For people who enjoy playing video games, working as a video game designer can be a desirable job. Video game design generally involves a large, diverse team of people who work collaboratively to design and produce the games. A video game design vocational school may help you prepare to work as a programmer, where you can focus on the computer coding that makes the games function. It may also help you to train for game concept development, which involves providing sketches and storyboards of ideas, as well as other important facets such as game economics and usability.
Video Game Design Specializations
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that video game production is a complex process. It involves many stages of development from production to programming. A video game design technical school might provide training in one of the following specializations:
- Designers develop the concepts for video games, including their mechanics and storylines.
- Programmers use different kinds of coding languages to make the games work.
- Artists design a game's visuals, determining how its environment, characters and objects look.
Game Design Certifications and Degrees
There's no one educational route to the video game industry, but most pepole hold at least a bachelor's degree or some type of postsecondary degree. Of course, this can depend on your specific interest. For example, you can get in as a QA tester with little or no education. But if you're interested in art or design, you may attend art school for your training. Programmers on the other hand typically need a bachelor's degree, or could start developing skills with many different types of postsecondary education. Also, the video game design industry is competitive and job-seekers may have better opportunities with degrees in game design, game development or computer science. Courses in scripting languages, such as Lua and Python, may be particularly helpful, as are classes in 3D modeling. A video game design technical school might prepare you for this degree by offering courses in C or C++.
Other helpful courses could include computer languages such as Perl, Assembly and Lua. Video game design artists may attend art schools, but having a strong portfolio is important. If this specialty interests you, look for a video game design vocational school that offers courses in different art styles and methods, as well as modeling and editing software. There are no specific certifications necessary for the gaming field, but you may find having knowledge or certification in specific programming languages, such as C## or Python, could be helpful.
How to Become a Video Game Designer
It may be beneficial to have an associate degree or postsecondary education as you look to build a career in the gaming field just because these options can provide you with coursework that will be needed in the field. Below are some steps to consider taking for the gaming field.
- Finish high school or obtain your GED: Having a high school education is important to continuing on to college coursework at the vocational, community college, or university level. Your high school transcripts can say a lot about you, particularly if you are looking for admission into a competitive or rigorous program.
- Have an interest in the gaming field. To enter the gaming career, it can be ideal to have an interest in the gaming field. Are you part of a gaming community? Do you understand the various features of games and have ideas about how to improve them?
- Enroll for a college program. Vocational certificates in computer design skills and computer gaming programming skills are available, but so are associate and bachelor's degrees in gaming or computer science. If you want to start at the two-year level, an associate of applied science degree can help you to gain skills in programming and game programming, UNIX fundamentals, systems analysis and design and more. An internship could also be part of an associate or bachelor's degree program in gaming or game development.
- Have a strong portfolio and know who your audience is when looking for a job. Whatever college program you choose, it's important to have an electronic portfolio to showcase your skills and capabilities. Also, be able to talk about the industry as a whole. Did you know that 80 percent of American households own a device for playing video games and that the average game player is 35 years of age, as an example? (Entertainment Software Association, theesa.com.)
- (Optional). Continue on to higher education. If you wish to continue on in your education, you also can find graduate level programs, such as a master's in game design online, master of science in visualization or even a master's in computer programming, available.
Expert Q&A on Video Game Design Schools
The video game industry is large, and there are a number of levels of education you can attain to start out, depending on what you want to specialize in. And keep in mind that in many cases, it really helps to have a network of people who you know in the industry, and sometimes attending college can give you connections to those types of networks.
In order to find out more about starting out in the video game industry, and the role education will play, we spoke with Mayet Andreassen, a Media Arts & Animation Instructor at The Art Institute of Austin.
Mayet Andreassen is a Media Arts & Animation Instructor at The Art Institute of Austin.
RWM: What is the typical educational path needed to enter this career?
Andreassen: When entering the game industry, it's important to understand the categories that exist in terms of jobs, so as to choose the best educational path. There are 3 main categories:
- Game Designer
- Game Artist
For all three categories, one needs to know the history of games, needs to have a passion for games, needs to have good critical thinking and problem solving skills, needs to know how to write and needs to understand basic mathematics, as well as have good time management and organizational skills, as well as be able to follow directions. Game artists and designers should understand art foundation elements like lighting, composition and color theory as well as story creation and application.
- For Game Designer: A study of game mechanics and game design is key as is an understanding of and ability to apply level design. Use and knowledge of 3D programs such as 3DS Max, Maya, ZBrush, and Substance Designer, the Quixel Suite, Photoshop, some basic programming language skills, knowledge of game engines like Unity and Unreal, understanding of the entire workflow of game creation, and the ability to create game assets.
- For Programmer: The study of game mechanics and game design is also key as is an understanding of and ability to apply level design. Knowledge and application of programming languages like Python, C++, C#, Mel. Knowledge of game engines like Unity and Unreal, and an understanding of the entire workflow of game creation.
- For Game Artist: A basic understanding of game design is important, but so is a basic understanding of and ability to apply level design. Knowledge and application skills of the entire art pipeline from concept to final deliverable asset. So, research, concept art skills, drawing and anatomy, background layout drawing, color theory, perspective, composition, 3D modeling, UV unwrapping, 3D texturing, procedural texture creation, PBR shaders, the use and application of several different 3D and 2D programs as well as the ability to learn others quickly. The ability to understand and apply lighting in 3D is crucial. They should know how to render, how to integrate several different elements into one. Understanding of presentation is important as well.
RWM: How long does it typically take to complete a education for this job?
Andreassen: It's about four years to earn a degree, but the education never really stops, as new programs and updates to current programs are consistent.
RWM: Why would you encourage someone to pursue this career? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Andreassen: If that person had a clear passion for both games and game creation, I would encourage them to pursue this career. It can be both rewarding and fun, but its disadvantages are long hours, and no job security at any one place. However, advantages are, you create fun games for a living, the ability to be constantly creative, and to work with enormously talented people in the production of a great product.
RWM: Do you have any advice for young people who are just starting out in this career?
Andreassen: Be clear as to what you want to focus on, so research and experiment with the different aspects of game creation. Create some card or board games to figure out if it's really something you want to do. Get on forums, educate yourself about the industry, volunteer at game conferences. If you want to be a game rigger for example, you need to know anatomy, scripting languages and several 3D programs, but if you want to be an environment artist, you need to be able to model, texture, light and render. Both jobs are in the industry, but require different focus. I think if a young person understands and knows what their focus is, they will better be able to maximize their education too.
Video Game Design Salary Information
While the BLS does not offer employment information specific to video game design, it projects employment of computer programmers, graphic designers, and other related careers that exist within the video game industry. Find recent salary and job opportunity data from the BLS below:
|Career||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Number of New Jobs||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Multimedia Artists and Animators||70,300||3,900||6|
|Software Developers, Applications||102,160||135,300||18.8|
|Software Developers, Systems Software||108,760||51,300||13|
Video game design could be a rewarding career with numerous types of job options within the field. A video game design technical school could be just the ticket to turn your passion into your profession.
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