After the turn of the century, gaming has turned into the next big thing, thanks to the steady, helping hands of technology. You’ve seen a few professionals who are proud to call themselves a game designer or developer. Then you start wondering and asking yourself the question: is games design a good career?
Well, there are so many ways to prove how attractive the game designing profession has turned out to be in the last few years.
Gaming vs. Hollywood: Which Career is Better?
We know what your answer would be if we asked you what career you would like to choose: a filming career in Hollywood or a top game designer with Electronic Arts? One is quite popular and the other is less seen and revered. However, it might interest you to know that there’s more money in gaming than in the movie industry.
Bigger than the revenues generated from movies, in 2019 alone, the gaming industry raked in about $159 billion. Today, an average game designer with EA earns $70,000 annually. Meanwhile, an average actor earns $52,000 annually, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Only a few people escape the fascination with computer games. On the PC, smartphone, or tablet – you can paddle on all devices. Many new games come onto the market every day. Creating your games is a lot of fun and a great challenge for many programmers. To turn your hobby into your dream job, you don’t even need to have studied computer science.
Duties of a game designer
The profession of a game designer offers very diverse areas of responsibility. In addition to game design, the focus is on programming sound and graphics and testing the games.
Many game developers also work as project managers and accompany a game from the idea to marketing. In most cases, game developers work in a team, with individual members often responsible for certain areas such as animation or sound.
First, the game designers deal with the basics of a game. You think about the rules and the different levels and the actual goal of the game.
The design of the game world is a challenge in itself. Even the smallest changes to the game design can have fundamental consequences for the course of the game and/or the level of difficulty of a level.
After the above stage, graphic designers provide the first drafts that determine the basic appearance of a game. In 3D games, so-called modelers then take over the graphic design of the three-dimensional worlds.
The task of the programmer is to create a virtual world based on the specifications and drafts.
The variety of tasks means that gaming is now specializing in certain areas of game development such as browser games, social media or casual games. There are also game designers who conduct the testing of games and game worlds in the course of their professional life.
Also gaining importance are authors and producers who take care of the background story and character portrayal or organizational and financial matters.
Nature of the work
1. Create a virtual universe
Once the type of game and the audience have been defined by the project manager, the designer determines the different elements of the video game. These are the story, characters, situations, settings, etc.
He imagines a universe, a scenario, integrates rules, trials, difficulty levels, etc. It thus gives an interactive dimension to the whole, involving the player in the construction of the story. He then records these elements in a specification (game design document) from which the development team will work.
2. Optimize production
The designer follows the realization of the game from A to Z. He knows each step. He never comes up with an idea without ensuring that it is technically feasible.
He masters the different technologies used during production and makes the most of their potential (choice of platforms, graphic design software, computer language, etc.).
He also takes into account budgetary constraints. Finally, he organizes tests and improves the prototype of the game according to the results.
3. Invent the game of tomorrow
To best stick to current trends, the video game designer spots new products. He tries them out and keeps abreast of changes in public expectations, competition, and new technologies.
What skills does a game developer need?
In addition to complex and expensive computer games, free minigames and casual games dominate the game market today.
These so-called “free to play” games are not profitable by introducing a sales price. Through advertisements or chargeable add-ons, for example, the success of the game is simplified.
With these games, the balance of events, the level of difficulty, and the need to buy add-ons is particularly important, otherwise, the gaming experience can be affected significantly.
So-called “mobile games” have also played an important role. Through the game apps, gamers are networked with one another online. This places high demands on developers but makes starting a career very interesting and varied.
A good knowledge of the programming languages C ++ and Java is required to start a career as a game developer. Knowledge of Swift as well as working with graphics tools and modeling tools are of great advantage.
Since many software companies work with project development techniques such as SCRUM, basic knowledge of software development methods in a team is a great advantage.
Ideally, a game designer must be familiar with the areas of graphic user interfaces (GUI), operating systems, and app development. High-performance programming, taking limited resources into account, is particularly important for the latter!
Good written and spoken English skills are essential. Fantasy and creativity, enthusiasm for games, technical understanding as well as communication and organizational skills, and the ability to work in a team are also in demand.
How do you become a game designer (training/studies)?
As in many IT areas, there were hardly any training opportunities in game design until recently. Only in the last few years have courses in game designing and game development been established at some universities.
Some universities of applied sciences also offer courses such as game engineering or game design. Some distance learning institutes also offer the “Certified 3D game developer” course.
The students receive the course material by post and can use various software packages (e.g. the Unity engine or comparable engines) to independently plan, develop, and, if necessary, market computer games in 3D.
In many cases, many game developers have acquired the skills themselves and entered this profession as lateral entrants.
For many companies, enthusiasm, creativity, and system and programming knowledge are more important than a training degree. Knowledge of graphic design, product design, and marketing can also be an advantage.
Where can I work as a game designer? What salary can I expect?
As earlier discussed, the computer games industry has been growing for years and the need for skilled workers is still increasing.
Game designers find work at various development studios such as Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft, which usually only develop games for certain devices or consoles.
Game developers can also find good employment opportunities at large studios such as Rockstar, Electronic Arts, or 2K Games – but not only these.
Also, there are less significant indie game development studios, which develop mainly smaller games independently of large corporations. They often stand out for their unconventional and creative work.
3D modelers are also finding increasing employment opportunities in the medical and media sectors. Overall, the prospects for a lucrative job in the games industry are relatively high.
As in many industries, the salary in game designing also depends on professional qualifications, the size of the company, and the location.
The least experienced game programmers earn around $72,000 on average. The most experienced programmers with more than six years of experience can earn an average annual salary of around $124,000. A lead programmer can earn around $127,900, while a technical director goes home with more.
Although no less important, experienced artists and animators earn around $57,500. The starting salary is around $35,000 to $50,000 per year. An experienced art director can earn up to $99,000 while the least experienced (less than three years) can earn up to $65,000, all annually.
Overall, the management positions in this area are rather few and far between.
Experienced game designers can receive an annual salary of around $400,000. However, on average, the annual salary of a video game designer ranges between $76,500 and $130,000. For game producers, the average annual salary is around $90,000, according to CareerExplorers.
Indie studios usually pay much less and often only offer temporary or freelance positions – personal motivation is often the top priority here.
The gaming industry is seeing more fame and has become more attractive in recent years thanks to technology. In principle, the game designer is a popular profession. However, there are usually many applicants for a few positions.
A big advantage for you can therefore be an experience in developing games. But you don’t necessarily need to have gained this experience in a company. How about designing a browser game or a mobile game privately as a hobby?