Game Designer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Game Designer, or Narrative Designer, designs and manages all developmental and creative aspects of a video game, including the stories, settings, characters and rules. Their main duties include writing codes for video games using programming languages, testing and finding potential fixes for early versions of games and managing multiple project teams to build entertaining video games.

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Game Designer Duties and Responsibilities

A Game Designer’s duties and responsibilities can vary depending on the exact position they hold. For example, a Content Designer may work with things such as character or plot development. A Lead Designer, though, would focus more on organizing the team’s ideas, creating design documentation and creating and enforcing a project calendar. Other Designers may oversee things such as programming game mechanics, designing levels or writing dialogue.

Regardless of the specific role, Game Designers have a few general responsibilities. These include:

  • Meeting deadlines for content and game builds
  • Ensuring the team stays on budget
  • Training new team members
  • Working with clients or businesses to define and execute their product goals
  • Leading regular meetings with other designers and team members

What Does A Game Designer Do?

Game Designers work for video game production companies building innovative products to either educate or entertain players. They build concepts for a game’s character and stories and pitch these ideas to executives or their clients if they work as an independent contractor.

Once the game idea is approved, they’ll collaborate with and lead teams of Artists, Animators, Sound Engineers and Programmers to build games audiences will enjoy. They’ll regularly test prototypes and provide notes to designers on ways to add fixes to the games they’re creating.

Game Designer Skills and Qualifications

Many Designers come from a background in video games, so they’ll have experience in areas like level design or programming. However, computer science skills aren’t essential. A good Designer may only need to understand the basics of the team’s preferred programming language. Other important skills and qualifications for a Game Designer include:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Technical writing skills
  • Written and oral communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Organization skills
  • Time management skills
  • Teamwork skills

Game Designer Salary Expectations

According to salary estimates from over 400 Indeed users, employees and job postings, the average pay for Game Designers in the United States is approximately $11 per hour. This works out to roughly $23,000 per year for a full-time employee.

Game Designer Education and Training Requirements

Video Game Designers typically have a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as computer engineering or computer programming. Candidates may also complete a bachelor’s or master’s degree in game design. While there are no industry standard certifications or training requirements for Game Designers, applicants may have technical certificates in certain programming languages or software applications.

While working on a bachelor’s or master’s degree, students will complete courses in computer literacy, design principles and design applications. It’s also common for Game Designers to develop a portfolio of work while they’re completing a degree. This portfolio should include several small games or game concepts, demonstrating their ability to craft ideas and complete projects.

Game Designer Experience Requirements

Game Designers typically have several years of experience in other video game roles. They may start out in quality assurance testing or programming and transition into design roles after gaining five years of experience or more. Candidates with design degrees, however, may find work right out of college. Designers with few years of experience may only oversee one aspect of a game’s design, such a level design or sound design.

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Frequently asked questions about Game Designers

 

What makes a good Game Designer?

A great Game Designer should have extensive experience both playing and building video games, as they should be passionate about ways to improve these games and they must know what players want in a solid game. Since they’re regularly managing the design and production process of a video game, strong candidates should have effective leadership and task delegation skills. The ideal candidate should also have advanced knowledge in coding languages, like C++ and Java. 

 

What's the difference between a Game Designer and a Game Developer?

While both the Game Designer and Game Developer are a crucial part of the video game creation process, their responsibilities differ. The Game Designer usually comes up with the initial idea and storyline for the game and builds a plan for their team to follow to help design and implement it. 

The Game Developer is usually on this team and works primarily on making the Game Designer’s vision come to life by converting the design team’s objectives into an entertaining gaming format using coding languages and advanced technical knowledge. The Game Designer usually works with the Game Developer to build the game, but also spends a portion of their time overseeing and managing other elements of the design and implementation process.

 

Do Game Designers have different responsibilities in different industries?

Game Designers can choose to work in certain specialties or genres, or they can work in a general role and manage video games in several different genres. Game Designers who work in the casual gaming industry build games targeted toward players of all ages and skill levels. Multiplayer online Game Designers work closely with story building games and building online worlds. Other Game Designers create handheld games and format their visual elements to be optimized for handheld devices.

 

Who reports to a Game Designer?

Game Designers are usually in charge of development and design teams. They’ll typically assign and delegate tasks to these employees, who will come to the Game Designer with any questions or concerns about their duties. These Artists, Sound Engineers and Programmers will regularly report to the Game Designer with updates on the game and will ask them for assistance if they’re having problems with the design or interpreting the Game Designer’s intentions and ideas for the game. 

A Game Designer may also have a Junior Game Designer on staff to directly assist them in the game design process. They usually complete smaller clerical tasks to free up the Game Designer’s time to focus on bigger picture items. The Game Designer often acts as a mentor for the Junior Game Designer and teaches them best practices for designing an impressive and quality video game.

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