How Do I Become A Video Game Designer?

"It’s that time when I’m supposed to be figuring out what to do with my life, and it finally occurred to me that I know what I love doing, which is playing video games. I thought about maybe becoming a video game tester, but I’m guessing that job opportunities are rather limited in that area. Then I thought what would be even more exciting than testing video games, and that would be to design them. I know nothing about computer programming. I have some art skills. I like to draw, and maybe I could see myself doing some kind of concept art related gig—or maybe I could learn to program. I don’t know. Is there opportunity in this field, and if so, how do I become a video game designer?"

asked by Sadie from Los Angeles, CA

By saying you want to design video games, do you mean you want to come up with overall concepts and storylines for games? That you want to oversee a development team? Or do you mean you want to write code for games, or create concept art or computer graphics? Or maybe you want to get involved with audio production? There are so many different aspects of development involved with video games.

That’s why most video games are designed by teams of developers. Sometimes they are small teams, other times they are large studios. Sometimes studios even combine their efforts to create game titles.

What you should major in and what kind of job experience you need is going to depend on where you want to fit within that development team.

If you want to handle programming aspects, a major in computer science may be best. If you want become a concept artist, it makes more sense to major in art or computer graphics—same thing if you want to handle graphical design of a game. Audio developers may studio media production in college. Look into various positions to figure out what you’re really interested in.

Jobs in the video game development field include animator, cinematic artist, designer, programmer, producer, writer, texture artist, and more. “Designer” is usually a conceptual, overarching position, though many designers begin as programmers and artists. Designers are in charge with coming up with the overall vision and story for a game.

Those in a design role may come from many walks of life. Some of these people have programming degrees or art degrees and get started on development teams as a coder or artist, and then eventually begin leading departments or design teams. Others may not even know a coding language or have a degree in computer science.

Job experience is key, regardless of the role you are interested in. It is especially important for designers.

Write up analyses of games you have played, and take advantage of modding tools provided to you. Many developers start out by making mods, and eventually catch the attention of a potential employer. You can also make your own games. Indie game developers often use their own titles as stepping stones to land gigs with larger studios.

Career Spotlight: Video Game Designer

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