The role of Game Designer is one of the most misunderstood in the games industry. It is the job of a game designer to create a core vision for a game, and to ensure that all of the game features are consistent in delivering that vision. Game designers typically work alongside all other members of the development team: programmers, artists, producers, level designers, testers, and more. It is the game designer’s responsibility to create the basic rules for a game, to ensure that these rules make sense and are balanced, and that the game is ultimately fun to play.
Most game design jobs require completion of a degree in game design or a related technology field. Check out the programs below which offer free information:
The video game sector has seen consistently strong growth for many years, and projections for future growth continue to look good. This also makes the games market very competitive, and those seeking to enter the industry must be at the top of their game.
Game Designer Job Responsibilities
The duties of a game designer can vary greatly depending on the nature of the project that they are working on.
Most game designers will be responsible for creating and tuning the rules of gameplay. In the absence of a dedicated writer, the designer will also be responsible for creating the characters, world, and narrative elements of the game. In collaboration with a Senior or Lead Artist, the game designer will create the visual look and feel of the setting in which the game takes place.
Game designers will work closely with programmers to ensure that the features they would like to see implemented are possible, practical, and worthwhile. They also solicit feedback from testers to ensure that features are functioning properly and in proper balance.
Perhaps most of all, designers work closely with dedicated level designers to ensure that all assets of the game create the type of experience that the game designer expected. Often, game designers will design levels themselves when other duties do not require their attention.
Game Designer Training and Education Requirements
There is no industry standard of education or work credentials that one must possess to be a game designer. Most studios will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher, as well as an impressive portfolio. Usually game designers are hired after they have acquired some game industry experience. There are schools that offer degrees specifically in Game Design or similar programs, but these are so recent that they have not become industry-standard.
The portfolio that game designers present must showcase their skills in a variety of applicable areas. Previous work creating complete games as part of a team of developers is ideal. Beyond that, it should demonstrate the game designer’s ability to clearly communicate game ideas to others, and may include samples of rules explanations, game pitches, game design documents, level descriptions, character profiles, and so forth.
Because game designers interact with so many different areas of development, it is frequently helpful to possess skills that are not strictly design-oriented. Depending on where one applies and what the project’s focus is, these will be of varying value. Skill in programming or scripting is almost always beneficial. Drawing, traditional art, or graphic design skills are also of use. If the project requires it, many times the game designer will be in charge of writing dialogue and text for the game when no writer is available.
Game Designer Salary and Wages
Recent salary surveys within the US report professional game designers earning an average of $69,000 per year. This is slightly less than the game industry average of $75,000. Such a discrepancy is to be expected in a position like game designer, which is one of the most sought after and largely misunderstood roles in game development. Within the industry overall, there has been a marginal 4% drop in average salary when compared to the previous year. However designers’ income has grown 3% over the same time period.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Game Designer Certifications
There are no formal certifications for game designers. Instead, prospective employers review a candidate’s education and portfolio. There are no legal requirements for employment in a game designer capacity.
Game Designer Professional Associations
There are a number of professional associations for game designers, most notably the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). The IGDA is a global non-profit network of game developers, including game designers. IGDA has a presence at numerous industry events, and has close ties with Game Developer magazine.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is a US-based company dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of the video game industry. ESA if often involved in legal cases regarding the status of games as a form of entertainment media, and owns and operates the well-known Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3).
The Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is a self-regulating agency that assigns ratings for video game content. They also work to ensure standards in advertising, enforce sufficient privacy protections, and generally ensure that the market is safe and accessible for all forms of interactive entertainment.