Video Game Designer – Ultimate Guide

June 1, 2020

Want to build worlds, enter the afterlife, get lost in space, or become a crime kingpin? Get ready!

Today, gaming seems to interest all kinds of users, from beginners on super addictive smartphone apps, lifestyle gamers playing action-packed shooter games from their console at home, to those who play and compete at a professional level.

Ambitious, challenging, and complex, video games have come a long way since the simple arcade titles of the 1990s. With the advent of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), the game industry has begun to see drastic technological changes. It’s even been predicted that advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) may appear in commercial games. Let’s look at the revenue generated by the gaming industry in 2019:

  • PC gaming: $29.6 billion
  • Mobile gaming: $64.4 billion
  • VR and AR gaming: $6.3 billion
  • Console gaming: $15.4 billion
  • Game-related videos: $6.5 billion

Source: SuperData

The video game market is expected to be worth a record $124.8 billion by 2020.

2018-2020 worldwide digital games revenue

Image creditSuperdata

In an industry that’s exploding the need for qualified, conscious, and innovative game designers is at an all-time high.

While they’re fun to play, video games can be onerous to create and develop. A video game designer must plan the story, create graphics, test the game to check for bugs, and help produce the final product.

Still intrigued? Find out what it takes to succeed in this cutting-edge career.

Video Game Design vs. Game Development

Video Game Design vs. Game Development

The difference between game design and game development should be framed in terms of concept versus execution. The two careers actually go hand in hand. You cannot create a game without both the designers and the programmers. These individuals work closely from start to finish. Still, if you plan on pursuing a video game design degree, you need to know the difference.

Video game designers are creative persons who are responsible for the design and layout of a video game. They are the ones who create the storylines, characters, levels, scenarios, etc. of a certain game.

A video game developer, on the other hand, brings the designers’ ideas, objectives, and vision to life using computer code.

The process of producing a new video game involves extensive collaboration between different teams, from product management to core engineering to artwork to development and design.

Skills Required to Become a Video Game Designer

“Dream, not of what you are, but of what you want to be.” – Margulis, Warframe

Want to become a video game designer? The rewards can be enormous. After all, everybody in the industry remembers Markus Persson, the creator of “Minecraft” who sold his company to Microsoft for a multi-billion-dollar payday. Of course, not everyone is going to stumble across that kind of money, but it’s important to remember that hard work and dedication do pay off.

Are you up for the challenge?

A video game designer requires a mix of different skills, and that’s the exciting part! A designer should be able to tell a story, write code, invent a world, understand the psychology of a player, and eventually create something meaningful and compelling for players to experience.

What are the key skills that a video game designer must have?

  • A passion for video games
  • Creativity
  • Technical ability in software technologies and programming languages, such as C# and C++
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • The ability to work in teams and collaborate with others
  • A passion for gaming
  • An innovative approach and the ability to come up with new ideas
  • Adept problem-solving skills
  • A flexible work approach to tailor your ideas and meet deadlines
  • The willingness and aptitude to learn
  • Mathematical and analytical understanding
  • Ability to express and pitch your ideas

Games are not only about new technologies, favorite characters, or chart-hitting sales. They are also about the people who create them.

Top Video Game Designers of All Time

  • Hideo Kojima

With the latest and critically acclaimed PlayStation offering, Death Stranding, now on his resume, Hideo remains one of the most recognized and respected names in the industry.

As a child, games were simply a pastime for Hideo, whose interests largely revolved around films and their unique way of delivering complex stories. In college, he faced a lot of pressure to pursue a more worthwhile career in economics.

However, he switched to video game design in the fourth year of his degree after realizing his passion for the craft while playing on a Nintendo Famicon. Konami hired him in 1986, where he designed Metal Gear, a game he is best known and appreciated for. Some of his other most well-known projects include The Phantom Pain (2015) and Death Stranding (2019).

  • Sid Meier

When someone gets dubbed the “Godfather of Computer Gaming,” you know you’re talking about a legend with a heavily decorated resume. Sid Meier is a name that has become synonymous with the video game industry, especially after the release of one of the most popular game series, Civilization.

Sid initially kicked off his career developing cash register systems for department stores, but soon realized those same skills could be used to develop and design video games. Having started the journey with a friend of his, he designed and developed multiple games, including Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987) and Sid Meier’s Civilization (series, started in 1991)

  • Hironobu Sakaguchi

Though he dreamt of becoming a professional musician, Hironobu found himself involved in the gaming industry after landing a part time at a programming company. Today, he is recognized as one of the most prized video game designers and developers of all time.

Sakaguchi is perhaps best known for having created Final Fantasy, one of the most significant RPG games of the time.

