Game Programmer

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

What does a game programmer do?

Game programmer is a general term applied to the computer engineers that work on computer games. Usually trained in the basic languages of computer programming, programmers make a game come to life. They may specialize in areas of coding such as graphics, AI, sound, scripting, user interface, network, tools, porting, etc. 

A strong knowledge of coding and the various platforms is vital to becoming a Game Programmer. They are a key part of the development team taking technical resources throughout the production process, ensuring that at the end of the process the game functions effectively.

Game programmer job description

The role of the game programmer is to develop the software to create video games. This involves assembling the platforms and engines that will power the games, as well as writing code for custom software to support the unique requirements of games.

Game Programmers work closely with game designers and developers during the video game pipeline process, setting up the game engine and ensuring that the production runs smoothly. A large part of their role is problem solving, so a firm knowledge of gaming software is required to help bring the game to life.

Creating prototypes that will act as a proof of concept is a crucial early stage of the production pipeline. Programmers will gain a better understanding of the limits of the game and how to iron out bugs throughout the process. 

Designers and developers rely on the programmers to deliver the best version of the game possible to thrive in competitive markets. 

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

  • Liaising 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
  • Ensuring the game design is fully realized and performs to maximum capacity
  • Creating procedures and production documents
  • Working to tight schedules and keep to budget
  • Producing prototypes in the early stages of production
  • Conducting quality assurance tests and respond to feedback 
  • Collaborating with all departments to smooth over technical issues, problem solve and create solutions during the production pipeline process
  • Responding to the technical needs of all departments
  • Working in teams towards common goals
  • Providing ongoing tech support after the game has been launched, work on upgrades to the game


Skills required to become a video game programmer

Game Programmers will usually have a background in computer science or computer programming, specializing in the needs and demands of game production. In the quality assurance phases, the games will be pushed to their limits, the programmers need to ensure the game is resilient enough to withstand maximal gameplay.

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

  • Training in computer science or computer programming
  • Problem solving skills
  • Knowledge of 2D and 3D animation software
  • Familiar with the game production pipeline process
  • Passion for video games and experience with gaming
  • Interpersonal skills to deal with creative and production teams
  • Team player, ability to work independently
  • Analytical mindset
  • Able to keep on schedule and meet deadlines
  • Good communication skills
  • Creative problem-solving skills
  • Expert knowledge of technical and software advancements in the gaming industry
  • Knowledge of gaming genres and trends

What software and tools do game programmers use?

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

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

  • C
  • C++
  • Java
  • Nuke
  • Unreal Engine
  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects
  • Unity

How much does a game programmer make? 

The average salary for a game programmer will range from USD $49,000 for a junior position to USD $85,000+ for a senior position. (Source: Glassdoor)

To learn more about this field, visit: The Game Development Process: How Video Games are Made



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