earn $96,586. Earning a master’s degree can bring your earning potential to $116,367, and a doctorate up to $118,984. For the video game designers with an associate’s degree (12 percent), the average salary is $76,761, while game designers with a high school diploma (5 percent) earn $72,315 on average [4].  

Read more: Your Guide to Game Design Degrees

Skills 

The range of skills you possess and whether you have any specialized skills may have an impact on what job you land and, therefore, what salary you earn. According to Zippia, the top five skills for video game designers are:

  • Motion graphics

  • Video content

  • Adobe Photoshop

  • Video production 

  • Animation 

Motion graphics and video content skills appeared on more than 60 percent of video game designer resumes, signaling that these skills are likely essential for those in the video game design industry. Unity 3D, on the other hand, was listed on 2.3 percent of resumes [6]. If you’re interested in designing VR games for the metaverse, for instance, learning a skill such Unity 3D or similar could help you specialize in a skill that fewer designers possess and unlock related career and salary opportunities. 

Company 

The five companies offering the highest salaries on Glassdoor for video game designers in the US as of December 2022 are: 

  • TinyCo: $169,323

  • Microsoft: $166,602

  • Amazon: $161,032

  • MZ: $152,723

  • Zynga: $150,551

Industry 

The industry with the highest-paying video game designer jobs is information technology, according to data on Glassdoor, with an average of $141,401—14 percent higher than other industries. Salary averages in other industries include: 

  • Media and communication: $121,085

  • Arts, entertainment, and recreation: $103,170

  • Retail and wholesale: $101,465

  • Government and public administration: $89,496

Location 

Where you live and work may be a factor. Here are three US city-specific examples of video game designer salary averages from Glassdoor: 

  • San Francisco, CA: $95,831

  • New York, NY: $92,321

  • Houston, TX: $88,266

Video game designer job outlook

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer any job outlook data on the role of video game designer specifically. That said, the category of special effects artists and animators may be closely related enough to get a rough estimate of the kind of job growth video game designers can expect. 

Between now and 2031, BLS predicts that jobs for special effects artists and animators will grow by 5 percent, as fast as average for all industries [5]. Considering the predictions of gaming industry revenue growth and technological evolution that we reported at the beginning of this article, it appears likely the industry will continue on a growth trajectory. 

Video game designer jobs 

Now that you know video game designer salary averages, factors that affect salary, and the job outlook for people in video game design, you may be wondering what job opportunities are available to you. As of December 2022, there are 17 job listings on Glassdoor, 7,973 job listings on LinkedIn, and 23 job listings on Indeed.

Companies currently hiring video game designers and whose employees rate them at least 4.5 out of 5 on Glassdoor* include: 

  • Google: 4.5/5 (38.2K reviews)

  • MobilityWare: 4.7/5 (106 reviews)

  • Mojang: 4.7/5 (24 reviews)

  • Rec Room: 4.9/5 (27 reviews)

  • Filament Games: 4.9/5 (38 reviews)

*Employees can rate the companies they work for based on culture and values, diversity and inclusion, work/life balance, compensation and benefits, career opportunities, and senior management. 

Game designer salary best practices 

As you continue your job search and develop your career, use these best practices to increase your potential for higher earnings.  

1. Refine your research methods.

Stay up-to-date on the skills, experience, education, and other qualifications employers are looking for in a video game designer. Start by creating accounts on job sites like Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Paypal, and Indeed. Then:

  • Navigate the different data points on each site, such as average salaries, career trajectories, career advice, company reviews, and more. 

  • Study job descriptions and sign up to receive notifications when positions open up at different companies.  

2. Gain job-ready skills and experience in game design. 

Continuing your education can help expedite career advancement. Use insights from your research to prioritize the skills you learn and opportunities to apply them. For example, you may find that the positions you are most interested in require a degree or professional certificate in game design. You may be able to satisfy employers’ requirements by taking courses on specific topics in game design. If you are able, consider taking on freelance projects to diversify your experience and build a portfolio. 

3. Build a game designer network.

Having a strong network of contacts in the gaming industry can position you to learn about job openings and other career-building opportunities. To build your network, you can: 

  • Attend professional conferences and networking events. 

  • Follow other video game designers on social media and engage with their content. 

4. Monitor gaming industry trends. 

When you monitor trends in this industry, such as the prevalence of new technologies and year-over-year revenue growth, you may be able to make some general deductions about the salary you can earn. To monitor these trends, you can: 

Get started in game design with Coursera 

Taking online courses can be a great way to boost your video game designer job performance, enable more career opportunities, and increase your earning potential. Explore the options below, offered by CalArts and industry leaders Google and Meta: 

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specialization

Game Design: Art and Concepts

Create Imaginative Games. Design a video game for independent distribution in just four courses.

4.7

(2,254 ratings)

35,041 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Interactive Storytelling, Game Design Document, Video Game Design, Game Design, Video Game Development, Gameplay, Level Design, Art

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professional certificate

Google UX Design

This is your path to a career in UX design. In this program, you’ll learn in-demand skills that will have you job-ready in less than 6 months. No degree or experience required.

4.8

(56,918 ratings)

710,201 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 6 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

User Experience (UX), UX Research, Wireframe, Prototype, User Experience Design (UXD), Usability Testing, mockup, Figma, Adobe XD, UX design jobs

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professional certificate

Meta Front-End Developer

Launch your career as a front-end developer. Build job-ready skills for an in-demand career and earn a credential from Meta. No degree or prior experience required to get started.

4.7

(5,449 ratings)

91,617 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 7 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML, UI/UX design, React, JavaScript, Web Development Tools, User Interface, Front-End Web Development, HTML and CSS, Responsive Web Design, Test-Driven Development, Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), Linux, Web Development, Bash (Unix Shell), Github, Version Control, Debugging, React (Web Framework), Web Application, Application development, Unit Testing, Web Design, User Experience (UX), Accessibility, Pseudocode, Algorithms, Communication, Data Structure, Computer Science

Article sources

1

Grand View Research. “Video Game Market Size, Share, & Trends Analysis Report, https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/video-game-market.” Accessed December 16, 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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