FAQ: What Degree Does a Video Game Programmer Need?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 26, 2022

Published December 14, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you enjoy coding gaming projects and testing them to see if they work as intended, consider pursuing an education in video game programming. In this field, you can work with others to create games for users to enjoy. Understanding what type of degree and skills you may need to become a video game programmer can help you plan your career goals.

In this article, we discuss what a video game programmer is, what they do, the degree they need, skills that are helpful to their career and the benefits of being one.

Related: Video Game Designer Education Requirements

What is a video game programmer?

A video game programmer is a type of software engineer or computer science professional who codes video games to make the software work properly for users. Often, they work with other departments, such as designers, audio engineers and animators. There are several titles you can pursue if you're interested in a career in video game programming, including:

  • Game engineer programmer: This type of video game programmer creates the base game for software, such as simulated physics. A game engineer programmer customizes the base game for each new software they create and handle any modifications required for the game.

  • Graphics engineer programmer: A graphics engineer programmer develops the 2D and 3D graphics in a game. This role requires an individual to have strong mathematical skills, such as algebra and matrix math.

  • Sound programmer: A sound programmer creates the audio you hear in video games, which can include when the characters are speaking and the sound effects you hear in the background. They use equipment to create the sounds like 3D positional sound.

  • Artificial intelligence (AI) programmer: An AI programmer programs pathfinders and strategy systems to develop the logic of time in games. They often use this type of programming in strategy games, which includes developing a new type of computer language.

  • Gameplay programmer: A gameplay programmer implements how the game feels to a user, such as the mechanics of how it operates. An individual in this role can use strategy tables and input codes.

  • Scripter: A scripter creates game objectives and strategies for users to use while they play the game. Often these individuals are also game designers who know script language.

  • Game tools programmer: A game tools programmer creates custom tools for each game. Some of their primary duties include creating script compilations and converting art assets.

Related: How To Become a Video Game Programmer

What does a video gamer programmer do?

The primary duties of this role may vary depending on where you work and who employs you. A video game programmer may have several duties, including:

  • Planning and coding video games for mobile phones, computers and video game systems

  • Communicating with other team members, departments and clients

  • Putting ideas into numeric equations

  • Choosing the computer programming language to use for each game

  • Assigning and delegating programming tasks to their team members

Related: 7 Key Roles in Video Game Development

What degree does a video game programmer need?

To obtain an entry-level position, most employers require their employees to earn at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or related fields. To advance your career further, you can consider earning an advanced degree. Here are the degrees you can pursue for a career in video game programming:

Bachelor's degree in computer science

Earning your bachelor's degree in computer science prepares you for a role in video game programming because you can learn about the different programs required for developing games. In this program, you learn technical skills in how to build gaming levels and their mechanics.

Bachelor's degree in software engineering

Earning a bachelor's degree in software engineering may help you become a video game programmer because you can learn the computer and mathematical formulas used for creating the coding. In this program, you can learn about different software programs and operating systems.

Bachelor's degree in music

You can work on getting your bachelor's degree in music if you want to work as an audio programmer in video games. In this program, you learn the fundamentals of acoustics and composition, which can help you learn how to sync sound and music in video games with the actions occurring using basic programming systems.

Bachelor's degree in art

To work as a video game programmer specializing in design, you can earn your bachelor's degree in art. In this program, you can learn the basics of physical and digital art, which can include the tools needed for designing art in video games.

Master's degree in computer science

Once you've earned your undergraduate degree, you can work on obtaining your master's degree in computer science, which allows you to strengthen your education in computer and information technology. In this program, you can learn more about artificial intelligence and data analytics that can help you program better video games.

Master's degree in software engineering

To help advance your education and career, you can work on obtaining your master's degree in software engineering, which can help you gain a deeper understanding of how software and codes work. In this program, you can learn more about managing an engineering or programming team and the architecture of different software.

Related: How To Get a Video Game Internship

What are some skills for a video game programmer?

Here are some skills for a video game programmer:

Math skills

Video game programmers use math skills even in the art portion of their programming to plot the 3D art for the artists, so they don't worry about using math formulas when creating. Programmers use linear algebraic equations and calculus to help develop a game's interface.

Computer skills

A professional in this field uses their computer skills, such as scripting and choosing a computer program language specific for the game they're working to program. They use these skills to help create levels and missions in their games for users to complete.

Creativity

Someone in this position uses their creative skills to complete many of their tasks, such as how the game presents options and what the storyline of the game is about for users. They design every aspect, from minor detail to large characters in their role.

AU programming

This is a new type of computer programming language software for professionals in this role who can use it to develop interfaces for computers, web play and mobile devices.

Network designing

Network designing is how programmers sync multiplayer games across a single connection, so the game works the same on different screens.

Programming tools

There are several programming software tools for professionals to use in this field. It's helpful to have a basic understanding of the most common programs, so you're able to use different programs for the job you're hired to complete.

Physics

Video game programmers use physics to make their characters and features seem more realistic. They use both rigid and soft-body simulations, where rigid is how features interact with each other and soft-body is making an object in the game appear and move realistically.

AI intelligence

It's helpful to have skills in AI intelligence because it allows you to create responsive and intelligent actions for objects in video games that aren't characters. AI intelligence allows programmers to create the games they have imagined in their minds through the coding system.

3D art skills

Video game programmers use their 3D art skills with mathematical formulas, especially geometry, to create art for their games. Creating the images requires knowledge of colors, aesthetics and forms while considering how the characters and objects are going to move in the game experience.

What are the benefits of being a video game programmer?

If you have a passion for programming video games, there are several benefits you can enjoy from pursuing this career path, including:

  • Creating and coding your own video game ideas

  • Working on a team with other passionate individuals to help create video games for users

  • Having the ability to use your creative skills

  • Playing video games during their testing phase as part of your job

  • Being part of a growing industry

  • Enjoying a more casual work environment

  • Creating games that entertain, educate or benefit the users


Explore more articles