How to Become a

Video Game Designer

The complete career guide to be a Video Game Designer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $70,300
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 6.1%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute

Video game designers work to develop both indie and major video games. They create designs and write code that ultimately become the graphics, narration, movements, and characters of games. Video game designers are often dedicated gamers who love to use their talents to create games they’d want to play.

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What is a Video Game Designer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in video game designer roles:

  • Design scenes, characters, weapons, and movements for indie and major video games
  • Conduct thorough testing of game code to ensure designs are appropriately translated
  • Revise designs as necessary based on leader, tester, or focus group feedback
  • Design user interfaces alongside programmers to create easily navigable controls
  • Design major game mechanics, working with programmers to analyze the feasibility of ideas

A Day in the Life

The job of a video game designer can be quite different depending on their specific role. While there are video games that are designed by a single person, the most common method for creating a modern game is more akin to a Hollywood movie production than writing a novel single-handedly. For top-shelf titles, large teams are assembled that can contain up to 300 designers and a budget that usually numbers in the millions or tens of millions of dollars.

During a production schedule, each video game designer is assigned a specific job. Some may be involved in plot or narrative creation, while others are responsible for 3D modeling to make in-game features appear smooth and realistic. Character development, game mapping, gameplay, and user interface are just a few more examples of what a video game designer may be doing on a day-to-day basis while on the job.

As a video game designer’s career evolves, many will take on more responsibility and have more input into the actual design process, moving from a bit player who simply executes directives to one of those that dreams up a game’s central idea and gameplay mechanics. Because production schedules can be very tight, video game designers are often noted for their ability to work long hours and make sure the studio’s deadline and budget are met.

Typical Work Schedule

When it comes to a day in the life of a video game designer, there is no one-size-fits-all scenario. There are some designers that are self-employed and generally work in a freelance capacity, and then there are those that are employed by large gaming or media companies (we’ll get to that in a minute).

Those designers that work as independent contractors typically provide consulting and development services to other businesses. Some may also work to develop their own games, which they then hope to sell to large companies down the road.

A benefit of being self-employed is that you have more control over your working conditions – as in you can work from a home office in your pajamas if you want, and you don’t really answer to a boss. Some may find they need to work at their current client’s office, but often the choice is up to the developer.

Most video game designers work full-time schedules, primarily during normal business hours. However, overtime may be required on occasion to meet production deadlines.

Employees, on the other hand, have less autonomy about where, when and how they work. Employees will typically work in an office environment, either in a cubicle or their own office. They work 40 hours a week generally, but those hours may change from time to time. When a new game is being released, as an example, an employee may be asked to work overtime and on weekends to help the team meet critical deadlines.

Another significant difference is that those designers who are employees may not earn extra pay for extra work, while the independent contractor can earn significant overtime working during busy periods.

Gaming is Big Business

Video games have actually been round since the 1950s when computer scientists began creating simple games as part of their research. The development of these games remained a hobby for the most part until the 1970s when the first video arcades opened. In the 1980s video games really went mainstream when technology helped arcade games move into the home.

Today, the gaming market has absolutely exploded thanks to the growth of smartphones and the internet. What was once just a quiet hobby by a handful of scientists is now a $120 billion dollar industry. Are you ready to be a part of it?

Typical Employers

Video game designers may work as independent contractors working throughout the year for various companies. More often than not, designers are employed by major video production companies like Namco, Activision, Sega, Nintendo, Microsoft, or Sony. There are also smaller game development companies that release lower-budget games that also need designers.

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How To Become a Video Game Designer

In previous years, video game designers may not have needed specific education to land a job, but recent times have seen remarkable growth within the industry. Most employers these days want video game designers to hold bachelor’s degrees in design, video game design, or video game programming. Video game designers may also major in software engineering, computer science, or another related field, as it’s important for designers to have artistic skills as well as the ability to code proficiently.

Another important qualification is experience—nearly all designers are also active players, exploring new titles and staying up-to-date with industry trends and software advancements. For many, it is a pre-existing passion for video games that leads to a career in video game design. Playing the games is not only a source of entertainment—it helps young designers better understand game structure and the mechanics at play in a typical video game.

For better chances to find employment as a video game designer, the intersection of technical training and experience is key. Many hone their craft by designing games on their own to add to a portfolio of work. In addition, local video game design clubs give the opportunity for feedback about a person’s design and to learn how others approach a game project, thus giving a wide diversity of video game design knowledge and ability.

Video Game Designer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Video Game Designer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Video Game Designer's can make an average annual salary of $70,300, or $34 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $47,660 or $23 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #196 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Video Game Designer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Video Game Designers

  • 1.9%   Doctorate
  • 12%   Masters
  • 45%   Bachelors
  • 9%   Associates
  • 18.4%   College
  • 10.7%   High School
  • 3%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Video Game Designer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 3,900 jobs for a total of 68,300 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 6.1% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #368 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Video Game Designers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Self-employed workers 35,300 300 0%
Computer systems design and related services 3,800 800 1%
Software publishers 3,200 900 1%

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