How to become a game designer

11 May 2021
Students working on a computer at DePaul University

What is a game designer?

A game designer is a creative professional who specializes in video game development. They implement design principles and artistic skills to produce a digital interactive experience, either for educational or entertainment purposes. This profession is rewarding, exciting and has countless job prospects. Video games represent the largest and most successful industry in the history of entertainment. Gaming software products are complex and projects time-consuming, driving a high demand for qualified game designers. If you’d like to know how to become a game designer, read on.

Should I become a game designer?

As a game designer, you might work on your own projects or those that have been commissioned by a games company. Once you graduate, you could choose to either find employment with an organization, set up your own games company, or hire out your design services to others on a freelance basis. Whichever route you take, you’ll be responsible for using your creativity to design gaming experiences for a wide range of platforms and devices. As a successful game designer, you’ll need a genuine interest in the industry and a degree in game design. You’ll also need to be dedicated and have a keen eye for detail.

How to become a game designer

Although many studios accept and employ computer science majors that attended a traditional four-year institution, aspiring designers will benefit from putting in the extra time to develop their knowledge and experience. Stay on top of gaming trends, play as many games as possible from all genres, and develop your own small projects.

A degree in game design

A degree in game design is your first step to a successful career in this exciting industry. Game design degree programs tend to be career-focused, teaching the fundamentals and details of game design. Your program will prepare you to work in computer gaming and interactive media fields as critical thinkers, storytellers, entrepreneurs and leaders in the gaming industry. Professionals and academics will teach you about the whole game development cycle, from ideation to documentation, prototyping, implementation, iteration and testing. Game design qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree will prepare you for a future in the industry.

Skills

Although many aspiring game designers are already seasoned programmers by nature, the profession offers plenty of opportunities for graduates with other skill sets. Technical functionality represents only one component of a game – writers are needed to produce story and dialogue, voice actors are needed to bring characters to life, visual artists are needed to develop concept work, etc. Having a wide variety of creative and artistic skills allows a game designer to work in nearly any level of a studio. Other game designer skills that may be required are IT, problem solving, teamwork, time management, communication, organization, attention to detail, and creativity.

Experience

The first step to becoming a designer is to truly understand the gaming medium. Major studios, such as Blizzard Entertainment, mandate that all employees, from the CEO down to the receptionist, play games on a regular basis. Spending time playing as many different games as possible will allow you to learn about their workings. Think critically about what you like and dislike about different gameplay – this will help when you come to design your own.

Portfolio

The best way for a designer to showcase their skills and experience is through a portfolio of personal projects. It can be difficult to know what to put into a portfolio when you’re just getting started – start small and build up, replacing your first projects with improved work once you have it. Any experience you gain in your degree program, work placement, or in your spare time can be placed into your portfolio, ready to show prospective employers and collaborators.

Although many games are coded from scratch, an effective way to experiment with ideas and generate working prototypes is through working with engines. These are pre-built frameworks that come bundled as a program with a user interface, for designers to build their ideas.

How long does it take to become a game designer?

Game designers usually have a bachelor's degree in game design, which takes four years to complete. After you graduate, however, you can begin work right away. Alternatively, some students choose to progress to postgraduate study to further hone their skills before entering the workplace.

A game designer career in the USA

Game designers are sought after by gaming companies in the USA. Common career areas include:

  • Computer graphics
  • Animation
  • Game development
  • Commercial production
  • Film production
  • Software engineering
  • Television production

Study game design abroad in the USA

DePaul University is a respected institution with high academic standards and a focus on inclusivity, personalism, and professionalism. At DePaul, we place equal importance on your success as a student and on community spirit. We help you to gain confidence and enjoy the whole university experience.

DePaul's College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers a great opportunity for students to study game design at undergraduate and graduate levels. CDM features more than 20 research laboratories and centers, including the Virtual and Augmented Design Lab (VAD), which gives students hands-on experience to research and create experimental games. With quality academics, expert faculty, and state-of-the-art learning centers, it's not a surprise that DePaul's game design programs are highly ranked in the USA. The Princeton Review (2021) named DePaul's undergraduate program as #41 in the country, and the graduate program is ranked #25.

Global Gateway Program

Many students studying abroad choose to access a program that provides extra support as they settle into the USA.  While you study the Global Gateway Program, you will have full support from experienced tutors and a dedicated student services advisor. You will learn the study skills such as group working, research methods and time management, as well as improving your English language proficiency.

Upon successful completion of the Global Gateway Program, you can progress to your undergraduate games design degree program at DePaul University.  Also, if you meet the entry requirements, you may enroll in the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Game Design through direct entry. For postgraduate students interested in furthering their game design skills, DePaul offers a Game Design Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree by direct admission.

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