How to Become a
Video Game Designer
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
The gaming industry has grown quickly over the past few decades. Video games have now become a staple form of entertainment for most people, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re passionate about playing video games, you might want to become a video game designer.
In this guide, we will outline how to become a video game designer. We will go over the education and certifications you’ll need, plus the job outlook for the industry and salary expectations.
What Is a Video Game Designer?
A video game designer is a computer science professional who designs and develops games for a variety of platforms, including gaming consoles, websites, computers, and mobile devices. These professionals oversee the design, look, and experience of a game.
A video game designer is responsible for creating the core features of a game and making sure that it is entertaining and engaging. They also collaborate with their team members to create special features within a game.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Video Game Designer?
There’s more than one way to get started in video game design. You may want to go to college or university to earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. You also might want to attend a bootcamp, or start off slowly by taking some courses for free online.
Best Video Game Designer Education Tracks
There are several educational paths that you can follow to become a video game designer. Some start by earning an associate degree in game design, while others choose to complete a four-year Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the most popular education track if you want to become a video game designer. This is because most employers will only hire employees who either have a bachelor’s degree or several years of experience in game design.
Community colleges are educational institutions that offer two-year associate degree programs. Although most employers prefer to see a bachelor’s degree, an associate degree can still potentially help you land an entry-level position.
There are many types of associate degrees available, depending on the community college you attend. If you’re interested in this path, you should look for a school in your area that offers a two-year degree in video game design or production.
Video Game Designer Degrees
Most video game development teams want to hire applicants who have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. However, a more specialized Bachelor’s Degree in Interactive Entertainment, Game Design and Development, or Game Design is also very valuable.
These bachelor’s degree programs all last four years. Over this period, you will learn computer programming and the video game development process. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average yearly cost of a four-year degree program is $35,331 if you live on campus, but only $24,575 if you live at home.
Video Game Designer Bootcamps
Coding bootcamps offer short and intensive programs that run for about 12 weeks on average. During this time, students are exposed to hands-on training that will prepare them for an entry-level job as a video game designer. You will also learn Python and C++, which are both used in game design.
Conveniently, bootcamps also offer several study schedules to accommodate busy students. You can choose whether you want to study online or on campus. You can also choose to attend part time if you have other commitments.
Video Game Designer Courses
The type of courses you will take while learning video game design depends on what you’re most interested in. It’s important to take basic courses to learn C++ and computer science theory.
You can also browse the website of massive open online course (MOOC) providers to find more creative classes that will teach you specific skills. For example, you might want to take a course in level design, integrated video design, or even project management.
How to Become a Video Game Designer: A Step-by-Step Guide
To become a video game designer, you should choose whichever educational path suits you best. With that said, we recommend that you start by earning a degree in computer science or computer engineering. Below is a list of steps you can follow as you work toward a career in game design.
Get to know more about video games
The first step to becoming a designer is to learn the basics of how video games are made. Choose a few of your favorite games to play, and find out how they were created.
Learn to code
When learning to code, you should start with a basic programming language such as Python. After that, you can move on to study C, Java, and finally start learning graphics programming with native libraries.
Get an education
Video game companies will be more likely to hire you if you have a bachelor’s degree, either at a traditional university or an online college. Your best bet is to get a bachelor’s degree either in game design or computer science.
Advance your knowledge of graphics libraries
Graphics play a crucial role in video game development. For this reason, you should learn how to use graphics libraries such as OpenGL and DirectX.
Lastly, you should consider gaining some hands-on experience, either by working on your own projects or through an internship. Internships are great because they will give you a chance to work in a game studio alongside experienced designers.
Key Video Game Designer Skills
Even if you have already completed your bachelor’s degree, you will still need to work on your skills. This includes bolstering both your technical skills and the crucial soft skills you’ll need to collaborate with your coworkers.
Below, we focus on a few technical skills that all video game designers should have.
All video game designers must have a working knowledge of several programming languages, including Python, C++, and Java. They will also most likely need to learn Swift or Kotlin. These are the coding languages used to build apps for iOS and Android, respectively.
A video game is much more than just a compilation of entertaining characters and an engaging storyline. It also needs to have impressive graphics. To make these graphics, a video game designer must know how to use libraries such as DirectX and OpenGL.
