How to Become a Video Game Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a video game designer. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in video game design.

Do I Want to Be a Video Game Designer?

Video game designers often work as part of a team to create video games. They come up with the games' concepts, characters, setting, story and game play. Designers must work with artists and programmers to create the scripting language and artistic vision for a game.

While this career allows for creativity, designers typically spend many work hours seated and looking at a computer monitor.

Job Requirements

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that no formal education is required to become a video game designer, employers often require a bachelor's degree. Designers also might need a background in computer science. The table below includes the requirements to become a video game designer:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma; some employers require a bachelor's degree*
Degree Name Video game design, computer science*
Experience May need to have experience working in programming or art before becoming designers*
Key Skills Designers must be creative, have the ability to tell a story and be able to work as part of a team**
Technical Skills Understanding of programming languages, software programs, 3D modeling programs**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; ** job posts (October 2012).

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Designers may need a bachelor's degree, especially if they're planning on working for a large game studio. Although some schools offer a degree in game design, aspiring game designers can get the necessary training from computer science, software engineering or related degree programs. The coursework for a game design program covers subjects like 2D and 3D modeling and animation, level and interface design, storyboard rendering, drawing and scripting.

Success Tips:

  • Play video games. As simple as it may sound, having experience and familiarity playing video games is important. Even at a young age, being aware of popular trends in the industry and understanding advanced technology can be beneficial. Playing video games can also show students how a game is structured and can give them a chance to start thinking of ways to make improvements for when they design their own game.
  • Join a game design club. Some schools have a club designed for students who wish to develop and discuss games outside of the classroom. This type of club generally covers all facets of game production, which could be rather useful for future game designers.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Even after completing the required education, getting a job with a game studio can be difficult. Since employers require game design experience for most mid-level positions, aspiring game designers need to find ways to get relevant experience. Some companies offer internships and co-op positions for prospective designers. Small businesses may be willing to hire inexperienced game programmers or artists, which could lead to game design positions later on.

Success Tips:

  • Determine a career path. Even within this specialty, there are different types of designers, including lead designer, level designer and content designer. Additionally, game designers have a diverse array of responsibilities that may not immediately be obvious, so aspiring professionals in this field should consider what type of game design career they want to pursue.
  • Develop a game. Game design candidates can get an edge over the competition by designing their own game. Students can use free or inexpensive programs to create simple games at first and begin working on more complex projects after grasping the basics. Each game can be added to an individual's portfolio and count as design experience.

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