It’s easy to understand why video game design can sound like a dream job for many people. This profession nurtures and values creativity, and demands from you to have a vision. Plus, the job pays well. Imagine having a chance to invent new games and get paid top dollar for it as well. However, becoming a game designer isn’t that easy — you need proper education, skills, creativity, experience, and a bit of luck. If you got your heart set on becoming a video game designer, you need to understand that you will need to invest a lot of your time and work in your dream.
Now, how much time exactly you will need to invest to achieve your goal depends mostly on your professional and educational background. However, even though becoming a video game designer requires a lot of work, you shouldn’t be discouraged. After all, the best things in life always demand sacrifice and hard work. So if you are really determined to become a video game designer, nothing can stop you.
Just as with other ambitions in life, the most important thing you need is passion that will make your dream come true. So if you got the will and determination, you already did half of your job. Now, the other half of your job will be to read this article and follow all of our instructions. We will walk you through each step you need to take to become a great video game designer. So let’s start!
Starting With the Basics: What Is Video Game Design?
We have to start with the basics here because sometimes even people who want to become video game designers are not that sure about what things the profession includes. So let’s get clear about those things first. The process of a video game design includes coming up with a concept of the game, defining the genre of the game, creating the storyline(s), designing characters, figuring out the featured modes, and communicating with all other experts that are working on the project.
As a game designer, you will need to explain to game developers exactly what you want the game to be all about — you need to be able to provide other people on your team with specific instructions. You need to know how to present your idea to other experts. You need to create a concept for a game that would be original, popular, that can bring money to your company, and great gaming experience to the players. You need to be original, creative, and extremely precise with the instructions you give to other people that are working on your game.
Besides, depending on the type of game you are creating, you will have to coordinate your work with gaming developers, animation specialists, character concept artists, environment concept artists, composers, voice-over artists, audio and video editors, scriptwriters, and marketing specialists. So coming up with a fantastic idea and having a great vision is not enough — you will need to able able to explain your vision to others, and to some extent, even coordinate the work of other experts on your team. So to do all of those things successfully, you will need certain skills and proper education. Now let’s talk about that!
What Do You Need to Have and Acquire to Become a Video Game Designer?
Being a video game designer is fun and rewarding but also demanding. Besides knowing about your own profession, you will need to know a bit about the area of expertise of every other person on your team. You need to know a bit about video game development, about visual arts, about sound management, and even marketing. You need to be able to communicate with all game artists on your team and explain to them exactly what you need from them.
Also, you need to know what are game programmers capable of making, coding, and animating. Besides, you need to know how much each of your demands would cost so that you can keep your vision realistic. So you will need insight into the economy, the gaming industry basis, and marketing to know which projects are appropriate for your company’s financial abilities. Now, certain skills and abilities make you more suitable for this job. Let’s see what they are.
Skills and Abilities
Now, before we start talking about the details, let’s make one thing clear — skills are things that can be learned, while abilities are things you are born with. So to be a video game designer, you need the following abilities:
- Creative thinking and storytelling
- Visual artistic expression
- Being Imaginative
- Precisely verbalizing your ideas and visions
- Innovative thinking
Now, let’s move on to the skills. To become a video game designer, you will need to have the following set of skills:
- Design skills
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Understanding the gaming trends and video game industry in general
The list of needed skills is not that frightening since even if you don’t currently have some of those skills, you know that you can acquire them. However, when you take a look at the list of needed abilities, you might feel a bit scared. What does it mean if you don’t have some of the needed abilities? Should you give up then? Not at all! The great thing about the relation between talents and success is that talents are not a big part of the success. The biggest part of any success is practice and hard work. So even if you have just a bit of a certain talent, you can fill everything that’s missing with hard work.
Practice fills the gaps between different abilities, so you can mend even those things that you lack naturally. The moral of the story here is — even if you lack some of the abilities, try to dig up a small trace of that ability in you and nurture and water it with hard work. Eventually, that small trace of the ability will grow into a stunning tree of success. Now, let’s move on to the other things you need to become a videogame designer.
Game Designer Education Requirements
To be a video game designer, you will need proper education, meaning an education that is closely related to computer sciences, visual arts, and game programming. The ideal educational background for game design would be computer science schools, graphics design programs, game design schools, visual arts, and software development academies. To be a video game designer, you need to have a proper insight into three main things:
- Visual Arts (Game arts)
If you don’t have any knowledge about computer science, you need to solve that issue immediately — see it as your first big step towards your achieving your dreams. So get enrolled in some software development degree programs or computer science academies. Besides that, it would be great if you would enroll in some game design programs, graphic design, and even art courses. Afterward, take a few courses on creative writing, it will help your career a lot. So when you acquire the proper education, it will be time to put all that you’ve learned into practice. At this point, you will know the theory. Let’s talk about applying what you have learned now.
Practice Makes Perfect
We can say that video game design is one part art, one part of computer science. But also, we wouldn’t be wrong if we would say that video game design is a craft! Every craft is based on two things — vision and a lot of practice. Every piece of art, every product of creativity, features a form that is born out of creative vision; but its bones, skin, foundation, and stability come from the hard work. So the vision is potential, and practice is actuality.
