Do Video Game Designers Need a Degree?
Many avid gamers decide to become video game designers to turn their favorite hobby into a fun, rewarding career.
Since gaming is such a challenging and competitive industry, hopefuls have a much higher chance of finding work in this field if they complete a formal education program that teaches them the required skills for the job.
What Do Video Game Designers Do?
As the name suggests, video game designers come up with unique and creative ideas for console, computer, and mobile device games. Designers develop various concepts and plans that ensure a fun, engaging, and challenging gaming experience for users, including:
- Video game plot, theme, and setting
- Storylines detailing how the characters interact and what obstacles they face
- Rules of the game and the number of levels
- Character designs and dialogue
Developing a Design Plan
After brainstorming all these details, game designers lay out a detailed design plan, write short scripts and stories for each character, and put together a storyboard to present to the rest of the development and design team.
Next, video game designers observe demonstrations of the game to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Quality assurance testers play through the game, note any hiccups or glitches in the software or programming, and deliver an overall report on the game’s look, pacing, difficulty, and enjoyability.
At this stage, the designer and the rest of the team will then make any necessary adjustments to streamline the finished product before it becomes available for purchase.
What Skills Do Game Designers Need?
Of course, video game designers must be creative and imaginative enough to develop innovative storylines, objectives, and characters for every game. However, they also need the following skills, knowledge, and abilities:
- Organizational Skills: Game designers need to arrange their ideas into a structured, cohesive storyline or character arc, then fit those details into a doable design plan.
- Presentation and Teamwork Abilities: Since game designers are part of a larger team, they must be able to communicate their ideas clearly and collaborate with their coworkers throughout the development process.
- Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills: Designers must find solutions to any issues that arise during game development.
- Mathematics and Programming Knowledge: Video game designers need basic math and programming skills so they can understand how to translate their ideas into workable and functional code.
- Graphic and Interface Design Skills: After creating rough sketches and drawings of their game ideas, designers use digital software to develop the exact color palette, look, and style they want for the video game’s characters and settings.
Educational Requirements for Video Game Designers
Aspiring designers often learn foundational video game design principles in high school clubs and computer tech classes. Once they graduate, they might take a trade school course in video game design to gain a more in-depth understanding of the profession and start building their game design portfolios.
Is a Bachelors Degree Needed?
While certificate and diploma holders might be able to get an entry-level assistant job, most video game development companies require their designers to have a bachelor’s degree. Hopefuls often get a bachelor of science (BS) degree in computer science or programming, software development or engineering, or mobile app development.
However, you might also qualify for a video game design job if you have a bachelor of arts degree (BA) in an arts and design discipline, such as:
- Media and Film
- Graphic Design
- Multimedia Communication
- Fine Arts
- Web Development
- Interactive Media Design
Game Design Degrees
Some schools even offer BA degrees in game design or interactive entertainment. During these degree programs, students learn all the skills and information they need to create a complete video game design plan that is ready to go into development.
Courses for students in these programs typically include:
- Video Game Coding and Programming
- Character Rigging and Generation
- Video Game Level Design
- Digital Imaging
- Lighting and Texture Mapping
- 2D and 3D Modeling
In these programs, students get to see the video game development process in action and work with experienced designers, programmers, and testers to create designs and turn them into playable games.
Usually, midterm and final exam projects for video game design students include creating and presenting a fully-developed design plan based on a unique video game idea. In addition to filling graduation requirements, these designs are often the first entries into an aspiring game designer’s portfolio.
Like photographers, makeup artists, interior designers, and other artists, video game designers need an organized portfolio of their previous work in order to qualify for jobs. Employers review design portfolios to determine whether an applicant’s video game design style is a suitable fit for the company.
Setting Up a Portfolio
Degree programs are one of the best, most effective ways to develop video game designs that could impress a potential employer. As part of the curriculum, instructors often teach students how to set up and organize their portfolios to suit industry standards, increasing their chances of getting hired at their chosen company after graduation.
Earning Your Video Game Design Degree
If you’re a creative individual who wants to turn your art into an interactive experience that others can enjoy, a video game design career could be perfect for you.
Check your local trade and vocational schools, universities, and community colleges to see which institutions offer BA degrees in video game design or related fields like digital art, programming, and graphic design.