A comprehensive guide to in-demand roles in film and games

23minutes read


There are many reasons why people pursue a career in film and video games—it’s a creative, dynamic, challenging, and rewarding industry that gives artists opportunities to work on world-class projects while earning a regular income. 

The film and games industry is a highly collaborative environment, with a large team of people taking on many different roles to ensure the job gets done. A single shot or asset will often travel through numerous artists and multiple departments before being finalized. 

So, where do you fit into the production pipeline? How would you like to contribute, creatively and technically, to a film or game? In our comprehensive guide, we explore some of the most popular positions in film and games to help you determine which role suits you best in terms of your interests, career aspirations, and skillset.

General skills and knowledge required to work in film and games

"The art challenges the technology, and the technology inspires the art."
- Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. 

Although each department within a film or video game production is unique—employing different techniques, software, and skillsets—there are some more general skills and knowledge that every artist within the industry should possess, no matter which role you end up pursuing.

General knowledge required by film and game artists:

  • Film and game pipeline and production processes
  • Art and design theories and principles (color, light, composition, line, shape, space, depth, style, etc.)
  • Storytelling and visual narrative techniques
  • Visual language and principles of lighting (direction, quality, color, environment, etc.) and cinematography (shot framing, composition, camera angles, etc.) and how they evoke specific moods or aesthetics
  • General photography terms and practices (depth of field, shutter speed, lighting, aperture, composition, and framing) 
  • Keep up-to-date with new technology, trends, and styles in the industry

General skills required by film and game artists:

  • Ability to work well in teams
  • Excellent communication, including how to give and receive constructive feedback
  • Creative problem-solving skills and being able to identify and resolve creative, technical, and ethical issues
  • Strategic thinking and organizational skills to be able to work under pressure in a fast-paced environment to meet tight deadlines and rapid turnaround times

Let’s dive into some of the most in-demand roles in film and games!


3D Modelling: Shaping Virtual Worlds

“3D modelling is a rewarding career where you get to bring concepts and 2D imagery to life, sculpting personality and story into characters, objects, and environments. Our role is vital to so many films and games—shaping worlds and the heroes and villains who traverse them.”
- Bryan Bentley, 3D Modeller (Rango, The Golden Compass, The Incredible Hulk)

3D modelers are world builders who help flesh out scenes in a film or game, digitally sculpting the environments, props, and characters of a production. 

Common interests of a 3D modeler 

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that 3D modelers commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • World-building and/or character development 
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Fantasy and mythology
  • Space and science-fiction
  • Sculpture and art history
  • Travel and exploration
  • Architecture 

Role of a 3D modeller  

Using a brief or concept art as a foundation, 3D modelers digitally craft and refine 3D characters, creatures, props, vehicles, and sets, collectively known as assets.

The 3D modeling process commonly begins with 3D modelers receiving a scan of a prop, character, or vehicle either directly from a live-action shoot or from external sources like MegaScans (a website offering a diverse range of pre-scanned generic assets).

As an asset takes shape, it must be presented in a turntable so its look can be properly inspected and approved or given notes by relevant supervisors or clients.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, a 3D model must also be highly functional and compatible with downstream departments and their tools. This involves tasks ranging from optimizing geometry (preventing undue strain on an artist's scene) to more complex requests. For instance, a model may also need to be under a certain polygon count, or it may need to be constructed in a way that will optimize the deformation and animation process. 

christophjurgens-3dmodeling3D model by Christoph Jurgens

What does a 3D modeler do?

  • Produces high-quality organic and hard surface CG models (photo-real, stylized, low-poly, high-poly, etc.) in line with brief and/or reference material 
  • Presents work in a turntable-style environment with acceptable lighting for progress reviews (including scale reference)
  • Reviews and revises models based on client, lead, supervisor, or director feedback
  • Ensures consistency of UV mapping and polygonal subdivisions 
  • Facilitates the creation of high-quality photo-real texture maps
  • Creates “hold out” geo (aka matchmove geo), which is not necessarily seen in the final render but is used by downstream departments, such as Lighting and FX, to be able to generate more realistic outcomes in their work
  • Research and referencing to improve the realism of each model

What skills does a 3D modeler need? 

Modelers require a mix of technical, creative, and interpersonal skills. Although the role is highly creative, it is also quite technical, and modelers must be able to determine scale, optimize geometry and renders, and troubleshoot software issues and bugs.

