Career Choice: Video Game Designers

Career Choice: Video Game Designers
  • Opening Intro -

    Those video games you love to play are the work of video game designers.

    Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Tomb Raider, Guacamelee!, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and BioShock Infinite did not become best sellers apart from the exhaustive efforts of designer professionals.


Its a job field that did not even exist a generation ago and is one that attracts enthusiasts and artisans alike. Although a college degree is not always necessary for every position, advanced training can open doors and help you land a good-paying job.


Video game designers craft the core features of every game. These individuals may create the story lines, develop characters, employ role-playing and document everything. Designers work with production staff to ensure that the stories are interesting, compelling and complete.

A flare for the artistic, attention to detail and the ability to work independently as well as part of a team are among the attributes video game designers should possess. Designers need to balance and adjust gameplay experiences and test each video segment to ensure for a smooth story line. They come up with stories, create missions, include challenges, tie in puzzles and add other features to enhance the user experience. Designers will often provide new stories or continue a current story line in a series.


Three-quarters of all video game designers have at least an associate’s degree with more than half possessing a bachelor’s degree. About 10 percent of game designers have some college, but no degree. It is possible to find work as a video game designer with no formal training, but the best opportunities may lie with those who have completed their college education.

Most designers studied Computer Science while in college, with an emphasis on computer graphics. Related areas of study include visualization, graphics hardware, simulation, modeling, rendering, tracking and virtual environments.


Salaries for video game designers are generous and averaged $81,140 per year as of 2012 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those designers in the 10th percentile earned $43,400 per year on average, while those in the 25th percentile averaged $61,300 per year as of 2012. The median income for video game designers was $81,100. Those designers in the 75th percentile could expect to earn $101,800 per year on average, while top pay averaging $119,400 was enjoyed by those in the 90th percentile.

By state, salaries for video game designers ranged from $97,900 in Maryland to $59,400 in Iowa. Other states with above national norm salaries included Virginia, Massachusetts, Alaska and Connecticut. On the other end of the spectrum, lower wage states included Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Montana.

Job Outlook

After growing rapidly early on, the job outlook for video game designer has slowed. The BLS is indicating a 3 to 9 percent increase from 2010 to 2020. That’s below the 14 percent increase expected for all job fields. As of 2010, the BLS counted 210,000 people employed in the field. Expect better opportunities for the most exceptional designers going forward.


O*Net OnLine: Summary Report for: 15-1199.11 – Video Game Designers

US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Working so Others Can Play: Job in Video Development

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Categories: Career Planning