How Do I Become a Video Game Designer?

If you have a vivid imagination and a love for playing video games, you might wonder how to become a video game designer. Video game designers conceptualize and create the story, gameplay and appearance of a video game. Video game designers influence the development of a video game throughout the process, from preproduction through postproduction.

Video game designers can hold different roles in the development of a video game, so their responsibilities vary. Some video game designer jobs work with story elements. A content designer imagines the story of the video game, including the characters and plot, and fleshes out these ideas within the confines of the fictional world of the video game. Writers in video design compose the dialogue and any other text that moves the video game along. Writers are necessary parts of the design team in games where the story calls for a large amount of dialogue, like role-playing games (RPGs), but may not be required for the development of games that have little or no dialogue.

Other video game designer jobs are more closely related to the gameplay and appearance. Level designers may be thought of as the video game development equivalent of a theatrical set designer. They are responsible for choosing the appearance of the game’s setting or environment, including the appearance and location of props, other objects, game inhabitants and enemies. Game mechanic designers devise and develop the functional gameplay used in the video game.

In video game development, teams are often managed by a lead designer. This role is responsible for coordinating the ideas and work of the entire team. Lead designers assign work and deadlines, record ideas and progress, schedule meetings and run brainstorming sessions. If problems arise, the lead designer spearheads the initiative of devising the most effective solutions.

While creativity and a love for video games may lead you toward a video game design career path, aspiring video game designers need other skills and training, as well. To obtain a position as a video game designer, you will probably need to earn a bachelor’s degree in game design, game development, or computer science. Video game designers may begin their careers working in other areas of game development, such as art or programming. Aspiring video game designers are encouraged to develop a working knowledge of relevant computer software, programming languages, and scripting languages, like Lua and Python. If you intend to become a lead designer, you should also consider taking courses in business and management. In any video game design position, communication and teamwork skills are important assets.

According to the 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics publication “Work for Play: Careers in Video Game Development,” video game designers earn an average yearly salary of $68,000, which is higher than the $33,840 median pay for all occupations. If you enjoy playing video games and want a career that values creativity, learning how to become a video game designer could lead to your dream job.

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