Skills and knowledge a 3D modeler should have:

  • Ability to interpret and follow reference material to create clean, detailed, and accurate models (demonstrated via showreel) 
  • Strong polygonal subdivision modeling skills
  • Real-world understanding of proportion, depth, scale, and physical space
  • Highly efficient UV layout experience using a UDIM workflow
  • General knowledge of anatomy and zoology
  • Experience processing and working with scans (Megascans, LiDAR scans, etc.)

Position of a 3D modeler in the production pipeline

The creation of 3D assets begins early in a production and is distributed downstream to almost every other department in the pipeline.

3D models can be rigged and then animated, placed as stationary objects in a scene by a layout artist, simulated or destroyed by an FX artist, and used for shadows or holdouts by a lighting artist.

If they don’t create textures themselves, 3D modelers will work especially closely with texture artists and look development artists (aka surfacing artists) who will add realism and detail to their model through texture maps and shaders.

3D modeling software

3D modelers use a range of software for modeling, sculpting, and texturing. They may also be required to use software that processes scans and photogrammetry.

Software used by professional 3D modelers:

  • Maya
  • ZBrush
  • Blender
  • Mari
  • Substance Painter
  • Unreal Engine (and other real-time engines)
  • Houdini

3D modeling jobs in the industry

3D modelers are sought after in film, games, and virtual production, as well as beyond the creative industries in areas such as product design and 3D visualization. With the demand for production-ready assets, 3D modelers can also sell their models on places like Unreal Marketplace or get a job creating assets for dedicated asset sites like KitBash3D.

3D modeling career paths: 

  • Environment artist - Environment artists design digital worlds for films and video games, drawing inspiration from concepts, real-world references, and scans. They also populate these environments with assets known as "set dressing."
  • Character artist - 3D character artists transform illustrations and concept art or scans of live-action actors into digital 3D models of humans, animals, or creatures with a framework that can be rigged for animation, including anatomical limbs.
  • Texture artist - Texture artists specialize in creating the surface qualities (colors, patterns, sheens, etc.) that cover the outside of a 3D model, including skin, scales, hair, textiles, and geographic and architectural finishes.

mission-to-minerva-winner-environmentAn environment created by artist Thomas Ressuge using KitBash3D's Mission to Minerva Kit, made up of modular assets.

What’s the difference between creating 3D models for film vs. video games?

The main difference between creating 3D models for film versus video games is the level of detail required.

Film and TV can afford higher polygon counts (basic units of 3D geometry) and more complex rigs (the internal structure used for animating) because they are pre-rendered, and camera angles and moves are pre-determined.

On the other hand, game assets mostly have to render in real-time while also being built for interactivity, so they require fewer polygons for higher optimization and must be rigged with fewer joints.

How to become a 3D modeler

CG Spectrum's 3D modeling career track and Bachelor of Animation and VFX (3D modeling) will help you build solid 3D modeling and sculpting skills.

You’ll learn industry-quality asset creation, building 3D props, creatures, and environments using Maya, ZBrush, and Substance Painter, guided by industry experts. Complete your course by working on your 3D modeling portfolio under expert guidance during your final trimester.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.


3D Animation: Telling Stories Through Movement

“What I love most about animation is it's a team sport, and everything we do is about pure imagination.”
- Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation

3D animators are storytellers who breathe life into digital characters, creatures, and objects by producing their motions, gestures, and expressions one frame at a time. These frames are then strung together to form a coherent scene that tells a story.

Common interests of a 3D animator 

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that 3D animators commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • Acting and improvisation
  • Human mechanics and how things move
  • Storytelling
  • Dance and movement

Role of a 3D animator  

According to the actions laid out in a script, storyboard, or pre/postvis, 3D animators manipulate 3D rigged models to move through and interact with their environment (either digital or live-action) frame-by-frame.

An animator's composed movements and trajectories are input into the appropriate software to be translated into a kind of mathematical equation. These equations are then combined and rendered using a graphics processing unit that outputs a rough but legible animated scene known as a 'playblast.' Following this, supervisors, directors, and clients review the playblast for approval before it advances to the lighting department for the final render.

A recent 3D animation student reel from CGS.

What does a 3D animator do?