Other notable games created by this genius include Final Fantasy (1990), Final Fantasy VII (1997) and The Last of Us (2011)

  • Gabe Newell

Though he dropped out of Harvard, Gabe Newell went on to become the co-founder and current managing director of Valve Corporation. He is a household name for gaming geeks around the world. Some of his most famous works include Half-Life (1998), Counter-Strike (2000) and Half-Life 2 (2004)

Each of these personalities has something in common. None of them planned to become game designers, but all were passionate about the industry and built the necessary skills to make a big name in the business. Pairing that passion with the appropriate video game designing education will help you go far in the gaming industry.

List of Tools and Software

The internet provides us access to some excellent software. Regardless of the games you want to make, your experience and skill level, there are plenty of options available to you.

• Unity: Unity is an exceptional tool, especially if you have some coding experience. You can download the personal addition for free and design both 2D and 3D games. The software comes with compelling design elements, and is a fantastic tool to build a game you can profit from! It’s a great platform to hone your coding skills and practice your game building skills.

• Construct 2: This is the all-in-one tool to build a powerful 2D game and publish it through HTML5. The best part, to make the magic happen – you don’t need to know coding!

• Unreal Engine: One of the most professional tools, through which users can create and develop a game with or without coding.

• Game Maker: Another easy-to-use software for those who don’t know how to code. A dash of knowledge of C programming language will help further customize the game you have in mind.

• Mudbox: Mudbox is a 3D sculpting tool that’s used to create highly detailed 3D characters. It uses an intuitive set of digital tools based on real sculpting techniques.

These in-demand tools can help you develop your skills as a video game designer. At NEIT, students will gain access to these tools and receive proactive assistance from the faculty.

Types of Video Game Design Degree Programs

“Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition.”- Sheik, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

There is no ‘right way’ to get into video game designing. The decisions you make boil down to personal preference.

One of the predominant factors is the type of educational program and how long it takes to complete.

Don’t worry, there are plenty of different options for prospective students to choose from!

Associate Degree in Video Game Design

Starting off with an associate degree is a great option.

In just eighteen months, you’ll gain exposure to fundamentals that will help drive your career. You’ll get familiar with the software, receive an introduction to creative concepts and dabble in other aspects like design theory, coding, illustration, and scripting.

With a GED or a high school diploma, you can enter an associate program. The associate degree program can bring you one step closer toward your dream position in the industry.

The video game design associate degree at NEIT has been awarded and acclaimed for its resourceful academics. The college prides itself on providing students with the best and latest knowledge and experiences out there.

Bachelor’s Degree in Video Game Design

As compared to an associate degree program, a bachelor’s degree will give you extra years of exposure and help you gain a deeper, more thorough understanding of design, drawing, and illustration.

Pro tip: Take the additional time to develop your portfolio. With detailed proposals or completed games, you can show potential employers what you can do. These years could be your chance to stand out in the multi-billion-dollar industry.

To enroll for a bachelor’s video game designer degree, you need to have a high school diploma and ACT or SAT score.

NEIT has developed a holistic video game design bachelor’s program that strengthens not only the basics but also strives to keep its stakeholders up-to-date with the current and future market trends.

Online Courses in Video Game Design

Online courses provide a wealth of benefits and are considered a serious educational path. You can’t beat the convenience it provides. This is one of the many factors that make online learning a popular choice. There’s also the price to consider. Online education eliminates the costs of traditional expenses, like lodging and food. If you’re a working professional, then an online course can help you sharpen your designing skills.

Education Requirements

“A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are.” – Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

Universities have different prerequisites, and some have flexible entry requirements. Typically, you need a high school diploma and your SAT score, depending on the level you join.

Pro tip: Although a degree in video game designing is an excellent option, employers are equally interested in practical experience. It’s a good thing to complete at least one internship to gain hands-on experience.

Fees and Curriculum

“Never give up. Trust your instincts.” – Peppy Hare, Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64

The tuition for a video game design degree is approximately $30,000 per year.

As with all degrees, video game degrees start with the basics. These core concepts, methods, and theories will help you determine where your specialties and passion might lie. The heart of the course revolves around computer science, but other subjects include:

  • Visual communications for game designers
  • Introduction to video game design
  • Programming logic
  • Digital audio and video editing
  • UI/UX design principles
  • Storyboard and design
  • Modeling I, II and III
  • Advanced 3D modeling
  • Animation
  • Game analytics
  • Introduction to virtual reality development
  • Statistics
  • Research writing

It’s advisable to check the institute’s game design curriculum – make sure they equip you with the knowledge regarding the industry-standard software, interdisciplinary collaboration, along with ample hands-on practical training.

