If you really like video games, you may have been considering turning your hobby into a career. Who wouldn’t? The idea of taking nothing and turning it into one of your favorite video games from the ground up certainly has a lot of appeal, not to mention the fact that people all over the planet will be playing and admiring your creation. It sounds great, but game designer careers are not as easy as that. Just like any job, there is actually work involved; work that often involves long hours.
Despite the flagging economy, game designer careers continue to flourish. New video and computer games are constantly being developed, and the studios that produce them need warm bodies and fertile minds to help get those games into the hands of gamers. Game design studios are always on the lookout for new game designers. After all, your mind could very well hold ''the next big thing.''
But don’t get too excited just yet; when you start off with a game design studio, you’re not going to be placed right in the thick of things right off the bat. Sure, you’ll be helping out with hot new games, but you’ll be doing minor tasks such as, animating background characters or designing menu screens. It’s nothing flashy, but it will prepare you for bigger tasks down the road. As long as you are prepared and can remain patient, you can eventually worm your way into the spotlight.
As you probably know, you need some sort of education to get into game design. Even if you are self-taught and know everything about computer and game consoles, game design studios need to see some sort of diploma from a school certifying that you have been educated and trained thoroughly in game design. Learning all you can on your own is great (and greatly encouraged), but a proper education will give you the foundation you need to be considered.
As far as you want to know what type of degree you need, you basically have two options. First, there is computer science. A degree in computer science is what one who traditionally sought game design career had. Of course, this is a very broad category when compared to a degree in game design. Degree in game design is a relatively new one spurred by the growth of the video game industry. Whereas computer science is generally a 4-year program (though there are 2-year versions), game design is a 2-year course that is often offered as an online course.
If you can somehow manage to do both, that may be the best option for you. A full-on, 4-year bachelor’s degree will be something that you can take with you no matter what, should the game design job not work out for you (keep in mind that most game designers leave the business by the age of 30). At the same time, a focus on game design could also greatly help you when you get a job with a studio.
Salaries for game designer careers are pretty good, especially considering that the game designers are truly doing what they love. A video game designer fresh out of school can expect to make about $46,000 annually. Once you have about three years of experience under your belt, this figure can jump to about $55,600. After about six years of experience, game designers average almost $70,000 annually. Of course, these figures are not mandatory numbers that your employer is obligated to give you; you may have to move around to various companies and really prove yourself to earn them. Also, once you move to creative director or lead designer positions these numbers do increase.
Game designer careers are for those gamers who take this hobby very seriously. A career in game design means truly immersing yourself in the world of video games. Of course, this is not a problem for most, but be aware that it is not all fun and game; there is actually work to be done and if you are on the bottom rung you are going to be doing the ''grunt work,'' i.e. repetitive minor tasks required for every game design.
On the other hand, there are many perks to be had in the field of game design. You get your name on video games, for instance, and with that often comes nationwide (if not worldwide) recognition once your name gets around. You may be attending many conventions, such as E3 or ComicCon, where you may be interviewed by game magazines, websites, and TV shows. Generally, this sort of attention is reserved for those who played a major role in a popular game’s design, but you can get there with hard work and creativity.
In order to get to this level, however, you do need to be educated. It’s great if you know everything you can about computers and know the inside and out of a Xbox 360 and PS3, but if you don’t have the foundation that a proper education gives you, a game studio is not likely to hire you. There are dozens of other candidates out there just like you, all clamoring for the same job. The studio is more likely to pick one of them. This is also why this field is so competitive; it’s fun and there are a lot of other people waiting in line for a game design job, no matter how small the pay or how hard the work. By getting a proper education, you put yourself at the front of the line to get a game design job.