What Is a Video Game Designer? Career Overview

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what a video game designer does, the average salary expectations, and the skills and education expected for this career path.

[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.

What does a video game designer do?

Video game designers create worlds, characters, stories, rules, and overall gameplay of video games. They may do everything from brainstorming game ideas to developing the characters, plots, and settings. The number of designers on a video game can vary from one to dozens working together to bring the vision for a video game to life. 

Not only will video game designers conceptualize ideas, they’ll also work out how players will play the game, create the different levels, and determine the playing time. If you’re interested in video game design, learn about the different roles in this field and how to enter it. 


What’s the difference between a video game designer and a video game developer?

A video game designer creates a game’s theme, characters, plot, and skill levels. A game developer works on the coding, programming, and testing of the game to ensure that it’s ready for the market. 

[entity card: Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization]

Job outlook

According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the job outlook for video game designers is limited to moderate growth for the next few years [4]. However, the outlook varies by province or territory. 

Types of video game design jobs

As a video game designer, you might work on a project from start to finish or have a more specific role. For example, some game designers might work as sound engineers or game testers. Others might compose the music or work as a level designer. The following are some roles that are related to video game design.

Multimedia artists and animators

Median hourly wage:  CA$28.00 per hour [1]

Job outlook: Moderate to good job growth for the next three years 

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

Graphic designers 

Median hourly wage: CA$28.00 per hour [2

Job outlook: Moderate to good job growth over the next three years

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

Web developers and digital designers 

Median hourly wage: CA$30.00 per hour [3]

Job outlook: Moderate to good job growth for the next three years

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 become a video game designer

To become a video game designer, you'll typically need a college diploma in graphic arts, computer graphics, or animated design. Programming knowledge and other technical skills are also essential to enhance your resume for your job search.

Video game design is a competitive field, so having college internships and school projects can help build your experience, skills, and portfolio. However, if you’re not attending school, consider taking a bootcamp to enhance your resume, portfolio content, and knowledge in a shorter time period. 

You’ll need workplace and technical skills. Let’s look at some skills employers may seek in a video game designer.

Workplace skills

Video game design can be highly collaborative, requiring designers to work on teams of varying complexity to bring a game to life. You’ll need workplace skills which are personal skills that ensure you do your job well, this includes:  

  • A passion for gaming

  • Communication

  • Creativity

  • Flexibility

  • Problem-solving

  • 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 important technical skills include: 

  • Computer graphics 

  • Animation

  • Adobe Photoshop

  • Design theory

  • Software and hardware development 

Earn a degree.

A college diploma is typically the minimum requirement to become a video game designer. Colleges and universities offer degree programs in game design, but other programs can qualify you for a career in video game design. 

Some of the other degrees 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 are 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 video game design career. You may find some paid internships, and others might only offer college credit. Regardless of whether you’re compensated, an internship can boost your resume. 

Build a portfolio.

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

Get started

If you’re interested in video game design, consider Introduction to Game Design from the California Institute of the Arts on Coursera. This program covers topics like the principles of simple games, rules, and how to tell a story. It’s designed to help learners develop relevant job skills with hands-on projects.

Article sources


 Job Bank Canada. “Animator, Graphic Design And Illustration in Canada, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/wages-occupation/5684/ca.” Accessed October 9, 2023.

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