  • Manipulates rigged 3D models to create action and movement, transforming storyboards and previs into animated scenes
  • Interprets the narrative, characters, and scenes to inform the animation process
  • Applies motion capture to enhance performances
  • Creates keyframes to outline the major poses and movements within an animation shot
  • Manages files, animation libraries, and updates procedures documentation
  • Reviews and revises animations based on client, lead, supervisor, or director feedback
  • Integrates sound and syncing dialogue
  • Research and referencing to improve the realism of animated movements and gestures

What skills does a 3D animator need?

The role of the 3D animator requires strong technical knowledge along with a highly creative sensibility.

Skills and knowledge a 3D animator should have:

  • Ability to envision and actualize 3D iterations of two-dimensional storyboards and artwork
  • Good instinct for timing, movement, and editing cuts
  • Experience working with 3D models and rigs (provided by 3D modelers and riggers, respectively)
  • Understanding of acting techniques
  • Understanding of anatomy, how limbs move, the effect of weight, and the behavior of skin and flesh
  • Working knowledge of the laws of physics—gravity, acceleration, and the laws of energy

Great advice for beginners learning animation from professional 3D animator Mark Pullyblank.

Position of a 3D animator in the production pipeline

Animators sit in the middle of the production pipeline and typically rely on matchmove, 3D modeling, and rigging to be able to start work. In most instances, their work must be lit and rendered by the lighting department before it can be considered final.

3D animation software

3D animators use software that allows them to generate their animations, as well as tools to process motion capture footage.

Software used by professional 3D animators:

  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • After Effects
  • MotionBuilder
  • Mudbox
  • Premier
  • Cinema 4D
  • LightWave
  • Real-time engine (such as Unreal or Unity)

3D animation jobs in the industry

3D animators can work on live-action projects (VFX), fully animated projects, virtual production, and video games (all platforms). 

3D animation career paths:

Once you have established yourself as an animator, you can choose to focus on one area to further hone your skills, including:

  • Character animator - A character animator's role is to produce believable, engaging, and relatable animations—taking rigged 3D characters and instilling  ‘humanity’ through expression, pose, body language, etc., to evoke empathy in the audience or player.    
  • Creature animator - Breathing life into real-life and fantasy creatures, creature animators add nuance and personality through movements, gestures, facial expressions, and how the creature interacts (and reacts) with its environment and other characters/creatures. 
  • Previs animator - Previs artists create and block out 3D digital content that helps visualize what a scene, set, or certain actions will look like before it’s filmed, created, or finalized. They will experiment with different camera staging and rough animation using proxy and production-ready assets.

What’s the difference between animating for film vs. video games?

In video games, the role of a gameplay animator is slightly different because, along with breathing life and personality into characters and creatures, they must work in a way that makes the most of a game engine’s technology and maximizes the opportunities for gameplay and interactivity. They are also responsible for implementing NPC (non-player character) movement, performances, and behaviors, which are controlled by AI (artificial intelligence).

Impressive animations by professional Gameplay Animator Aaron Skinner (League of Geeks, Sledgehammer Games, EA Games).

How to become a 3D animator

By studying the 3D animation career track or the Bachelor of Animation and VFX (3D Animation), you’ll learn how to breathe life into digital characters using Autodesk Maya with instruction and support from professional film and game animators. Graduate with an impressive animation showreel that you’ll build with expert guidance over your final term or trimester.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.


FX: Visual Alchemy

“FX is everywhere in movies, TV, games and advertising—frosty breath, blood splatter, bullet hits, sparks, clouds, ocean extensions and splashes. You may not think the movie you’re watching has many FX, but wait for the end credits.”
- Magdalena Bisogni, VFX Producer and Recruiter

True to their name, FX artists generate digital effects and simulations that respond to the actions or the surrounding environments within a scene. These effects contribute to infusing realism, depth, and atmosphere, enhancing the overall visual impact of a shot or scene in a film or video game.

Common interests of an FX artist

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that FX artists commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • How the world works (natural sciences) and the physics behind real-world reactions (both natural occurrences and human-influenced) and how to reproduce them digitally
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Film and games 
  • Coding (but not necessarily)
  • Photography
  • Astronomy and space 

Role of an FX artist

An FX artist creates digital simulations and procedural workflows based on real-world elements or supernatural concepts that move or react under the basic laws of physics. The outcomes can range from realistic to stylised, depending on the nature of the effect and its intended application.

Their work will be reviewed by supervisors, directors, and clients before it’s approved to advance to the lighting and compositing (and sometimes animation) departments for the final render.

