The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Video Game Designer

June 1, 2020
Video game developer team brainstorming

Want to build worlds, enter the afterlife, travel through space, or become a crime kingpin? Sounds like you could do well as a video game designer!

The video game industry has evolved from the days of the simple arcade titles of the 90s into a multi-billion-dollar behemoth that offers lucrative career opportunities with the right mix of creativity, technical skills, and an active imagination.

Creating video games is a serious business, with millions of casual and professional gamers playing various genres across several platforms, including PCs, mobile devices, gaming consoles, and more. The global video gaming industry was worth $195.65 billion in 2021, with a projected compound annual growth rate of 12.9 percent from 2022 to 2030.

Video game designers are responsible for creating immersive and captivating experiences for players by crafting the game’s core features, including characters, their goals, and the visually tunning environments around them.

Modern game design employs cutting-edge technology, and the advent of highly competitive games has also spawned the booming eSports industry, where professional gamers battle it out for massive cash prizes in large, organized tournaments.

Do you believe you have what it takes to be a video game designer? This guide can point you in the right direction.

Responsibilities of a Video Game Designer

Neon light glow e-sport arena

The job of a video game designer isn’t all about fun and games. The profession comes with various responsibilities and duties across the many stages of the game development process that are essential to creating landmark gaming experiences.

A video game designer may create their game concept from scratch, develop games based on pre-approved ideas, such as popular films, and celebrated historical games, or rival a competing game design studio’s offering.

Regardless of the situation, game designers must use their imagination and ingenuity to create engaging games for various platforms and devices.

Developing rudimentary ideas and implementing them into the game’s design requires careful planning and construction of the game’s environment, which includes the user interface, rules, gameplay, setting, characters, plot, props, and game physics.

As consumers expect more complex and realistic games, the industry is experiencing growing demand for video game designers.

Vital Skills to Kick Off Your Video Game Design Career

Developer testing a role-playing video game

Successful video games across all genres and themes, whether strategy, simulation, action, shooting, adventure, or sports, have a few things in common. They capture the player’s imagination, are challenging, engaging, and entertaining enough to keep them invested, and offer attractive rewards for proficiency.

If you’re considering a career in this field, you have a passion for and enjoy playing video games. Video game designers start by familiarizing themselves with the latest gaming technology and trends and gathering industry knowledge.

Naturally, prerequisites to becoming successful video game designers who can create captivating worlds and in-game experiences include evolved aesthetic sensibilities, creativity, and artistic vision.

Other skills that will stand you in good stead include:

  • Effective communication
  • The ability to work within a team
  • Basic knowledge of popular programming languages

Video game designers usually work in an office setting, with typical office hours expanding as project deadlines draw near.

Video Game Design Programs

Now that you’ve decided to pursue a career in video game design, it’s time to find a suitable educational program to get you started. The New England Institute of Technology (NEIT) offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs and convenient online game design courses.

Engineer developer analyzing cad software to develop creative video game

Associate Degree in Video Game Design

Starting with an associate degree in video game design is a great option. In 18 months, you’ll gain exposure to fundamentals that will help drive your career. You’ll get familiar with the relevant software, receive an introduction to creative concepts, and dabble in other aspects like design theory, coding, illustration, and scripting.

You require a GED or a high school diploma to enter an associate program. The associate degree program can bring you one step closer to your dream position in the industry.NEIT’s associate degree in video game design has won recognition and awards for its advanced academics. The college takes pride in providing students with the most up-to-date information and experiences.

Bachelor’s Degree in Video Game Design

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 are a practical and convenient educational path offering several benefits.There’s also the price to consider. Online education eliminates the costs of traditional expenses, like lodging and food. An online course can help sharpen your video game designer skills if you’re a working professional.

Professional Gamer Playing in First-Person Shooter Online Video Game

Video Game Designer – Education Requirements

Universities have different prerequisites, and some have flexible entry requirements. Depending on the program and university, you need a high school diploma and SAT score.

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

The tuition for a degree in video game design 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 if the institute’s design curriculum covers important topics like industry-standard software and interdisciplinary collaboration and that they provide ample hands-on practical training.NEIT’s curriculum strongly emphasizes helping students develop their portfolios to help them secure better job opportunities.

Gamer creator explaning how testing game level interface, developing new design in creative office using pc with two monitors

Video Game Design vs. Game Development

Concept vs. execution – that’s the difference between game design and game development. 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 degree in video game design, you need to know the difference.

