Video Game Designer
Explore the game designer career path, including marketable skills, education requirements, training programs, outlook, jobs, and salaries.

Video game designers merge their passion for gaming with creative and technical skills to build cutting-edge games.

Do you love gaming and want to learn the latest programming, art, and production skills? In that case, video game design may be the career for you. The game design job market offers many rewarding opportunities depending on your goals and interests.

Key Takeaways

  • There are three main career tracks in video game design: art, design, and programming.
  • The typical education requirement for video game designers is a bachelor’s degree. Specialized game design courses and certificates are available, too.
  • Employment for game designers will grow by 16% over the next decade, much faster than the 3% outlook for all occupations.
  • The average salary for video game designers is $102,000.
Featured Game Design Training Online

Explore top-rated online courses and degrees in video game design and related fields.

Southern New Hampshire University

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All game designers spend a lot of time learning new skills to keep up with the industry's rapidly evolving trends and platforms. However, with hard work and intense training comes great rewards - most video game designers with 5+ years of experience take home over $110,000 per year, according to our job board analysis.

Video Game Designer Skills & Responsibilities

Most video game design careers fall into one of three disciplines: Game Artist, Game Designer, or Game Programmer. The game design career track you choose will determine your daily responsibilities and the skills and education requirements to get hired.

In-demand skill sets and day-to-day activities for Video Game Designers include the following. Game designers:

  • Devise the missions, challenges, and puzzles encountered in gameplay.
  • Create narrative features like storylines, role-play mechanics, and character bios.
  • Conduct periodic design reviews throughout the video game development timeline.
  • Collaborate with artists and sound engineers to achieve the desired audio/visual style.
  • Plan games using screenshot mockups, gameplay flowcharts, and other optical devices.
  • Maintain design-level documentation, including mechanics, guidelines, and mission outlines.
  • Work closely with game programmers and artists to ensure the design is followed.

Sought-after skills and typical responsibilities for Video Game Artists include the following: Video game artists:

  • Are responsible for the aesthetics (or visual style) of video games and simulations.
  • Are skilled in traditional art concepts and techniques, such as line, form, and color theory.
  • Design the artwork for all visual game aspects, including characters, weapons, and vehicles.
  • Use 2D/3D computer animation software to mockup and animate video game levels and worlds.
  • Some game artists use motion-capture software to incorporate live-action actors into games.
  • Collaborate with game programmers and designers to ensure the finished product is consistent with the original artwork.

Marketable skill sets and daily activities for Video Game Programmers include the following. Game programmers:

  • Are fluent in popular video game development languages, such as Java, C#, C++, jS & Python.
  • Develop the artificial intelligence (AI) that dictates reactions of computer-controlled elements.
  • Write and fine-tune precise computer code that controls the difficulty level of a video game.
  • Develop the code that enables multiplayer gameplay over a network, such as Xbox Live.
  • Test & develop game physics, which controls how objects interact in the video game environment.
  • Work closely with game artists and designers to accurately incorporate their visions into the game.

Video Game Designer Education Requirements

Video game design education requirements vary according to your game design job specialty. Game design training programs focus on three main disciplines - design, art, and programming. Your interests, passions, and employment goals will determine which game design training program is the best fit to get hired for your desired job. Here is a breakdown of game designer education requirements by game design specialty:

Video Game Designer

A college degree or certificate in game design or creative writing will help you get hired as a video game designer. Skills to look for in a video game design training program include game theory, storytelling & storyboarding, game planning and strategy, creative content writing, brainstorming & creative thinking, and game design project management.

Video Game Programmer

The education requirement for game design programming jobs is typically a bachelor's degree in video game development, computer science, software engineering, mobile application development, game & simulation programming, or a similar programming-focused study area. Video game programmers should be fluent in the object-oriented programming (OOP) languages commonly used in video game design, such as Java, C, and C++.

Video Game Artist

Education requirements for game art jobs usually include a specialized 2- or 4-year game art degree. However, a traditional art school degree is acceptable in many cases. Video game artists must first master conventional art techniques and principles, such as form, perspective & color theory, before they can apply these skills to game elements like characters & environments. An aspiring game artist's most crucial asset is their design portfolio; the more robust your portfolio, the less you will rely on your formal education to land the job. The ability to effectively use modern graphic design & computer animation software, such as Adobe Flash, will also help you get hired as a video game artist.

What Traits Do Game Design Studios Look for in a New Hire?

Game studios seek designers who love gaming because real players recognize what makes a video game good, bad, ugly, or incredible. Strong problem-solving skills are essential for game designers, as video game creation is ripe with challenges and pitfalls. To succeed as a video game designer, you must be patient and willing to work long hours and overtime to solve these problems. Successful video game designers need the ability to work well as part of a team, as video games are an intensely collaborative medium.

With video game popularity at an all-time high, schools are evolving their game design education programs with topics like 3D modeling, character animation, world design, storyboarding, simulation programming, and more. Research and compare game design degrees online and in your area.

Video Game Design Training

Browse college degrees, professional certificates, and self-paced online courses in video game design and related fields.

Admissions advisors can provide more info about game design training programs, admissions & start dates, tuition costs, and financial aid.
Southern New Hampshire University
  • Design Virtual Game Environments
  • Digital Game Development Training
  • Modeling & Animation in 3DS Max
  • Learn C++ and C# Programming
CG Spectrum
  • Introduction to Video Game Design
  • Learn 3D Creation in Unreal Engine 4
  • Design Game Systems, Maps & Assets
  • Mentorship from Top Game Designers
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Video Game Designer Salaries

The median annual salary for game designers is $102,000, according to the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Here are the average salaries for video game designers and related positions:

Game Design Career Average Salary
Video Game Tester $56,000
Junior Game Designer $74,000
Video Game Artist $77,000
Unreal Engine Developer $99,000
Video Game Designer $102,000
Video Game Developer $111,000
Senior Game Designer $137,000

These are the top-paying cities and metro areas for game designers:

City or Metro Area Game Design Salary
San Jose / Sunnyvale / Santa Clara, CA $284,100
San Francisco / Oakland / Hayward, CA Metro $135,240
Seattle / Tacoma / Bellevue, WA Metro $121,750
San Diego, California $121,010
NYC Tri-State Area, NY-NJ-PA $118,580

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics | Analysis of Online Job Boards

Video Game Designer Jobs

Your specialized game design training and experience can qualify you for a variety of exciting job roles, including:

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Video Game Designer Job Outlook

There's never been a better time to learn video game design. The $350+ billion gaming industry has ballooned over the past decade with no signs of slowing. Beyond the growing gaming market on PCs and consoles, the increased popularity and sophistication of mobile devices and virtual reality (VR) technologies have opened up a new world of career opportunities for video game designers.

Game designers with mobile development expertise will be in high demand as smartphones and tablets continue to change how we access video games. Mobile gaming now accounts for about half of the market. Employment of video game designers will grow by 16% from 2022 through 2032, much faster than the 3% average growth rate for all occupations.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook |

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About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.