In addition to generating explosions, destruction, particle systems, and liquid simulations, FX artists’ responsibilities can encompass diverse tasks such as developing procedural environments, constructing basic assets, handling character FX, and solving challenging pipeline problems.

CG Spectrum's 2022 Houdini FX student showcase.

What does an FX artist do?

  • Designs and creates FX animation, procedural simulations, dynamic simulations, particle and fluid systems
  • Lights and renders FX elements and produces composites to showcase ideas and concepts
  • Assists in setting up or maintaining a library of effects presets that can be loaded and applied to multiple shots
  • Reviews and revises FX based on client, lead, supervisor, or director feedback
  • Generates and exports compatible caches across various software
  • Creates tools and code to facilitate automated workflows
  • Research and referencing real-world phenomena

What skills does an FX artist need?

FX artists require a mix of technical, creative, and interpersonal skills. 

Skills and knowledge an FX artist should have:

  • Houdini (or similar) software knowledge and experience (demonstrated via showreel)  
  • Basic 3D modeling, lighting, and rendering knowledge
  • Excellent organization skills, particularly with asset management (including naming systems)
  • Understanding of physics and natural phenomena
  • Programming and scripting skills
  • Understanding of compositing

Hear how CG Spectrum's Department Head of FX became an FX artist for film and TV.

Position of an FX artist in the production pipeline

FX artists sit in the middle of the pipeline and, depending on their assigned task(s), rely on upstream departments such as matchmove, modeling, rigging, and animation before they can properly start work on their shot. However, depending on the effect, their work determines how the animation will look, meaning animation will rely on them before they can get to work. FX artists can start testing and researching while they wait for a shot from upstream.

FX software

FX artists typically use SideFX Houdini, but it's also useful for them to know the basics of 3D modeling, lighting, and compositing tools.

Software used by professional FX artists:

  • Houdini
  • Nuke
  • Maya
  • Programming languages VEX and Python are also commonly used in FX

FX jobs in the industry

FX artists are in demand in both film (visual effects and virtual production) and video games. In the video game industry, the two main areas an FX artist will typically work on are gameplay effects (enhancing the action) and environmental effects (enhancing the overall visuals).

What’s the difference between creating FX for film vs. video games?

The main differences between FX in film and games lie in the real-time rendering nature of games versus the pre-rendered approach in film. Game FX is interactive, responding to player actions in real time and prioritizing performance, while film FX is predetermined, high-quality effects crafted during post-production to enhance cinematic storytelling. The workflows, rendering techniques, and integration with assets and narratives will differ accordingly.

FX career paths

Once you have established yourself as an FX artist, you can choose to focus on one area to further hone your skills, including:

  • Character FX artist - Character FX artists build and run simulations for the hair, cloth, skin, and muscles of 3D character assets (humans, animals, monsters, etc.) in response to their environment and how they move. They can also simulate fur, feathers, fabric, skin, fat, and rigid body dynamics.
  • FX technical director - Hybrid creative and technical operators, FX technical artists liaise between FX artists and programmer teams. They require both FX skills as well as programming knowledge to be able to problem solve between departments. 

As you progress in your career as an FX Artist, you could also choose to specialize in one specific effect element. For example, you might choose to become an expert at water simulations, fire fx, or destruction. While there is a possibility it may pigeonhole you into only being able to take jobs with that effect, it can also make you an in-demand expert in a particular field.

FX reel by FX Supervisor Alex Halstead (ILM, Method Studios, Animal Logic).

How to become an FX artist

For comprehensive training in FX, enroll in our FX career track or the Bachelor of Animation and VFX (FX). You’ll enter the dynamic world of Houdini and learn how to conjure realistic CG fire, destruction, oceans, and more using industry-standard workflows and techniques taught directly by professional FX artists. Complete your academic journey with an outstanding FX showreel developed with expert guidance and feedback during your final trimester.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.


Concept Art: Bringing Ideas to Life

“One painting changed my life. One piece of art could change yours—if you’re passionate enough.”
- Eric Wilkerson, award-winning Digital Illustrator

A concept artist’s work acts as the stylistic building blocks upon which a film, animation, or video game is built, setting the tone and mood of key sets, characters, and props through their artwork and designs. 

