Video game design is a competitive field with various career paths. There are many ways to become a video game designer, each requiring a certain education and experience level. Learning about what a video game designer does and how to become one can help you decide if it's the right career for you.
In this article, we explain the duties of a video game designer, give steps for how to become one and provide different educational paths to enter this profession.
What does a video game designer do?
A video game designer develops visual content for games. They use graphic design techniques and programming knowledge to create characters, worlds and interactive stories. One of the main responsibilities of a video game designer is to construct visually appealing content that engages the user. Designers usually work closely with a team of developers, writers, animators and testers to build a successful game. They may also meet with sales and marketing associates to develop advertisements for games.
Video game designers can work on specific aspects of a game or focus on the overall content. There are many types of games that a designer could create, including:
- Console games
- Mobile games
- Computer games
- Massively multiplayer online games
How to become a video game designer
There are many paths to becoming a video game designer, but the following are some common steps you can take to pursue this career path:
- Earn a high school diploma.
- Obtain a bachelor's degree.
- Get experience.
- Build a resume and portfolio.
- Learn new skills.
- Stay involved.
1. Earn a high school diploma
Video game designers need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. When in high school, it's helpful to take computer coding and graphic design classes if possible. If you plan to get a bachelor's degree, try to earn a high GPA to be a more competitive candidate for college. You should also strive to get high scores on your ACT or SAT.
When determining if you should get a bachelor's degree, you can research positions in your desired location or company. Discover if most video game design positions require a college degree or high school diploma as a minimum requirement. You should also decide if you want to get a more specialized education in design by going to college.
2. Obtain a bachelor's degree
Most video game designers have a bachelor's degree in graphic design, multimedia design or a related field. Some universities offer a degree specifically for video game design. Coursework usually includes software engineering, 2D and 3D animation, programming languages and computer design.
You should also consider completing one or more internships during your college career. During an internship, you can get hands-on experience in the industry and begin learning valuable skills. You can also network with professionals in the field, making it more likely to have great references once you graduate. There may be internships available in design or software development firms that could be useful for a career as a video game designer. Depending on your location, you may find an internship with a gaming company.
3. Get experience
Video gaming is a competitive field, so it's important to gain experience as soon as you graduate. You may find a job as a junior designer directly following college, though it's likely that you must seek similar openings in related fields. Jobs as a graphic designer, animator and software developer are all positions that could help you gain experience and build a portfolio.
Alternatively, you could volunteer or gain self-guided experience by developing small games on your own. Seek volunteer opportunities where you can practice your design and programming skills. There are also many videos and tutorials online that can guide you through building small-scale games.
4. Build a resume and portfolio
A well-written resume and appealing portfolio can make you a more attractive candidate for hiring managers. When creating your resume, add your experience and any projects you've worked on. If possible, mention any specific games you designed, for which platform and what software and coding languages you used. In the "Skills" section of your resume, include design programs and programming languages you know, and also list any soft skills you possess, like communication and teamwork.
Your portfolio is an excellent way to showcase all of your skills and experience to an employer. In your portfolio, you can add:
- Game screenshots
- Link or download to game level
- Videos of gameplay
- Gaming reviews
- Link to a demo reel
- Back-end programming
Within your portfolio, you can also include a personal bio, work experience and additional achievements. Your portfolio should reflect your unique design qualities and personality.
5. Learn new skills
You should continue to learn and develop new skills and abilities as you build your video game design career. As software and coding languages evolve constantly, it's important to remain current on developments so you can be a leader in your field. You can read industry news and blogs to learn about the latest trends and continuously practice the skills you possess to improve them.
If you're interested in leadership or management positions, there are certain soft skills you can develop to be successful. Project management often requires communication, teamwork, organization and time management. These skills can help you lead a team of designers or manage different design projects.
Related: The Importance of Project Management
6. Stay involved
There are many video game and design associations that offer membership. Joining an association or organization can help you network with other professionals and make valuable connections in your field. Many organizations hold conferences that offer workshops, lectures and panels in which you can learn more about different aspects of design and development. Some associations also offer professional certifications that show your proficiency in a certain subject.
Read more: 7 Networking Tips for Getting a Job
Educational paths for video game designers
Video game designers can pursue multiple educational paths to learn the fundamentals of the field. Here are some common paths for becoming a game designer:
- High school diploma
- Bachelor's degree
- Master's degree
- Boot camp
High school diploma
You can earn a high school diploma then immediately begin working toward becoming a game designer. With this path, you'll need a strong portfolio and several years of related experience to qualify for many designer jobs.
Earning a bachelor's degree is the most common route for designers. You can get a degree in game design, multimedia design, computer science or computer engineering. Make sure your coursework includes elements in both design and computer programming. You should also consider completing an internship to be a more competitive candidate once you graduate.
It's a little less common to get a master's degree unless you're pursuing a career with a top-performing company. A master's degree could substitute for some experience for many video game design positions. You'll need to first earn a bachelor's degree before enrolling in a master's program. Similar to a bachelor's program, focus on design and computer science.
Boot camps are intensive programs that teach you the fundamentals of programming and design in a short span. There are many boot camps available in different types of game design, such as mobile or console. Some programs last eight weeks while others could be several months. Depending on the boot camp you choose, you'll learn how to code in a few programming languages and how to apply your knowledge practically. Boot camps can help you build a resume or portfolio with experience, skills and gaming projects.
There are many resources online that are available to individuals who want to learn video game design at their own pace. Self-guided education allows you to explore a variety of topics when you have time. While self-guidance is typically a slower path than other traditional sources, it can be useful if you're currently switching careers and still working another job full time. It's also helpful in staying current with industry trends.