Even as AAA titles continue to roll off the production line and more indie titles are put out than ever before, the video game industry remains short of quality labor. As part of what Bloomberg describes as a general shortage of software developers, the games industry is crying out for the type of people suited to producing the immersive worlds that typify modern game releases. The video game industry is highly competitive and demands expert skills, however, and anyone gamer seeking to get involved should be well informed. For those that find success, the rewards can be superb.
The headline figures
As with any other profession, the key pulling point of video game development is the salary and benefits. According to pay Northeastern University, video game designers can expect to earn $90,000 on average, plus bonuses. This is high above the national average and will help you to commit to student loan repayments leading up to and after your relief date. If you choose to at some point move into education, this will provide you with further salary benefits and the ability to apply for new loan relief schemes. In addition to the amount of salary you earn, there is often a huge amount of overtime involved with video game development.
Understanding the role
Video game development combines creativity with hard technical skills. You will need to be able to efficiently code thousands of lines and debug it at the same rate. In addition to this, many development outfits will require large amounts of overtime to be completed in what is described as ‘crunch culture’. According to industry magazine Venturebeat, 76% of companies will order overtime during deadline periods. Ensure that you have the work ethic and flexibility to meet these requirements before you apply for developer roles.
Career progression and qualifications
Not all video game designers need a degree, though, as outlined by the Arts Institutes, it does help. Game design programs will offer directed learning and key techniques across different languages, in addition to well-structured project work, that will help you to develop the key skills and process knowledge that is used in many game design companies. Project management is often taught, also. However, as outlined by Bloomberg, many companies are now hiring self-taught apprentices to trial their skills. It is entirely possible to work your way into video game design by creating indie projects and applying for roles; after all, most of the pioneers of the game design industry did not benefit from bespoke courses themselves.
Career progression is not necessarily linear in games design. While some designers may go on to become studio heads or chief officers, these roles are often reserved for influential management types. Elsewhere, fans who have provided valued feedback have risen to importance – take, for example, Blizzard’s Ion Hazzikostas. Other developers may choose to use their skills in education. Given the sheer rapidity of video game innovation, and the inclusion of new technology being at the forefront of any new designs, the need for designers who have up-to-date or cutting edge knowledge will always be present in educational settings.
Video game design is a fiercely competitive market. However, it really does cater to those fans who wish to become professionals – there are few other forms of media or entertainment where the experience and preferences of consumers translates so well over to the art-form itself. Always, however, have awareness over the priorities and pressures of game design studios.