Programs in game systems design teach students skills ranging from software design and programming to character development and sound effects creation. At the associate's and bachelor's degree levels, students learn about all aspects of game creation, including graphic animation, writing, sound design and game publishing. Most programs emphasize teamwork, and students develop portfolios that they can use to obtain employment or apply for further education.
Undergraduate programs typically require only a high school diploma or GED to apply. Some schools recommend significant secondary coursework in mathematics and sciences. Programming experience may or may not be required, though computer science courses at the high school level provide a foundational understanding of the training in these technology-based programs. Some programs are offered online.
Available master's degree programs take 1-2 years to complete and may offer areas of study in artificial intelligence, multi-player games and types of gaming sequences. These programs require a bachelor's degree and previous programming experience for admission, and students often must complete a research project or thesis prior to graduation.
Associate's Degree in Game Systems Design
An associate's degree program teaches students basic programming and the background behind game design. Many schools have state-of-the art facilities where students can learn to use the software tools required for the complex aspects of the trade. Classes combine the technical aspect of game design with business training in the industry. Some schools offer students the opportunity to practice what they learn through internship programs.
Courses teach students about game design and the gaming industry from different perspectives, such as graphic animation, writing, sound design and game publishing. Classes typically cover the following topics:
- Beginning drawing
- C++ programming
- Game scripting
- History of video games
- 2- and 3-dimensional game design
Bachelor's Degree in Game Systems Design
Bachelor's degree majors that teach game design include interactive media, computer game design or game software development. These programs offer training in all facets of game systems design and development to give students an overview of the collaborative work required to create a game. The majority of these programs require students to participate in team-based projects as part of the curriculum. Some schools offer online learning for specific portions of the game systems design process, such as graphic arts, multimedia and Web development.
Subjects cover a range of topics from concept development to troubleshooting issues and methods. Classes often include the following subjects:
- New media programming
- Interactive media animation
- Game playability analysis
- Tools and scripting for games
- Software test and debugging procedures
Master's Degree in Game Systems Design
Though graduate degree programs for game design are less prevalent than undergraduate degree programs, students can find as many fields of study as those offered at the bachelor's level, such as interactive media design, computer game development and simulation programming. Students undertake advanced coursework in the same topics offered at the bachelor's level. Courses cover subjects such as:
- Human-computer interaction
- Artificial intelligence
- Real-time gaming
- Types of gaming sequences
- Multi-player games
Some associate's degree programs offer transferable credit to students interested in pursuing advanced studies in a bachelor's degree program. Others are designed specifically to prepare students for jobs in the field. Some of these entry-level positions include:
- Assistant game designer
- Junior programmer
- Quality assurance engineer
- Graphic designer
Game systems design requires many specialists within a design and production team. Some career choices available to those with master's degrees include:
- Technical animator
- Game designer
- Game programmer
- Game design director
- Video game producer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that employment for video game designers and other types of computer professionals is expected to increase 5% to 9% between 2018 and 2028. According to BLS statistics, the median annual salary for these professionals in 2018 was $90,270 .
Students who want to design video games can enroll in an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree program in the field. Undergraduate programs provide students with a background in computer programming and animation, especially as they relate to video games; master's degree programs cover the same topics at a higher level.