Common interests of a concept artist

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that concept artists commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • Drawing, sketching, and painting
  • Storytelling and world-building
  • Character development
  • Costume design
  • Set design
  • Architecture 
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Fantasy and mythology
  • Space and science-fiction
  • Travel and exploration
  • Architecture 

Role of a concept artist

Concept artists visualize the initial ideas and concepts of a film or game, bringing them to fruition for the first time. They interpret a design brief or elaborate on their own original ideas, translating them into illustrations of key characters, creatures, props, vehicles, and environments.

Concept art is often simple but expressive, serving as a foundation that will be refined and expanded upon throughout the development process based on feedback from the client and what the needs of the production are as the film or game progresses.

Aztec-Temple-Xiaoya-Lin-Concept-ArtConcept art by CG Spectrum graduate Xiaoya Lin.

What does a concept artist do?

  • Creates detailed key designs from a written or verbal brief
  • Transforms abstract concepts into visual representations
  • Uses thumbnails to experiment with different compositions and arrangements of elements and offers options to the client
  • Refines and expands initial concepts as a project progresses
  • Reviews and revises concepts based on client, lead, supervisor, or director feedback
  • In-depth research and referencing
  • Assists in the creation of marketing materials and assets

What skills does a concept artist need?

Concept artists must possess a vivid imagination and strong communication skills to be able to transform the ideas of others into graphic imagery.

Skills and knowledge a concept artist should have:

  • Strong drawing skills—both technical and creative—including the ability to draw in a particular style for a variety of genres
  • Knowledge of anatomy and zoology, costuming, physical settings, and history-related references 
  • Solid awareness of facial expression, pose, posture, gesture, and movement
  • Keen understanding of how to use visual language to impact mood and tone
  • Ability to clearly and concisely explain one’s vision and artistic choices
  • Basic 3D modeling and sculpting knowledge (e.g., Blender and ZBrush) can also prove useful

Position of a concept artist in the production pipeline

Concept art is one of the first art assets required in film and video game productions. Approved concept art will continue to be used as reference throughout a production, and concept artists are often asked to elaborate on or produce new concept work as the show progresses.

Concept art is useful for almost every downstream department, especially 3D modeling.

oliverharbour-tilisatonement-digital-illustrationConcept art by CGS graduate, Oliver Harbour, who has gone on to work for clients including Upper Deck and Monumental.

Concept art software

Concept artists use traditional and technological approaches to create their art, often working in 2D and 3D. Some prefer sketching initial drawings using paper, pens, and/or pencils. However, the final artwork is generally delivered digitally using a tablet and stylus.

Software used by professional concept artists:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Blender
  • Zbrush
  • Clip Studio
  • Procreate

Concept art jobs in the industry

Concept artists can work in both pre-production (before filming) and post-production film (the visual effects stage), video games, and publishing. The skills of a concept artist are transferable to a wide range of roles within the broader realm of digital illustration.

Concept art career paths:

  • Character designer - Character designers depict the actions, anatomy, and costumes of characters and creatures from different perspectives that help define them. They interpret a character's personality and physical traits from a brief into an expressive illustration.
  • Environment designer - Environment designers are 2D world builders working from a design brief or script to bring an imaginary or realistic universe to life. They create a mood, express style, and provide context.
  • Splash artist - Responsible for a game's loading screens, splash artists help keep players immersed while a game loads. It can include a game's logo, title screen, and other key images (game characters, sets, etc.) shown in between levels and challenges.
  • Digital illustrator - A digital illustrator creates a narrative image that tells a story, conveys an emotion or mood, or sells a concept or product. Their work can include artwork for film, elements for video games, advertisements, graphic design, book cover art, and more. 

How to become a concept artist

CG Spectrum's expert-led concept art career track and Bachelor of Digital Art (Concept Art) will help you pave the way to a career in concept art. The degree (also available as a diploma) covers creature, character, prop, environment design, matte painting, photo-bashing, and paint-over techniques. Your artwork will take shape in both 2D and 3D using the latest industry software, including Photoshop, Blender, and ZBrush.

Graduate with a concept art portfolio you can be proud of, which you will craft and curate with feedback and support from industry professionals.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.


2D Animation: A Classic Art Form Meets Modern Technology

“Animation is not the art of drawings that move, but the art of movements that are drawn.”
- Norman McLaren

2D animation is a longstanding art form that continues to entertain audiences. From traditional hand-drawn animation to modern digital techniques using specialized software, 2D animators create the illusion of movement to tell stories and evoke emotions.

