Many students who are passionate about video games and technology dream of becoming video game designers. As the gaming industry continues to grow, this is a career with a promising and exciting outlook. However, it requires more than a passion for gaming to become a successful game designer.
Students looking to become game designers should be good at problem solving and creative thinkers. They should try to learn all that they can about computer programming, hardware and software while in high school by taking appropriate classes. Of course, they should also have some knowledge about what makes a good video game, from graphics to play settings. While these skills are not necessarily essential to enter a college program in video game design, they will certainly create a solid foundation for a future career in the field.
The best way for students to perfect their programming and design skills and gain credibility is to earn a degree in video game design. Since it is still a relatively new field, game design programs vary on emphasis and specialization. Some may offer a more technical degree within a computer programming major, while others may focus more on the creative side of coming up with graphics, animation, and storylines. However, the majority of programs will provide training in digital media, computer science, and the latest technology.
Getting Into the Field
Most video game designers start out as interns or apprentices at video game companies. These jobs may not pay much (if anything), but they are great opportunities to gain practical experience working in the industry and make contacts for networking. Another way some students try to get into the industry is through freelancing. They may work as freelance designers for a number of different companies or design their own games and try to market them to companies.
With talent, experience, and a little luck, it’s possible for a student to work their way through internships and related jobs to end up becoming a video game designer. Game designers can have many responsibilities depending on their area of expertise and the role they play on the design team. Lead designers are the main visionaries of a project, using both their technical and artistic skills to coordinate the other designers. There are also designers with specific responsibilities to create levels, environments, characters, or puzzles. Game mechanics designers are in charge of the strategies and rules of the game.
Video game designer salaries vary widely depending on the size of their company, their responsibilities, location, and experience. Average salaries range between $50,000 to $80,000 a year, though competitive jobs at big companies can pay much more.
Marcus Morris is a computer programmer who has been passionate about gaming for his entire life. He owns the site Computer Game Design for students who are interested in learning more about what it takes to be a game designer.
A video games conference featuring keynote speakers and internationally-esteemed game studies scholars Espen Aarseth and Ian Bogost who will be joined by leading Australian gaming and media academics. Representatives from political and social policy groups will also present.