Difference Between Game Designer & Game Programmer

Game designers and game programmers are both necessary in order to produce new games. While they have similar academic requirements, their specific roles are different. These careers are explored in greater detail here.

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Comparing Game Designers to Game Programmers

While game designers are the professionals who produce ideas for how a game should function and look, game programmers are the ones who produce the computer code so that the game works as intended. Both game designers and game programmers need to have a bachelor's degree, but the job prospects are much better for game designers and they also earn a much higher salary.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Game Designer Bachelor's Degree $102,280 for Software Developers 17% for Software Developers
Game Programmer Bachelor's Degree $79,840 for Computer Programmers -8% for Computer Programmers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Game Designers vs. Game Programmers

Game designers need to have some level of creative genius to come up with new game concepts and plans. They decide how things should look and function in a game. Game programmers use the design plans that game designers develop and create the computer code that will make the game work. Game designers may be more focused on the creative vision for the game, while game programmers need to focus on the practical details involved in making the game operate the way that the designers want it to.

Game Designer

Game designers need to be able to visualize new ideas and concepts so that they can develop designs for new games. While it's common for them to study computer science and have computer programming skills, they use their bachelor's degree to prepare for a career where they tap into their creative talents when working on game designs. Although many game designers work during the day in offices, some may be able to work from home. They may also have to extend their workday if they're on a deadline. Since they need to have computer programming training they may start out working as game programmers and use the experience they gain to advance to a role as a game designer.

Job responsibilities of a game designer include:

  • Identify popular gaming trends
  • Work with other game designers to refine ideas for new games
  • Determine the intended audience for their game design
  • Produce a game design plan
  • Consider alterations that can improve existing games

Game Programmer

Game programmers are computer programmers who specialize in writing computer code for games. They typically study computer science and they normally need a bachelor's degree to qualify to work in this field. Since there are several different programming languages that programmers use, it is an asset if they are familiar with more than one programming language. Although they may meet with other computer programmers or software developers to discuss projects, game programmers often spend a lot of time working independently in an office environment. They spend most of their time working on a computer, and they must be meticulous in their assessment of program codes so that they can identify issues when necessary.

Job responsibilities of a game programmer include:

  • Review game design plans
  • Test game codes to make sure the game operates properly
  • Make corrections to the code to fix errors
  • Meet with software developers to discuss their progress
  • Alter existing game codes to improve the game's features

Related Careers

If you think that a career as a game developer sounds appealing you may also be interested in using your creative design talents as an industrial designer to develop new products. If computer programming is something that you find appealing, but you also have artistic talents, you may want to consider working as a multimedia artist or animator because you can pursue a career that involves creating the background and characters that people see when they play video games.

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