Common interests of a 2D animator

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that 2D animators commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • Drawing, sketching, and painting
  • Storytelling
  • Acting and improvisation
  • Human mechanics and how things move
  • Dance

Role of a 2D animator

Guided by a script or storyboard, 2D animators illustrate frame-by-frame images that portray the movements of characters, props, or machinery within a two-dimensional environment.

2D animation includes initially animating rough sketches, then refining them to line drawings, followed by layering the scenes against the backgrounds, matching the character visuals to the recorded dialogue, and, lastly, compositing to the final render.

An animator's work will be reviewed by supervisors and clients as it progresses to ensure it remains on brief, keeping in line with the rest of the project.

Katy-Perry-Cry-About-It-Later-Sykosan-2D-animationStill from Katy Perry's 'Cry About it Later' video clip animated by 2D animation filmmaker, Sykosan.

What does a 2D animator do?

  • Conceptualises, designs, and produces 2D animations, including character animations, motion graphics, and special effects, using industry-standard software
  • Helps to develop storyboards and animatics
  • Establishes artwork for the backgrounds and layouts
  • Sets up exposure sheets, divided into actions and timing, dialogues and music, animation layers, backgrounds, view perspective
  • Illustrates keyframes and produces inbetweening
  • Inking, coloring, and clean-ups
  • Sync animations with audio tracks, including dialogue, music, and sound effects
  • Reviews and revises animations based on client, lead, supervisor, or director feedback
  • Enhances animation with special effects at the post-production stage

What skills does a 2D animator need? 

2D animators need to be skilled at drawing and know how to use appropriate software.

Skills and knowledge a 2D animator should have:

  • Strong drawing skills—both technical and creative—including the ability to draw in a variety of styles and genres
  • Sound understanding of perspective and how to convey depth and distance through variations in size, overlap, and diminishing scale of objects
  • Solid awareness of facial expression, pose, posture, gesture, and movement
  • Knowledge of anatomy and zoology
  • Good knowledge of a range of animation software and techniques
  • Keen understanding of how to use visual language to impact mood and tone

2D Animation by CGS grad Bianka Farago.

2D animation software

The tools of a 2D animator can be as rudimentary as pen and paper, but their work will invariably end up being translated to a computer using specialised software.

Software used by professional 2D animators:

  • Toon Boom Harmony
  • Adobe Animate
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Flash
  • Freehand
  • After Effects

2D animation jobs in the industry

2D animators can find fulfilling work in film, television, and video games.

2D animation career paths:

  • 2D clean-up artist - Cleanup artists refine sketches roughly drawn at the concept stage into polished line drawings. They trace over the key drawings in solid lines, paying close attention to retain the essence of the original sketch. They also create character model sheets. 
  • 2D layout artist - 2D layout artists shape the frame's perspective by illustrating backgrounds, determining the size of background objects relative to the foreground action, which impacts viewer perception and emotions. They focus on precise definition within each frame.
  • Storyboard artist - Storyboard artists convert written scripts into a series of 2D images, known as a storyboard. Images are created by hand or computer to map out the action, framing, and key scenes in a script, acting as a visual guide for how a live-action or animated scene will play out. 

What’s the difference between animating for film vs. video games?

In games, 2D animators also animate environmental elements such as background objects, special effects and Game UI components to enhance the overall gameplay experience and are optimized for performance across various platforms and devices.

How to become a 2D animator

Study CG Spectrum's 2D animation career track or Bachelor of Digital Art (2D animation) and develop foundational knowledge in this digital art form by exploring the twelve principles of animation and executing core animation principles such as timing, spacing, and overlapping action in Toon Boom Harmony. 

Guided by professional animators with years of experience, you'll also learn principles of biology, physiology, and anatomy as you bring 2D-drawn humans and quadrupeds to life. You’ll complete your studies with an industry-level 2D animation showreel, which you will have developed with guidance and support from industry animators.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.


Game Design: Crafting Engaging Experiences

“Game design isn’t just a technological craft, It’s a twenty-first-century way of thinking and leading.”
- Jane McGonigal, author, game designer, and researcher

A game designer is responsible for devising the rules and dynamics of a game, ensuring it is immersive, entertaining, challenging, and fun.

Common interests of a game designer

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that game designers commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • Puzzles and strategy
  • Video games
  • What makes things “fun”
  • Leading a team
  • Creative problem-solving

Role of a game designer

Game designers concentrate on the functionality of a game, developing systems, rules, and gameplay. They contribute to world-building, shaping the story and intellectual property (IP) to guarantee playability, enjoyment, and engagement. They oversee both the foundation and execution of the game mechanics and overall user experience. 

Some game designers focus on combat balance, using spreadsheets and simulations to provide challenges without impossibility. Others are writers and/or world directors who focus on player experience. Some hone in on game controls, trying to make them responsive and meaningful to players.

Additionally, designers may assume roles akin to creative directors, ensuring consistency and quality by imparting the game's vision to the entire team.

Scene from a 2D-pixel game called Gerel: Against the Corvus Empire, designed and developed by CGS grads.

What does a game designer do?

  • Conceptualizes, implements, and maintains gameplay systems and rules that achieve a fulfilling flow state, addictive game loops, and a risk/reward balance
  • Develops the storyline, character back-stories, and dialogue through scripts and storyboards, including any relevant research
  • Creates and maintains comprehensive documentation (such as design outlines, diagrams, and visual mockups) that details the triggers, interactions, and subsequent events of specific features or aspects of gameplay
  • Works closely with user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) designers to optimize the player interface
  • Builds levels and environments
  • Engages in an iterative design process, refining and enhancing game elements based on testing and feedback

What skills does a game designer need?

Game designers must be creative and have good analytical and communication skills. Although game designers don’t necessarily don’t need to be super technical (unlike, say, an AI programmer), this role does require a good understanding of some of the basic aspects of technical game design and programming. 

Skills and knowledge a game designer should have:

  • A great understanding of game levels, level layouts, drawing maps, architecture, and other design areas related to game level design
  • Ability to break things down into systems
  • Can use data to get qualitative information to affect designs
  • A good understanding of technical implementation within games, scripting languages, syntax, and other basic programming concepts
  • Can comprehend marketing and market research to understand what the target audience wants and how to sell it to them
  • Basic understanding of 3D art, modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, and other areas of 3D art creation, use, and conversion
  • Basic to advanced knowledge of user interface (UI/UX) in games

Game design software

Game designers must be able to use a game engine along with organizational applications and tools to map their vision via design, flowcharting, and mind mapping.

Software used by professional game designers:

  • Unreal Engine/Unity
  • Blueprint/C#
  • Microsoft or Google Office software for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations
  • Art software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator) 
  • Jira and bug-tracking software
  • Scripting languages and tools (Python, LUA, C#, Unreal Script, Blueprints)


Still from an adventure game designed CGS grad Sergi Martinez Guiteras.

Game design jobs in the industry

Game designers are required for all types of video games—from console to online to mobile.

Game design career paths: 

  • Level designer - Level designers create levels, environments, stories, and quests while considering flow, pace, and space (e.g., ensuring that if players fall out of bounds, they don’t get stuck). They also create entry and exit points and guide the player logically through the game via its rules, rewards, and objectives.
  • Systems designer - A systems designer helps to create the software systems that power a video game. They are brought in early in the development process to analyze the scope and design of a video game and to set up the necessary platforms that will bring the game to life.
  • Narrative designer - From crafting intricate dialogues and character backgrounds to constructing compelling quests and branching narratives, narrative designers weave engaging stories while providing players with meaningful choices that impact the game's progression.

How to become a game designer

To gain a comprehensive understanding of game design and the industry in which it resides, our game design career track or Bachelor of Game Development (Game Design), are great options. You’ll learn how to design and implement game systems using Unreal Engine using learned knowledge of the principles and processes that make digital games unique, playable and successful. 

With instruction and support from professionals, you'll explore combat and action gameplay development for PC and consoles and level up your level design. Finish your degree with a playable game you can confidently share with prospective employers.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.


Game Programming: Engineers of the Digital Realm

“Whether you want to uncover the secrets of the universe, or you just want to pursue a career in the 21st century, computer programming is an essential skill to learn.”
- Stephen Hawking

Game programmers ensure a video game runs smoothly behind the scenes. They turn the vision of game designers into a functional reality, writing the code that governs how a game behaves. 

Common interests of a game programmer

Although one’s interests are highly subjective, some things that game programmers commonly enjoy or find interesting include:

  • Software development
  • Coding
  • Problem-solving
  • Video games

Role of a game programmer

The role of the game programmer is to develop the software that powers a video game. This involves assembling the platforms and engines that the game runs on, as well as writing code for custom software to support the unique requirements of each game. 

Game programmers work closely with game designers and developers during the video game pipeline process, setting up the game engine and ensuring the production runs smoothly, working out the game’s limits, solving technical problems, and eliminating bugs. They commonly create prototypes that will act as proof of concept, a crucial early stage of the production pipeline. 

What does a game programmer do?

  • Liaises with game designers and developers in setting up technical resources
  • Researching and developing the suite of software and platforms that will be used to support the game
  • Ensures the game design is fully realized and performs to maximum capacity
  • Creates procedures and production documents
  • Produces prototypes in the early stages of production
  • Conducts quality assurance tests and responds to feedback 
  • Collaborates with all departments to smooth over technical issues, problem solve, and create solutions during the production pipeline process
  • Responds to the technical needs of all departments
  • Provides ongoing tech support after the game has been launched, including working on upgrades to the game

What skills does a game programmer need?

A game programmer should be technically minded and pragmatic with excellent creative problem-solving abilities.

Skills and knowledge a game programmer should have:

  • Knows how to read and write code
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Familiar with the game production pipeline process
  • Interpersonal skills to deal with creative and production teams
  • Team player, ability to work independently
  • Analytical mindset
  • Expert knowledge of technical and software advancements in the gaming industry
  • Knowledge of gaming genres and trends

Game programming software 

Game programmers are required to drive the technical needs of the game using industry-standard software and the platforms that support them. 

Software used by professional game programmers:

  • C++/C#
  • Java
  • Unreal Engine/Unity
  • Maya/Blender

Game programming jobs in the industry

Game designers are required for all types of video games—from console to online to mobile. Programmers are also required in almost every single other industry, making it a versatile and in-demand role.

Game programming career paths:

Game programmers may specialize in areas of coding such as graphics, AI, sound, scripting, user interface, network, tools, porting, etc. Some roles include,

  • Gameplay engineer - Gameplay engineers adapt or create custom software to match the requirements of a video game with a focus on player usability. They oversee user interface (UI) issues, player notifications, gameplay mechanics and game upgrades.
  • AI programmer - Artificial intelligence (AI) programmers give a game its 'brain'. They create algorithms that set the behaviour of characters and elements based on the gameplay of the individual player. This is done by customising the reactions of gameplay to the actions of the player. 
  • Technical artist - Balancing creative and technical skills, technical artists liaise between artist and programmer teams to help problem-solve and bridge the two departments. They require both visual skills and programming knowledge to understand both disciplines. 

How to become a game programmer

CG Spectrum Institute’s Bachelor of Game Development (Game Programming), or game programming career track, will prepare you for a career in video games. You’ll master C++, a renowned and versatile object-oriented programming language for games and software applications, and dive into Unreal Engine to create a playable game, including developing game mechanics.

Build simple game levels and explore AI while also learning how to debug your gameplay to ensure it runs successfully in complex environments. Graduate with a playable game that you can use in your showreel to demonstrate your skills and knowledge.

You’ll also develop a broad understanding of the interpersonal and business management skills required to be successful in the creative industry and fine-tune your understanding and knowledge of vital industry theories, processes, and practices.

Next Steps: Choosing Your Career Path

Choosing a role within the film and games industry largely comes down to what you want to create and the skills you want to build. Take the time to explore the options we've shared above and consider your own creative strengths and interests to help you determine which role is best for you.

Whatever career path you choose in film and games, you will be contributing to captivating stories and interactive adventures for eager audiences around the world. 

Pave your creative career path with confidence at CG Spectrum

Our unique career tracks and accredited degrees empower you to master the essential skills needed to thrive in your chosen field after graduation. You'll choose your specialization at the beginning of your studies, allowing you to dive deep into your passion and emerge as a true expert.

While you master your creative and technical skills, our courses also ensure you build the essential general skills and knowledge required in the industry, no matter your role. These include interpersonal skills, theoretical knowledge of film and games, and a practical understanding of industry practices and procedures.

Don't delay getting started on your creative journey guided by industry pros: enroll now!



[more]Read Shoshanah Wall's bio[/more]

Shoshanah has almost a decade of visual effects production experience, coordinating VFX teams in Australia and London. Her credits include Mad Max: Fury Road, Ant-Man, John Wick: Parabellum, Game of Thrones, and Christopher Robin. She now enjoys getting to write about the film and games industry.