An essential component of New England Tech’s curriculum is helping students build their portfolio. This portfolio contains all the game assets they develop during their course, which can help them secure better job opportunities.

Game Designing Career Opportunities

As consumers continue to expect more complex and realistic video games, the industry is experiencing more demand for video game designers.“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So just take it step by step.” – Waka, Okami

After graduating, you will find a job as a member of a design team with a game development studio. The process of creating a video game is complicated. It requires several skills from across the field like creative writing, digital art, and computer science, thus making success rely on dedicated teamwork.

  • Game programmer
  • Quality assurance
  • Game artist
  • Software engineer
  • Game animator
  • Level Designer
  • Game writer
  • Software developer
  • Game designer
  • Lead quality assurance
  • Lead designer

Watch the story of Elizabeth Bergeron’s Story to learn about how she went from New England Tech to Guild Wars II.

Game Designer’s Salary

According to Payscale, the average salary of a junior game designer at an entry-level position is $64,455 a year. The figure varies depending on the city, studio, and other factors. The senior-most designer jobs pay upwards of $125,000.

Disclaimer: The aforementioned salary figures are rough estimates presented by job portals, NEIT holds no accountability for any future changes.

 2019 Top Paying States for Video Game Design Occupation

State
Employment Employment per thousand jobs Location quotient Annual mean wage

Connecticut

440 0.26 1.32

$105,770

California

11,910 0.69 3.43

$100,670

District of Columbia

100 0.14 0.69

$99,080

New York

2,600 0.27 1.37 $95,280
Washington 1,160 0.35 1.76

$90,800

Source- https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271014.htm#st

Factors to Consider While Choosing a College for Game Design

“Don’t ever stop. Always keep going, no matter what happens, and is taken from you. Even when life is so unfair, don’t give up.” – Ezio, Assassin’s Creed II

Academics are important, but they aren’t everything. When you choose a university, you need to consider all aspects.

  • Location, location, location: A popular real estate mantra which holds true even when you select a college. Here are some things you should consider about the colleges on your list:
    • Is the climate sunny and warm or snowy and cold?
    • Is it located in a rural, suburban, or urban area?
    • Is it close to your family or further away?
    • How easy is it to access college, and how close is transportation like airports, subways, etc.?
    • What are the activities off-campus?
    • What’s the on-campus student life like?

In Rhode Island at New England Institute of Technology (NEIT), summers are perfect for sun-worshipping urbanites who love city life. While the winters get cold, it’s ideal for ski enthusiasts. New England Tech provides an amazing student life, tap the link for more.

  • On-campus facilities and amenities: If you plan to live on campus, you will have to find ways to make yourself comfortable in this home away from home. It’s important to learn everything you can about the facilities.
    • Residence halls: What are the types of halls available? What do they cost? Are you eligible? Do they have communities for like-minded students (special interests, same major, etc.)?
    • Dining halls and restaurants: Does the campus have restaurants or only the dining hall? What are the meal plans available? Do they accommodate special diets like gluten-free or vegan?
    • On-site services: Can you swiftly access medical care on campus? Is there a pharmacy, grocery store, bank, counseling center, and other essential services on campus?
    • Recreational opportunities: Does the college have a recreational center? What facilities do they offer?

  • Affordable cost of attendance: It is possible to attend the school of your dreams, but it’s important to consider how you’ll be able to pay for it. The secret is financial aid.

Evaluate the options the school offers specifically for your situation.

    • Find out how much tuition and fees will cost
    • Are there different rates for out-of-state and in-state students?
    • Find out the different financial aid and scholarship opportunities

  • Internships and job opportunities: In any field of study, firms give practical experience higher priority. Find out from your chosen universities about experiential learning and job opportunities.

NEIT’s career services provide assistance to current students and graduates and are available to work with students from the first day of class through graduation and beyond.

Our office conducts workshops on various topics and offers individual appointments to prepare students for a rewarding job search.

You can also check the list of companies visiting and recruiting our game students.

It’s Time to Begin the Journey

These are simple yet comprehensive steps on how to become a video game designer. It takes time and effort, but if you’re determined, dedicated, and motivated to turn your passion into a career, nothing will be able to stop you.

If you love to learn by doing and are looking for a university to pave the way for your journey ahead, look no further than New England Institute of Technology. They offer the latest equipment and technology, up-to-date industry-specific labs, and a base of analytical skills with hands-on training.

As Dr. Rosalene from To The Moon said, “The ending isn’t any more important than any of the moments leading to it.” If you combine your career and passion, it’s a clear path to happiness and the incredible moments that lead up to contentment.

Good Luck!

It’s important to do your research to make a well-informed decision. Let us know how we can help you build a prosperous career in game design.

Apply to video game design and graduate in less than 2 years.