A career in the gaming industry nowadays can imply various professions - after all, with the gamer populations predominantly coming from the 13 to 34-year-old demographic, many of those seeking to get involved in video games and make a career in the gaming industry have grown up playing games. Parsing out the various game dev jobs and fragmented positions can be a daunting task - so consider this a kind of primer:
Game Designer - The dream game dev job
Usually considered a ‘dream job’ and the de-facto ‘maker of the game’ - a game designer is, roughly speaking, tasked with creating the concepts and blueprints that will eventually make up the game. Unfortunately for those that are looking for entry-level jobs within the gaming industry, the game designer might not be the best pick - this position usually demands an extremely thorough and deep understanding of video games, derived from years of experience in playing, examining, and dissecting games and gameplay; as well as - of course - making games! With publishers being less and less inclined to take huge risks, it is not surprising that most new entrants in this field are graduates.
Finally, it's important to note that this position is complex enough to be further fragmented into different types of jobs within game development - such as mission design, combat design, balance, narrative and level design (see below).
Level Designer - Game design jobs with a twist
On a surface level (pardon the pun) Level Designers are a fragmentation of the Game Designer game dev job position. However, this particular game design job is complex enough to warrant its own category. Level designers use tools such as level editors or engines to craft environments, events, and scenarios within the game, working on each level every step of the way through production.
Narrative Designer - Both writers and developers game
The Narrative Designer is usually a position taken by screenwriters or writers that have specialized or studied writing for games. At their core, they create the narratives upon which the games function, as well as write the dialogue lines for all characters and accompanying lore. Sometimes this particular game dev job is further segmented into editors and technical writers - those that write up documentation and instructions, even marketing assets.
Game Programmer - The closest to stereotypical IT jobs in the video game industry
Sometimes confused with game designers, due to their sheer importance in actually making the game, programmers are the most classically technical job within the video game industry. Programmers can do anything from developing in-house software to help development, to building games from scratch. Due to the nature of the profession, many come from a background in computer science - but it is far from uncommon for self-taught programmers to get entry-level jobs in the video game industry. Usually, game dev teams, once they get big enough, specialize their programmers to suit the specific needs of each project.
Sound Engineer - The one video game job you can’t not hear about
Frequently overlooked yet essential, the Sound Engineer is another game developer job that is of great importance. Sound Engineer is in charge of every sound the player hears in the game, covering everything from background music, voice-overs, ambient noise, and much more. Some studios only have one audio engineer overlooking all the projects, while others outsource everything concerning audio. Just like many jobs involved in game development, this too can sometimes fragment into multiple positions - such as voice-over director, audio engineer, or composer.
Game Artist - The many art jobs of the gaming industry
Being a video game artist covers such a wide array of professions, it would be far too time-consuming to list them all in any great detail - they include positions such as character modeler, concept artist, animator, environment artists, VFX artist… and so on. These all demand different skill sets, as well as different salary levels - yet they do have unifying characteristics. Entry-level jobs in the industry are usually more easily obtained by those with ties to previous art experience - anything from graphic design jobs, architecture, to art jobs of different kinds. However, like mentioned above, self-taught game dev job positions are far from unheard of.
Producer - Game Development on a tight schedule
Producers are, put simply, tasked with organizing and managing the daily planning of the team. They are the glue that holds everything together - sometimes they are even custodians of the games’ ‘vision’ making sure it comes to fruition. Again, depending on each studio's particular needs, they might also be in charge of the business aspects, dealing with studio executives and publishers, and keeping their needs in balance. Like so many of these video game dev jobs, they can be further partitioned into positions such as associate producers - that focus on the daily tasks and scheduling and less on the macro stuff - or the above mentioned ‘big picture’ senior producers.
Read more: Video Game Producer - the party planner!
Game Tester & QA - The hardest ‘easy’ job within the industry
While getting paid to play games sounds enchanting, the grim reality is that QA’s have to meticulously test the latest versions (builds) of the game in order to spot and report anything and everything that doesn’t function properly. Sometimes QA’s come from passionate players that have such broad gaming experience they’ve developed a keen eye - but oftentimes they also hail from their fellow programmers, or have at least some experience in that field as well.
Plenty of options - a spectrum of specializations
All these game industry jobs share the same goal - to make fun games. While the sheer amount of variation, and number, of game development jobs, might be intimidating, it's important to note that full-time is not the only option; some studios have part-time developers as well as hire freelancers - so there are plenty of opportunities for making a career in the video game industry.
Hopefully, this miniature guide has inspired you to go out and find the best game dev job for you - or at least informed you enough so that you can delve deeper yourself!