Job descriptions and industry overviews

Video game designer: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:40

The games industry rivals the movie industry in value and is evolving all the time. Now is an ideal time to put all those hours spent zapping aliens to good use and design video games.

videogame design: controller under x-ray

What does a video game designer do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Video game designers, also known as games designers, design games for a variety of formats, such as consoles, wireless applications, the internet and mobile phones. Designers have a different role from that of video game developers , who take designers' concepts and write the code to make them into a game that can be played.

Typical duties include:

  • coming up with new and appealing game ideas
  • developing gameplay ideas
  • experimenting with themes and genres
  • developing plots and storylines
  • developing characters
  • developing maps, scenarios, and levels of difficulty
  • coming up with ways of winning and losing the game
  • developing user interface (menus and controls) concepts
  • improving existing games
  • working with developers, graphic designers and other professionals.

It’s common to specialise in one aspect of design as you progress. For example, a game mechanics designer works on the balance of the game and its rule system while an environmental designer creates the different scenarios and environments of the game.

Working hours tend to be typical ‘office’ hours (nine-to-five) although you may not be based in an office. You may need to work late when deadlines are approaching.

Graduate salaries

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for junior game designers ranges between £20,000 and £25,000 per year – this can increase to around £45,000 with experience and higher if you become a senior game designer.

Find out the typical starting salaries for graduate IT jobs.

Typical employers of video game designers

  • Video games developing companies (also known as video game developers, publishers or studios).
  • Marketing companies.
  • E-learning companies.
  • Specialist games consultancies.

Games are increasingly being used outside the gaming industry. For example, they can be used as part of training programs and online education to help people build skills through simulations. This area is growing as industries recognise how games and game theory can be applied to help people learn or connect.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into video game development for university graduates and school leavers.

Graduates typically need a degree in computer games design, graphic design or animation. It’s common to start out as a developer and work your way up.

Work experience and a portfolio of work will become essential early on in your career in this very competitive industry. If your degree doesn’t include a placement, look for informal opportunities to build and showcase your skills – via online communities and contests, or via work as a tester.

Formal work experience opportunities may not be advertised, so think about making speculative applications and networking.

School leavers can complete an apprenticeship in game development or a related field such as graphic design. Find out more about apprenticeships.

Key skills for video game designers

  • Technical skills, such as drawing and photography.
  • Storytelling ability.
  • Wide-ranging knowledge of gaming trends.
  • Strong analytical frame of mind.
  • Excellent programming skills.
  • The ability to work as part of a team.
  • Communication skills.

Read more about games development as a graduate area of work here.

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