For those of you who love video games, the idea of designing your own video game may seem like the perfect job.
What is a Video Game Designer?
Your main objective as a video game designer is to:
- design video games
Traditionally, the role of a video game designer has been more on the artistic or front-end side of things as opposed to video game developers who usually work on the technical side, also know as the backend.
These terms are similar to ones used in other industries for example, web ‘designers’ handle the front-end graphics (how the site looks and feels) and the web ‘developers’ mostly handle the backend (what the users can accomplish on the site) or what is commonly referred to as the ‘engine’ or ‘brains’ of the site.
Designer vs Developer
Just as in the web development community, the video game industry often uses the terms developer and designer interchangeably.
This tiny difference can be quite confusing to someone just starting out. For this reason I’ve made every effort to separate these two jobs, even though their duties often overlap in many places, especially at smaller game studios.
What do Video Game Designers Do?
In general, video game designers that opt to work for one of the mainstream companies will be placed in a highly specialized role as opposed to indie designers who will usually have various tasks to juggle.
For example, some video game designers might work exclusively on the pre-production team. Meaning your priority is to come up with clear goals and deadlines that should be honored by the production team.
On the other hand, a different designer working for the same company may be assigned to a team that handles the storyboard and or character designs.
These specializations can be narrowed down to cover every aspect of the creation process. Depending on the organization, the number of individuals assigned to each specialized team can vary from half a dozen to well over a hundred or more people.
These highly specialized teams usually allow for faster games, which contain fewer errors. This approach to making video games can only be achieved by established companies, which have multimillion-dollar budgets.
Smaller gaming companies have to take a different approach simply because it is nearly impossible to compete with this amount of brainpower.
What About Independent Video Game Design?
Generally speaking, if you’re working for an independent game studio you will be required to handle a variety of different tasks over the course of production.
This means that in order to truly excel at your job you should possess an assortment of skills including:
Any aspiring video game designer who seeks to publish their own ideas or land an indie studio job should be ready and willing to perform a variety of jobs, including:
- sound design
- matchmaking implementation
However, fret not as we will soon cover these obstacles in greater detail below.
How to Get an Education?
Presently, video game designers seeking traditional employment from industry leading companies are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
The Best On-Campus Game Design Schools
According to the Princeton Review:
- University of Southern California,
- University of Utah in Salt Lake City and
- DigiPen Institute of Technology in Washington state
These schools make up the top three undergrad programs for aspiring video game designers.
Drexel in Philadelphia and Rochester Institute of Technology in New York state, both respectively round out the top five universities for student seeking to study the art of video game design in the United States.
If your favorite school doesn’t offer a videogame degree, consider degrees in:
- graphic design
- computer animation
- 3D modeling
These will provide a solid foundation for what is required for most entry level positions.