How to Become a Games Designer

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Got a knack for animation, programming or story creation? Do you find yourself lost in the immersive realms of video games? If so, you may be interested in finding out how to pursue a career in the video game industry. In our fourth instalment of the ‘How to Become’ series, we delve into the world of games design to discover what it takes to become a games designer.

What Do You Do as a Games Designer?

A games designer is a part of the creation and production processes of games for computers, game consoles, mobile phones/tablets, arcade or online. Your role in the team will depend on your expertise and experience.

Within a large company, programmers will look at elements such as the graphics, network, engine, toolchains or AI within game development, while designers look into the visual design and story to bring the game to life. However, if you are part of a small independent games company, the roles of developer and designer most likely will overlap.

Working with your teams, you will work to bring a game to fruition, working from the initial concepts up to the finishing touches. This process can take up to several years, even with the team of professionals. That is because there are several steps within games design from animating characters and objects within the game’s world to testing and editing.

As a games designer, your roles may include (and are not limited to):

  • Designing a system code with the use of programming languages like C#
  • Developing designs or initial game concepts
  • Game scripts and storyboards
  • Creating visual aspects of a game to pitch concepts- may include 2D or 3D modelling
  • Creating and/or monitoring audio for gameplay
  • Conducting code reviews for quality checks and recording/fixing issues

Should you progress to a senior role, you may do less of the groundwork and take on the responsibility of the following tasks:

  • Technical strategy and devising plans on how the concept can sell in the market
  • Resource management and managing teams to ensure objectives are met


What Is Your Expected Salary as a Games Designer?

Games designers can expect their starting salaries to be in the region of £19,000 to £25,000, depending on company, skills and location. As you progress, your pay can rise to sit within the bracket of £35,000 to £50,000. Senior roles can achieve anywhere between £55,000 to £75,000.

Of course, salary will vary depending on your role and specialism, not to mention the type/size of the company you work for and where it is based.


What Do I Need to Become a Games Designer?

First and foremost, you need to understand and have a passion for video games to drive your success within the industry. Consider what role would suit your ability and make a list of the companies you envision yourself working at; this will help you construct a goal to work towards, as well as help you determine the portfolio of work and knowledge needed to achieve this aim.

While the tasks needed to become a games designer can be self-taught, many find it difficult to enter the industry without relevant qualifications. There are many courses you may consider pursuing, including (and not limited to):

  • Software engineering
  • Computer games (Development or design)
  • Animation
  • Computer games programming
  • Games technology
  • Computer science
  • Interactive media

Previous experience within the industry can also be useful for those looking to land a role within an aspirational company. You may want to start small and work your way up to the bigger businesses so that you can use your industry knowledge and experience to impress when you land a job at your dream games development company. Also, keep an eye out for internship programmes that could be a great platform for obtaining a full-time job.

Of course, your portfolio will be an essential tool in your interview. Within this, you should demonstrate creative ideas, technical abilities and understanding of both the industry and audience.

In addition to these assets, you may also want to look toward mastering the following skill sets:

  • Programming (understanding a range of languages and software packages)
  • Teamwork
  • Self-motivation
  • Communication
  • Creative thinking
  • Sticking to deadlines, achieved through a strong sense of organisation
  • Knowledge and ideas about the future of the industry

Owning your own Mac system throughout the design course, internship and/or career would certainly be useful. The MacBook provides a powerful system that can handle large files effortlessly while allowing your work to be portable. The MacBook also runs the software packages you need with ease, allowing you to avoid any stressful tech situations when working on your games. The Mac operating systems allow you to effortlessly test your products (much more easily than a PC, where extra software will need to be downloaded). Ultimately, you will need to consider what languages and product types you will be making and this will help to inform you on which way to go when it comes to the ‘PC or Mac’ debate.

The price tags attached to Apple products are certainly pricey when you compare it in the market. This can be a big ask for students on limited budgets to invest in, even when the student discount is applied. However, you could buy a used MacBook with resellers such as MacBank. Completely and professionally refurbished, these systems are as good as new and can be obtained at reasonable price points.


Is Games Design Right for Me?

Games Design is for individuals who love to game. If you’re not an avid gamer, you may struggle to survive in this world and understand the expectations of your company and marketplace.

Of course, what role you take will depend on your talents, and working within a team of like-minded individuals can be a rewarding experience. Games development is often a casual and creative work environment, so will suit people who enjoy these types of work settings.

To excel in the industry, you need to be an innovator, helping to develop and drive forward the thriving sector with exciting new products. You will often be put under pressure to create and distribute games, so you must be a diligent and efficient worker.

If you love imaginative realms, immersive story-telling and programming, games design could certainly be a satisfying career for you.


Steps to Becoming a Games Designer:

  1. Complete a relevant degree as listed above.
  2. Get first-hand experience working on turning an idea into a finished product. Look at internship programmes to acquire the industry experience you need.
  3. Swot up on the business of games design to understand the challenges and opportunities within the sector. Remember to research viable companies that you would want to obtain interviews for. Consider reading all the relevant journals and magazines.
  4. Ensure your portfolio demonstrates the skills employers will be looking for in an employee. Your portfolio is likely to be filled with the work from your degree, so whilst studying, consider each brief as a live project.
  5. Research how to leave a lasting impression and practise your interview skills.

You may find this press conference by PlayStation games designers an interesting watch to gain a thorough insight into the industry. (just be warned- it is an hour long!)

Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below or via our social media channels. We hope you enjoyed this instalment of the ‘How to Become’ series and remember to tune in next month when we’ll be covering another creative role. If there are any industries you’d want us to cover, let us know!

Be sure to check out our other guides and share them with your friends:

How to Become a Graphic Designer

How to Become a Music Producer

How to Become a Fashion Designer