Now, after getting the proper education, you need to start designing games! Don’t wait for your first job fresh out of the academy, college, or short course — things don’t work that way in the gaming industry. You need to start making your own games immediately. That’s the only way of truly learning your craft. There is no other option. Will your first games be terrible? Probably, yes, and that’s completely normal. Don’t expect yourself to make killer games immediately. First of all, you will not have a budget for complex games. You need to look at your first projects as methods of polishing your skills, learning how to do the job, and slowly building your portfolio. Now, let’s talk about the challenges you will have along the way.
While You Are Learning: Organizing Your Time and Environment
When you acquire proper education, you will enter a certain limbo — you’ll need to practice to apply for your first job, and you can’t apply for other jobs because you need time to practice. So it’s clear that here you need a great time and financial management to achieve your goal. What are your options? Let’s see how can you solve this situation.
- Getting a loan — the upside is that you will have a lot of time to make your portfolio; the downside is that’s it extremely risky from a financial point of view.
- Having a part-time job v the upside is the lack of financial risk; the downside is less time for practice.
- Be a game designer volunteer — the upside is that you will have time to practice and even get some experience; the downside is that you will need some luck to find such an opportunity.
As we have seen, this situation can be resolved in a few ways, but none of them is ideal. However, beginnings are always the hardest, and this part shouldn’t discourage you. As soon as you complete your first portfolio, the hardest part shall be over.
The Experience: Getting That First Job
So you got the education, you found time to make your first portfolio, and now you’re ready to get a job at an entry-level position. This step requires a lot of persistence. The gaming industry is highly competitive, and even though the job market is full of jobs for gaming development and video game design jobs, it’s not easy to get them. There are a lot of experts from these fields that can easily claim many available positions. But don’t let this scare you off! Invest your energy and determination in your job hunt, and your efforts will eventually pay off. Let’s take a look at what steps you need to cover here.
- Being on a constant lookout for entry-level positions (explore all employment websites, social networks, adds, Linkedin, etc.)
- Writing a professional CV
- Write a professional Motivation Letter
- Try to acquire a letter of recommendation from your professors or mentors
- Make an outstanding portfolio
- Build your website
- Advertise yourself
- Contact game companies directly, even if they are not looking for new employees
- Never give up
The job hunt can sometimes get frustrating, seem hard, or even depressing. But never stop being persistent, and don’t lose hold on your dream. It’s true that finding that first job without experience can sometimes come down to luck. However, you are on a constant lookout, and if you advertise yourself, you will lead a job eventually. Since all of this stress can take a toll on your emotional state and wellbeing, you should approach the job hunt properly.
Trying to land your first job in game design can be stressful, so besides a great CV, you will also need the right mindset to get through this period. So how should you approach this problem? First of all, you need to understand that landing the first job might take some time. Then, you need to understand that if you don’t find a job in the first few months that not all is lost. The key here is motivation. Do whatever inspires you to stay motivated during the job hunt. You need to have a positive and healthy approach, combined with a lot of motivation. Also, you will need something to take your mind off the stress while you are waiting for replies from gaming companies. So what can you do while you wait, and how should you understand this process?
- Invest your time and focus on every application, but once you send it, don’t think about it anymore.
- Try to understand the job hunt as a long process that leaves you time to do other things.
- Fill your free time with practicing and hobbies.
- Try to make more video games — it will help your skills, your mental state, and your profession.
Also, try to understand that there are other options besides landing a job in a company, and consider them as well. During your waiting period, try to make a small game in your own production. Contact your friends and colleagues that would like to work on a project with you and try to make your own, but the more complex game. That kind of thing could be a great advertising strategy — you could promote the game on your website and let employers see your abilities.
Also, you can always try to acquire funding for more complicated and bigger projects. Of course, something like that requires a lot of luck, and it’s not that easy to get. But since you are already waiting for a job, and don’t have better things to do, why not? You can give it a try, just for fun. Maybe it works out, who knows. There are many great startup websites where you can present your vision to potential investors.
Managing Your Expectations
Before we say goodbye, we want to point out one more thing out — you need to manage your expectations. Getting into the world of video game design doesn’t mean that your first job will be designing the craziest RPG ever. We mean, it can happen, but it most likely will not. No matter how talented you are, you first need to have a chance to demonstrate your abilities to prove your talents. Be ready to go through a lot of small projects before you land an impressive one. After all, when you finally get your dream project, it will all be worth it, all the time, all the work, all the hardships.
As we can see, becoming a video game designer is not easy; but if you manage to do it, it will pay off! This profession is extremely rewarding — it combines art, creativity, and IT with nice salaries. However, to get this dream job, you will need to invest in your education, skills, and your first solo projects. It will not be easy, but it’s all doable. It all comes down to your will, passion, and determination. If you want it bad enough, you can achieve it. If you feel like you can contribute to the gaming universe, if you feel like you have visions that you need to share with others, and if you feel like you can create original gaming concepts, you should do everything you can to make those things happen. Doing a job that you truly enjoy is a highly rewarding experience, so never give up on that.
Now, how much time will you need to complete all of the steps of becoming a video game designer? Well, it depends on a lot of factors – your current education, your talents, and even luck. It can take anywhere between a few weeks and a few years. But even if it does take a few years, will it matter if you get the job of your dreams? We would say no. So stay motivated no matter what, and don’t lose hold of your goal.