Video game design degrees may be in their infancy, but that hasn’t discouraged students from signing up for a program that may lead to what CNN Money referred to as one of the best new jobs in America. Video game design is an industry not exclusive to gaming enthusiasts; in fact, artists and technically minded students from other disciplines, including fine art, literature and computer science may find video game designer to be a great career option. In this guide, we will discuss the degree options available to video game design students, as well as sample courses and career options.
The courses you take will depend on your individual program, however, you can expect to learn artistic aspects of game design, such as storyboarding, drawing and character creation, as well as technical aspects like artificial intelligence, graphics and novel input devices. At the University of Southern California, for example, students have the opportunity to take Immersive Game Development, Video Game Programming and Game Hardware Architectures, among many other courses.
At some higher education institutions, video game design is considered a specialization within fine arts, design, or computer science degrees; however, it may be possible to specialize or minor in a complementary discipline such as literary arts or graphic design, which will only enhance the student’s curriculum and improve their post-graduation career outlook. For information regarding minors and specializations, contact your prospective program advisor.
Most universities that offer video game design offer a bachelor’s and master’s degree. In choosing the degree option best for you, it’s important to keep in mind the specific companies you would like to work for; video game design companies have varying expectations in regards to education, so be sure to do your research before applying to a program. In the following section, we list some common degree types and the jobs most commonly associated with them.
The majority of colleges do not offer an associate degree program in video game design, opting instead to offer a four year bachelor’s degree program. With that said, some colleges, such as Montgomery College in Maryland, offer an associate program that gives students an introduction to video game design. This program typically takes two years to complete, giving students the ability to decide if a bachelor’s degree is worth pursuing. It may also be possible to earn an associate degree at a community college before transferring to a bachelor’s degree program. For some students, this option proves less expensive, however, it’s crucial to speak with your prospective university to ensure your credits will transfer.
A bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years to complete for a full-time student, provides the education necessary to gain entry-level employment in the field of game design. For example, Nintendo, one of the world’s premier game design companies, offers a Junior Software Engineer position, requiring only a bachelor’s degree. Areas of focus and curriculum vary from college to college; at the University of Utah, for example, undergraduate students have the opportunity to earn a degree in one of two focus areas: a Bachelor’s of Arts in Film and Media Arts-Entertainment Arts and Engineering emphasis or Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science School of Computing-Entertainment Arts and Engineering emphasis.
A master’s degree offers in-depth instruction and the ability to specialize in an area of interest, such as character development or artificial intelligence. A master’s degree will not only help you stand out when applying for senior developer positions at popular companies like Nintendo and Blizzard , it will open up the opportunity to conduct your own game industry research or teach video game design at the high school and junior college levels. The University of Utah offers a graduate degree in video game design, for which students have the option to choose from one of four academic tracks: Game Arts, Technical Arts, Game Engineering and Game Production.
Ideal Candidates for Video Game Design
Video game design requires a collaborative approach, which means designers must have the interpersonal skills to work closely with others; relevant skills include good communication, a positive attitude and the ability to solve problems.
Millions of video game players worldwide look forward to video game release dates, which means a video game designer must be deadline-conscious. An individual that is both creative and good with time management will be considered an asset to video game design companies. Due to the laid back nature of the gaming industry, careers in this field can occasionally be lax; however, it’s important to maintain professionalism and commit to finishing quality work on time.
The video game industry offers a variety of careers; on the creative side, careers range from game level designer to content writer to concept artist, and on the technical side, careers range from graphics programmer to user interface programer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data on video game developers yet, but according to the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Quarterly, video game designers appear to have earned more than the median annual salary for all reported positions in 2010.
The video game industry uses cutting edge technology. In order to keep up with the latest information, and to learn more about the industry as a whole, research professional organizations, OpenCourseWare and books, journals and magazines related to the field of video game design.