As frequently mentioned by industry experts, it is a profession that came as a consequence of team evolution; originally, small teams would do multiple jobs. As the team grew, a specialization of tasks ensued. This fragmentation led to specialized jobs such as level designer, sound designer, mobile game designer, monetization designer, combat designer, and yes - the Game Designer.
Much misunderstanding comes from mistaking game design and game development. As remarked - while they sound similar, they are different because game design is about making new game concepts, storylines, mechanics, and the like. On the other hand, game development is a catch-all term for the process of making the game itself. The difference is important to point out when looking to get a job as a video game designer - working on developing the game is not the same as being a Game Designer. A Game Designer will be working on nearly all aspects of development, in one form or another. reating puzzles and levels, storylines and plotlines, providing feedback and improving the balancing in gameplay, working with programmers, tech-artists, and artists alike.
Often pointed out within the gaming world is just how multi-faceted the job of Game Designer is. To be proficient in video game design, you must possess a wide variety of skills - combining everything from graphic design, computer programming, writing, editing skills, and producing content such as storyboards. This is due to the fact that game designers are included in almost every step of the game production process. From pre-production and brainstorming to storyboarding and concept documentation such as game design documents that form a backbone of the gameplay experience.
So you want to be a game designer? - Opportunities, avenues, and career paths
The set of skills needed to become a successful video game designer is quite broad, so it might seem intimidating to figure it all out. Along with a discussion on whether or not a bachelor’s degree is required (further elaborated below), a common question is: why would I want to be a game designer? As a start, it's a job within a booming industry.
The gaming industry is a tale of constant growth, making a grand total larger than the music industry and Hollywood combined, with an expectation of it reaching $180.1 billion by 2021 - any career in this ever-expanding industry could be considered a good prospect.
Furthermore, the game designer job - like many others within the industry, such as gameplay programmers or level designers - is not only well paid but still highly sought after. In the USA it is reported that an industry professional can make $70,000 - $90,000 annually, with a video game designer earning $40000 - $60000 depending on their position and tenure. Some sources claim that the median salary of a video game designer is $64,800 - also depending on the position. The wages for this particular job have been on the rise since 2004 - at least as far as the USA is concerned - and the salaries have gone up by 8.72% nationally. The market is predicted to further grow by 9.3% between 2016 and 2026, with the US being home to around 287,200 video game designers.
In case you’re going for an employment opportunity outside the USA - some of the best places to pursue a career in Game Design include Paris (which houses 107 gaming studios), London (with an impressive 173 studios), and Tokyo (with 146 studios). Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal are also viable options that neighbor the USA.
Degree vs no degree - the skills that count in game design
We’ve hinted at a discussion on the importance of the studies. How much does having a degree contribute to your odds of starting a game designer career? Like other professions within the industry, a bachelor’s degree within a related area of expertise can really help.
According to some sources, over 60% of game designers have a bachelor’s degree, with almost 20% having an associate’s. Taking college courses but not graduating yet is also prevalent within 10% of those surveyed. This seems to indicate that a bachelor’s degree might prove helpful in getting hired - at the very least these programs teach graphic design, programming as well as game theory, which are invaluable for the Game Designer position.
If you are thinking of using these obvious perks of a bachelor, the nature of the video game designer profession means you have a wide array of choices. While some are narrow and specialized in game design alone, others can give you a more open vision of the facets of game development such as monetization, mobile gaming, sound design, and the like. A bachelor’s in computer science provides a clear path and connection to game development, for example. Other options would include a degree in multimedia or the arts - there is a significant intersection between industries that ensures this to be pertinent to game design.
Once you’ve decided whether or not a bachelor’s is the way to go, you must tackle the application process itself. Hiring processes differ, yet it is common to make a video game design and concept portfolio, to improve your chances of getting the job. However, it’s not uncommon to begin from a different position and then move up till you reach the Game Designer position, QA could be a good kick-off start to getting your foot through the door
A more typical path that features seeking an internship and then going through the classic interviews and written test processes is also very frequent. Yet far from the only way towards becoming a game designer.
Whatever path you chose to get there, becoming a Game Designer is proving to be a challenging yet extremely rewarding career path within an industry that is quickly becoming dominant in the media landscape.