They also should know how to use the program Code Flash in case they need to create 2D web games.
System Analysis and Evaluation
Video game designers must also be skilled in evaluating and monitoring computer systems and games. It’s important to regularly assess how well a video game works with various computer systems during the development process.
Video Game Designer Salary and Job Outlook
Many in the video game industry expect the demand for video game designers to increase in the wake of the pandemic.
Currently, you can expect to earn about $66,000 per year as a video game designer, according to PayScale. If you are interested in breaking into this industry, review the entry-level job requirements below.
Entry-Level Video Game Designer Job Requirements
Most entry-level video game designer jobs require that you have a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Although you aren’t required to have any formal experience, completing an internship will look good on your resume. If you do come across an entry-level job that requires experience, it will probably only ask that you have two years under your belt.
What Does a Video Game Designer Do?
A video game designer lays out most of the core concepts of a video game, including the characters, plot, and gameplay. Below, we’ll look at some of these tasks in detail.
World, System, and Content Design
World design refers to the process of developing a storyline, setting, and theme for a game. This is usually done by the lead designer. System design means creating game rules, while content design refers to the development of characters, puzzles, and missions within the game.
A game designer will also need to write the dialogue, text, and overall story for the video game. This also involves coordinating the voice acting and music needed for the game.
This involves using different programs to create the aesthetics of the game. To do this, designers need to decide on what lighting, framing, color, space, and contrast to use to draw the player in. Together, these elements should help direct the player through the game.
Video Game Designer Certificates
If you don’t want to enroll in a four-year bachelor’s degree program, you can instead prove your ability by attending one of the video game certificate programs listed below.
Certificate in Computer Science for Game Development - Harvard University (edX)
This certificate program offered by Harvard University will help you understand how video games are programmed and designed. You will examine the designs of popular video games including Super Mario Bros, Angry Birds, Pokémon, and Dreadhalls.
The Certificate in Computer Science for Game Development includes two courses and runs for about six months. It’s ideal for students looking to start a career in video games because it focuses on the basics of coding, game design, and game development. The full package costs less than $400.
Certificate in Game Design - Western Kentucky University
It will take you about 18 credit hours to complete this certificate program from Western Kentucky University. During this time, you will cover all of the essential aspects of game design, including computer programming.
Video Game Design and Development Certificate - Kennesaw State University
If you are looking for a short certificate program that’s fully online, this course at Kennesaw State University might be for you. In it, you’ll learn everything you need to get started in video game design from the comfort of your home
How to Prepare for Your Video Game Designer Job Interview
The interview is an essential part of the job application process. To ace your next job interview, you must be well prepared. It’s important to practice answering any game design interview questions that you think might come up.
Below are some questions that are commonly asked during video game designer job interviews.
Video Game Designer Job Interview Practice Questions
- What are some of the factors that you consider when deciding on game design features?
- What methods do you use to come up with your 2D or 3D game concept?
- Can you show us any successful gameplay prototypes that you created alone or as part of a game development team?
- Walk us through some of the methods that you’ve used in your formal game designs.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Video Game Designer?
It will take you about four to five years to become a video game designer, assuming you take the usual route and get your bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, if you choose to pursue an associate degree or enroll in a certificate program, it could take you less than two years to finish your studies.
Ultimately, work experience and skill will determine how quickly you land a job and climb up the ranks.
Should You Become a Video Game Designer in 2021?
Becoming a video game designer in 2021 is a great idea. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, more people than ever have been playing video games worldwide. So, skilled game designers are in high demand.
If you have a knack for designing video games or at least enjoy coming up with new game ideas, you should consider becoming a video game developer.
Video Game Designer FAQ
What does a video game designer do?
A video game designer develops a video game’s core features to create an immersive gameplay experience. They also help develop the characters and storyline. This can either be done independently or as part of a team at a game development company.
How do you become a video game designer?
The most common way to become a video game designer is to first earn your bachelor’s degree. At most gaming companies, this is an essential prerequisite.
How much does a video game designer make per month?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average video game designer makes over $10,000 per month, or about $130,000 per year.
What degree do you need to become a video game designer?
To be a video game designer, you should have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering.