Game Designer

The role, salary, software and skills of a video game designer

What does a game designer do?

Game designers focus on the function of a game, creating systems, rules, and gameplay, and help with world-building (story and IP) to ensure it’s playable, fun, and engaging. They oversee both the foundation and execution of the game mechanics and overall user experience.

Game designers need to be highly technical and very adept at solving complex problems on a daily basis.

The job description of a Game Designer can differ slightly depending on the size and type of a project, and the studio. Typically, as games become more complex and teams become larger, some of the traditional roles of a Game Designer are separated out into specializations such as a Level Designer and/or a Systems Designer

Level Designers focus on creating and implementing levels, environments, stories, and quests, while Systems Designers focus on designing and then implementing the minute-to-minute gameplay systems which make the game fun like controls, movement, and combat.

Game Design Course

Game designer job description

A game consists of many different gameplay features and mechanics, which operate in conjunction with each other to give the player a better gaming experience. Game Designers are responsible for making sure all those features and mechanics work cohesively and engagingly to help keep players entertained. 

Troy Dunniway, award-winning Game Designer and CG Spectrum Mentor, outlines the most important responsibility of a game designer:

"As a game designer, you first and foremost need to be a master of HOW to make a game or level FUN, interesting, compelling, and something a player would want to play."

A game designer today could take on a number of specializations. Some 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. Others hone in on game controls, trying to make them responsive and meaningful to players. Some game designers can even take on more Creative Director roles where it’s their responsibility to impart the game’s vision to other team members so that there is consistency and quality across all parts of the game.

Role & responsibilities of a game designer in the gaming industry:

  • Conceptualize, implement, and maintain gameplay systems that achieve a fulfilling flow state, addictive game loops, and a risk/reward balance
  • Developing the storyline, character back-stories, and dialogue, through scripts and storyboards, including any relevant research
  • Create and maintain 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
  • Work closely with User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) Designers to optimize the player interface
  • Building levels and environments

CGS Game Design Dept. Head Troy Dunniway (Microsoft, Sony, Disney, EA, UBISOFT, Samsung) explains the diverse role of a Game Designer

Skills required to become a video game designer

Game designers require a balance of creative and technical skills to bring a game concept to life. They usually don’t need to be super technical, but this role does require a good understanding of some of the basic aspects of technical game design and game programming. A degree in computer science, or similar, can also be useful but is not always necessary.

Video game studios may look for the following skills in game designers:

  • Possess a great understanding of game levels, level layouts, drawing maps, architecture, and other design areas related to game level design.
  • An ability to break things down into systems
  • Ability to use data to get qualitative information to affect your designs
  • Have a good understanding of technical implementation within games, scripting languages, syntax, and other basic programming concepts
  • An understanding of marketing and market research to understand what your target audience wants and how to sell it to them
  • Basic to advanced drawing skills to communicate ideas visually 
  • 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

What software and tools do game designers use?

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

Game designers may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Game Engine (Unity 3D, Unreal Engine or another)
  • Microsoft or Google Office Software for documents, spreadsheets & presentations
  • Art software (Like Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator) for a wide assortment of visual design, flowcharting, mind mapping
  • Jira & Bug Tracking Software
  • Scripting Languages & Tools (Python, LUA, C#, Unreal Script, Blueprints)
  • Programming languages C++ and Python are also commonly used

How much does a game designer make? 

Game Designer’s average salary per year will be around USD 65,042. Entry-level yearly wages start at around the USD 40,000 mark, with top-end yearly salaries (usually requiring years of experience) reaching around USD 102,000. 

*Source Payscale



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