Game designers are the artists of the gaming industry, responsible for building visually and sonically immersive worlds, creating compelling stories and characters, and establishing rules and level designs to ensure challenging gameplay. As gaming has grown into a massive industry with over $100 billion in global revenues in 2020, creative and unique video game design has become incredibly important to helping games stand out in a crowded market.
Game design is an essential part of the broader process of video game development, but it is distinct from the technical work of coding and game programming as well as the product development and marketing work required to bring the game to store shelves. By contrast, video game design is more closely related to the world of art, relying on multimedia design and animation skills more than programming. At the same time, professional designers typically rely on specialized software and gaming engines such as Unity to bring their vision of interactive storytelling to life.
As the gaming industry has grown and games themselves become increasingly sophisticated, video game design and development has become an incredibly popular career path. After all, what could be more fun than making video games for a living?
Of course, this popularity means that this is also a very competitive field, and aspiring game designers need a high level of art and design talent as well as experience with general-purpose programming languages like C# and game engines such as Unity to land the jobs they want.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, multimedia artists and animators - including those in the video game industry - earned a median annual salary of $75,270 in 2019, and typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, art, or a related field.
Yes! Coursera has a wide range of courses available in computer science as well as art and graphic design, as well as courses and Specializations spanning multiple courses focused specifically on teaching video game design. You can learn from top-ranked schools like California Institute of the Arts, Michigan State University, and the University of Colorado, all on a flexible schedule and for a lower tuition than on-campus students. You can even take a Specialization from Unity to help prepare for the Unity Certified Programmer Exam, a valuable career credential in the use of this popular gaming engine.
Before studying game design, it may help to have some knowledge of computer science. If you've studied any programming languages, that experience can also come in handy as you advance through your lessons. Past experiences playing video games will also give you an appreciation for different genres and a familiarity with common gameplay aspects and gaming lingo.
People who are best suited for roles in game design are passionate gamers and eager to use their creativity to develop innovative gameplay mechanics. People who pursue roles in this field know how to draw inspiration from existing games and conceptualize plots, characters, and stages that grab and maintain the players' attention. When game concepts aren't well-received, people in game design roles must also be patient and ambitious enough to try again. And, because the gaming industry is always evolving alongside technology, people in these roles must be curious and always willing to learn something new.
Topics related to game design include creative writing and programming. Both subjects are important aspects of the game design process, so studying them separately may enhance your learning. Animation is another related subject, as animators are responsible for bringing the game to life with expressive characters and immersive scenery. Games incorporate music as well, so this is another related topic. Virtual reality is a good topic to study if you want to design games in that style.
If you dream of creating your own video game, game design is right for you. You might also want to contribute to someone else's project or land a job with one of the top video game companies, such as Nintendo, Ubisoft, or Activision Blizzard. If you love storytelling and have been fascinated with video games since you were young, game design may be an ideal topic to study.