Differentiating FactorsGame DesignersGame Developers
Core skillsCreativity, artistic visionProgramming, computer code
Popular jobsJunior designers, lead designer, level designer, chief designer, graphic artist, 3D designer, concept artistJunior programmer, senior programmer, server programmer, client programmer, engine programmer, tools programmer
Approximate annual earning$40,000 to $111,000$33,000 to $93,000

Video game designers are primarily creative individuals responsible for a video game’s design and layout. Video game designers create certain storylines, characters, levels, scenarios, etc.

Video game developers, on the other hand, rely more on technical knowledge. They are the programmers and software developers who bring the designers’ ideas, objectives, and creative vision to life using their understanding of computer code and game design computer software.

Top Video Game Designers of All Time

Hideo Kojima

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

As a child, Hideo Kojima’s interest in games was mainly focused on movies and their distinctive method of telling intricate stories. He was under pressure in college to study economics because it would be more lucrative.

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, the game he is best known and appreciated for. His other well-known projects include The Phantom Pain (2015) and Policenauts (2019).

Sid Meier

Sid Meier

When you dub someone the “Godfather of Computer Gaming,” you know you’re dealing with a legend with a long list of accomplishments. Sid Meier’s name has become synonymous with the video game industry, particularly since the release of the popular Civilization game series.

Sid initially kicked off his career developing cash register systems for department stores but soon realized he could use those same skills to build and design video games. Having started the journey with a friend, he created and developed multiple games, including Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987) and Sid Meier’s SimGolf (2002)

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Hironobu Sakaguchi

Though he dreamt of becoming a professional musician, Hironobu-san became involved in the gaming business after landing a part-time job at a programming company. He is one of the most prized video game designers and developers.

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 Lost Odyssey (2007) and The Last of Us (2011)

Gabe Newell

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 worldwide and one of the most successful video game designers.

Some of his most famous works include Half-Life (1998), Counter-Strike (2000), and Half-Life 2 (2004).

These personalities all share a characteristic. None of them intended to become game designers, but they all had a strong interest in the field and developed the abilities required to succeed in it. You can advance in the industry by combining this enthusiasm with the right education in video game design.


Earn your degree in Game Design & Development from NEIT and begin your new career path today!



Video Game Designer – Career Opportunities

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. So just take it step by step.” – Waka, Okami.

If you play video games, you may have considered making it a career, but you should be aware that this profession has numerous aspects. Some people compile a portfolio of video game designs and concepts to stand out and land a job. Others begin as quality assurance testers and advance through the ranks.

The complicated video game development process requires several skills, such as creative writing, digital art, and computer science, making success dependent on dedicated teamwork.

Outlined below are a few of the possible video game designer jobs you could apply for:

  • Junior game designer
  • Senior game designer
  • Quality analyst
  • Game artist
  • Game animator
  • Level designer
  • Game writer
  • Lead quality analyst
  • Lead game 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 junior video game designers at entry-level positions 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.

Factors to Consider While Choosing a School

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?

At the New England Institute of Technology in Rhode Island, the summers are great for sun worshippers who enjoy city life, and the chilly winters are perfect for skiers.

On-campus Facilities and Amenities

If you plan to live on campus, you must find ways to make yourself comfortable in this home away from home.

  • 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? Are there pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, counseling centers, 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.
  • Internships and job opportunities: In any field of study, companies prioritize practical experience. Find out from your chosen universities about experiential learning and job opportunities.

NEIT’s career services assist current and recent graduates, working with students from the first day of class until graduation and beyond. You can also look at the list of companies that have visited and hired our video game design graduates.

It’s Time to Begin the Journey

These are simple yet comprehensive steps to becoming 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 stop you from becoming a video game designer.

Dr. Rosalene from To the Moon said, “The ending isn’t any more important than any of the moments leading to it.”

If you love to learn by doing and are looking for a university to pave the way for your journey, look no further than the 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.

Let us know how we can help you build a prosperous career in game design.


How Much Do Video Game Designers Make?

Video game designers earn between $40,000 to $111,000 a year.

Should I Become a Video Game Developer or a Game Designer?

Becoming a video game developer or a game designer depends on your personal preferences and skill set. If you are more of a creative and artistic type, the game design will suit you better. You might be better off exploring a development role if you are more analytical with technical knowledge of various programming languages and software development.

Is Video Game Designer a Good Career Choice?

If you possess a passion for games and possess the necessary skills, a career in the video game space can be extremely rewarding and lucrative while also providing a great deal of job satisfaction.

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