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.
Game On! Well it certainly was Saturday 29 October at Macquarie Uni. The kids came, saw and conquered many awesome events on the day.
Indie game developers came to showcase their games. They answered questions about things like the gaming industry and what it is like starting your own development company. It gave kids a rare opportunity to hear the stories from the real, grass roots level people in the Games Industry. Kids were observed sitting with these developers asking questions playing their games and getting an understanding of what happens behind the scenes. In the same area kids with parents were seen trying to out-do one another in the Retro Gaming Hub. One dad kept coming back several times to the Space Invaders pod to see if he still had the high score lol! “Yep, still got it” he muttered as he surreptitiously cut through the expectant crowd.
Zombies!!!!! Who wouldn’t want to be a zombie or have the chance to nerf one? The Live Action Zombie Nerf Tag Game drew the crowds. The sizzle of nerf bullets and groans of the pained, walking dead got the heart racing from even the position of the innocent spectators. Definitely a must for all gamers and even noobs. Fun for all ages, even the 6 year old girl who had to show her older brother how to reload the nerf gun and cock the firing pin. Her delicate little voice saying “You put the bullet in here and you pull the hammer back here, see.” was heart warming heart.
Let’s not forget the Massively Minecraft rooms. Experienced miners, small miners, big miners and soon to be miners all lent forward in build pose thoroughly immersed in digging building and blowing stuff up. Well, who doesn’t like the last bit? Cudos to the Massively Minecraft mob for providing a safe and educational environment for all involved. Success could be best gauged by the amount of children being dragged from the rooms just before closing by their parents kicking and screaming “Five more miiinaaaarts! Come on pleeeeease.” If only school was this addictive.
There was game designing speed challenges using Microsoft’s Kodu Game Lab with the chance to win awesome prizes on the day. Everyone got in on that act. Even some, what looked to be, ‘experienced gamers’ were in there showing a dab hand at creating their best efforts at Kodu Battlefield and Kodu-COD.
The info session were well attended by parents, teachers, academics and other ring ins.The teachers kicked it off with their session, “We Play, We Design, We Learn” Thanks to Alice Leung, Joanne Cologan, Peter Robson and Simon Hutchison were happy to share their experiences around games and game design in their classrooms. They were followed by two boys from Gordon East Public School who gave an excellent presentation about what they have learnt from designing games in their classroom.
Joanne Cologon “We play, we design, we learn” Alice Leung “We play, we design, we learn” Peter Robson “We play, we design, we learn” Simon Hutchison and the students of Gordon East PS – Game Design Project
The teachers were followed by parent and Massively Minecraft co-founder, Dean Groom who gave people tips on managing children’s gaming habits.
After Dean, Professor James Dalziel and lecturer Kate Highfield from Macquarie University gave a very informative session titled, “inside the head of a gamer – what is happening when we play and design games.”
The final info session was delivered by Dr Rowan Tulloch from Macquarie Uni’s new Interactive Media Institute on “So you want to be a game designer? How to break into the video game industry?” Rowan spent some time after his session answering questions from parents of gamers and teachers about the video game design industry.
Gaming advocate, journalist and all round great guy, Goose, and the data analysing robot for the ruthless, extermination of noobs, DARREN from Good Game – Spawn Point made a presentation to a mass of spawnlings and noobs in the MQ Uni Atrium. Goose and DARREN presented some interesting information about games and what makes a good game as well as providing an interesting Q&A session at the end of their presentation. The kids loved it. It was like a press conference on the outbreak of SARS when a kid from the audience stood and asked “DARREN, how many noobs are there in the world?” Of course his reply was serious, deliberate and speedy when he answered “After considering all the variables and the population of the world currently I estimate there are approximately four billion noobs in the world at this moment.” Priceless.
Wow! You might say, but that’s not all. Kids also participated in an Xbox Kinect – Dance Central 2 competition and a huge group session of Michael Jackson – The Experience. Around fifty kids were all doing the moves from the famous ‘Thriller’ track as they rotated in front of the Kinect scoring points and moon walking better than the late MJ himself. And what a climax, a dance off between the final two Dance Central top scorers for a Lenovo Idea Pad. A primary school girl versus a high school boy. Seem unfair? We all learned size means nothing on a Kinect playing field. The lead must have changed three times as they sky pumped and twirled their way through the complicated choreography. I have to admit, I had goosebumps in the final moments watching as the youngest competitor came back with vengeance to take the crown.
To top it all off, the gurus of game, Goose and DARREN presented the prizes from the various competitions run on the day rewarding the spawnlings with their just desserts. As a gamer, you can’t get better than that.
The awesome team from MacICT who organised the festival were thoroughly exhausted by the end of the day, but were oh so happy and the vibe, excitement and feedback received from so many at the festival.
Nine indie studios showcased their games at the Game On festival. Adults and children were able to play their games, ask questions and get tips ranging from making games to breaking into the video games industry.
Thank you so much to the following developers who came to Game On:
A couple of the indie studios were still developing their games. We particularly loved this photo of a message from the makers of Necromancer, James and Brogan. The message reads,
We are James and Brogan.
We are both Game Development students from NSI
We have been up all night coding, so we may look a little tired.
We want to demonstrate the ins and outs of game development,
So we are improving the game right now!
Ask us questions about game programming, games or anything in particular.
We are happy to chat.
James and Brogan
Authentic learning in context – absolutely!
All the developers were so enthusiastic and willing to share their knowledge and not just showcase their games. It was great to see adults and kids so eager to take advantage of this opportunity. A great day was had by all.
At our GAME On: Community Video Game Festival, you will have the opportunity to listen to four innovative teachers who have integrated games and game design into their classroom practise. Hear about why they think video games are relevant in 21st century learning, what they are doing and have the opportunity to ask questions.
When: Saturday 29th October, 2011
Where: Macquarie University Library Foyer
Click here to register for this session.
More about the teachers . . .
Joanne Cologon, De La Salle College, Caringbah
My Year 9 and 10 Elective classes have been using Gamestar Mechanic and serious games from Games for Change to investigate game design and the game space. The aim is to improve the students’ understanding and use of the Design Process in Technology and Applied Studies and in turn produce higher quality products.
Simon Hutchison, Gordon East Public School
I am a primary school teacher with 17 years experience and a computer coordinator for 10 years. I am a gamer to the core with a passion for finding ways of making teaching and learning more engaging and relevant to students in the 21st century. I am currently teaching students to design games with an environmental message.
Alice Leung, Merrylands High School
Merrylands High School students play Xbox Kinect and iPod games in the classroom and design their own games with Kodu and Aris. Games based learning is currently embedded into the science and PDHPE curriculum as well as Boys Education initiatives. Games design is integrated into the school’s Student Technology Team, a team of 22 students from Years 9-12 who help lead professional learning on 1:1 laptops and games based learning for staff and students.
Peter Robson, Northern Beaches Christian School
At Northern Beaches Christian School, students can sign up to join our online communities in Second Life and/or Minecraft. Both communities are student driven with little input from teachers. These worlds give students the opportunity to be creative, collaborate across the school community and develop interpersonal skills.
We have a number of students, across the year groups, who are leaders in the communities. These students monitor and engage regularly with the virtual worlds. Both communities are considered extensions of the playground and so behaviour expectations are clear. It is amazing to see the creations that students build and the way that these students protect their communities.
Check out this cool infographic