If you're a dedicated gaming enthusiast with creative ideas and a good understanding of how games are structured, a game design career may sound like a dream job. However, it takes more than just a lot of hours logged in front of your game console to qualify for a game design job. In nearly all cases, it takes a college degree in game design or computer science.
A little bit of carpal tunnel syndrome might prove that you're dedicated, but an accredited degree from a video game design college shows potential employers that you've got the technical know-how you'll need.
Career Tracks at Video Game Design Schools
Besides the usual questions you should ask yourself when choosing a video game design college—Is the program accredited listed with other accredited colleges? Is the faculty reputable? Do they offer student financial aid?—an important consideration when researching schools is whether they provide training in the career track that interests you most. Many video game design schools enable you to specialize in one or more of the following:
- Audio Design: Game audio design is an up-and-coming field, with home audio systems rapidly improving in quality and decreasing in price. Good in-game audio contributes to a truly immersive gaming experience.
- Game Design: Nearly every video game design college offers curriculum in game design, but what does that mean, exactly? A game designer is responsible for a game's overall creative vision, from the story and characters to the gameplay and level design.
- Game Programming: If you prefer to take a more technical angle, game programming might be the field for you. Game programmers, like other types of software engineers, take the game designers' specifications and bring them to life using computer code, game engines and application programming interfaces.
- Game Production: Being a game producer is like being a project manager for the game design process. Video game design schools that offer a game production track will teach you how to manage diverse teams of designers and programmers, so that everyone can effectively collaborate to get the project done on time and under budget.
- Game/Multimedia Art: Those with an artistic bent can focus on the visual aspects of a game such as character design or environment design, using both traditional hand-drawn skills and digital art software.
Video game design programs are available ranging from the diploma or certificate level to the master's level, but the most commonly offered programs lead to an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree. If your goal is a more technical career such as game programming, then you'll most likely need a bachelor's degree. In contrast, some graphic design, game art or web game design jobs may only require a certificate or associate's degree.
What Else Will I Learn?
Besides your game design curriculum, a degree program will offer you the opportunity to take courses in related subjects that enhance your understanding of the game industry. Some typical examples include:
- Critical Game Studies
- Games and Society
- Interactive Storytelling
- Business of Gaming
Good video game design schools will also include a range of career services, including career counseling, portfolio workshops, industry networking events, and job and internship placement. By the time you finish your game design education, you'll have the knowledge you need to apply for entry-level jobs in the industry and start earning your video game designer's salary.