Is Game Design The Right Career For You?
Does your creativity know no bounds? Are you an awesome animator and avid gamer? Can you easily identify the differences between a PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox operating system?
If you answered full house to all of the above, game design may well be a career path for you to consider.
Read on to find out more about what this exciting and varied role entails, how to progress in this field and the opportunities it can present.
What Is Game Design?
Broadly speaking, game design refers to the idea or concept for a video or computer game.
According to Wikipedia “Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes”
In terms of a game design job, it tends to involve creating a central theme, story and plot with compelling characters, goals, rules and challenges.
What Skills Do You Need to Be A Game Designer?
Unsurprisingly, a love of gaming and a creative mind is absolutely necessary if you are to pursue a career in game design.
But what other skills do you need as a game designer? Other essential skills typically include:
- An understanding of different hardware platforms available for games.
- Proficient at using scripting and design software such as Blueprint Visual Scripting with Unreal Engine 4 (UE4).
- Whilst you don’t need the level of technical ability of a games programmer, familiarisation with various programming languages and software technologies is necessary (i.e. C#. C++ and Python).
- You’ll need to be an innovative, forward-thinking person bursting with new ideas.
- Adept at learning new technical skills such as version control software.
- Fastidious about producing work to a high standard, and confident about presenting and pitching ideas.
What Does A Game Designer Do On A Daily Basis?
A video game designer brings the creative element of a game to life, while a video game programmer is the person who implements the technical requirements to make this possible. Commonly, a video game designer will straddle a few disciplines and duties including writer, artist and programmer. In this role, you may work on a concept you have devised yourself/as part of a team or you may work on a pre-approved idea (like the game version of a film).
The kind of tasks undertaken can vary from studio to studio but the following are some of the most common seen in the day to day of a video game design role:
- Designing games for various devices and platforms.
- Creating a storyline, setting, character back-stories and dialogue for a game.
- Conducting market research to understand the games landscape and target audience.
- Developing the gameplay, rules and scoring system.
- Writing scripts and designing storyboards.
- Determining the levels of difficulty within the game.
- Building interfaces and environments.
- Level and world design.
- Digital editing and image rendering.
- Lead on the user experience (UX) design of the game.
- Testing the game and training quality assurance testers to play the game.
Video Game Designer Salary
Naturally, salaries vary according to many factors including the type of company you work for and where it is located.
Some employers may offer additional lifestyle benefits such as fitness/gym memberships, private healthcare and store discounts. Therefore the below figures are intended as a guide:
- Starting salaries for an intern of a junior video game designer generally begin in the range of £17,000 - £18,000.
- Quality Assurance Tester Roles, which can be an alternative route into the game design scene, can expect a starting salary of roughly £18,000-£22,000.
- A level designer, those who design only a portion of the game, tends to earn in the region of £20,00-£35,000.
- As a game designer progresses in their career, they can expect to earn from £30,00-£65,000 (senior game designer).
Game Design Qualifications & Education
Whilst being degree educated is not entirely necessary to succeed in the industry, the vast majority of people in this role do tend to have one.
More than anything, demonstrating a combination of experience, knowledge and enthusiasm for video game design is important.
Education that proves helpful when attempting to gain employment as a computer game designer includes:
- Computer games art
- Computer games design
- Computer games development
- Computer games technology
- Computer science
- Interactive media
Game Design Degrees
In terms of video games design degrees, specifically, there are various universities across the UK that offer this programme including:
- University of Southampton
- Brunel University
- Solent University
- University of the Arts London
- Bournemouth University
- Birmingham City University
- Staffordshire University
How To Get Into The Game Design Industry
Participate In Game Jams
As with any role within the games industry, it’s a competitive landscape.
Ideally, when it comes to interviewing for a video game designer role, you’ll have a minimum of 2 years’ experience in the industry. But how do you get your foot in the door, and start getting experience, if you have none to start with? It’s a catch 22.
Well, one way to build up experience in game design is to participate in game jams.
In essence, the purpose of these jams is to collaborate with a group of people to plan, design and create a game against the clock (usually in a day or two). You can discover current game jams listed on sites such as itch.io and indiegamejams.com. It presents a great way to network and obtain evidence of your skills and knowledge to be put in a portfolio.
Build Up A Game Design Portfolio
Finally, the most obvious way to demonstrate your enthusiasm for game design is to go ahead and create your own! Put together a storyboard, prototype and demo and upload it to an online portfolio. You can then reach out to prospective employers with something concrete in terms of evidence of your ability.
It is also possible to get into gaming via an apprenticeship, which allows you to earn as you learn. At Wired Sussex we regularly update our jobs board, which features internships and apprenticeships in the gaming sector.
If you remain undecided about whether or not game design is your intended career path, why not read our recent guest post by David Amor (Director at mobile gaming company MAG Interactive) about working in the games industry? Alternatively, if you’re looking for a game design job, then why not check out our jobs board? Simply filter your job search by ‘Games’ to discover which employers are currently recruiting.