Game Design School and Career Guide for Students

Video games are a very common form of entertainment these days. It’s likely that you know someone in your life who enjoys playing video games. After all, not only do video games provide you with thrill-inducing virtual adventures but, at times, they will also include a storyline to keep things interesting. In other words, video games are immersive and interactive, thus making them a popular choice for entertainment nowadays.

And since video games are getting a lot more popular, more and more people start to express an interest in pursuing a career in game design. After all, they’ll be doing what they love — which is to be surrounded by games all the time — and they get paid to do that. And who doesn’t want to make a living out of our passions?

But trying to carve a career path in game design can get pretty overwhelming, especially if you’re still just a student. There are so many things to consider, and thinking about everything will just give you a headache. So, in an effort to make this journey a little less overwhelming and exhausting, this post is made to guide you. In here, you’ll find all the information that you need so that when the time comes, you’ll be able to make the best decisions in your game design career journey.

So, now, without any further ado, let’s take you step-by-step on everything you need to know about paving a path in your game design career.

What Makes a Good Game Designer?

Essentially speaking, game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purpose. So from that definition, we can say game designers are those people who develop and design video games.

It sounds really simple when we put it that way, but in actuality, game design takes up a lot of work. They have a lot of duties to do, such as designing characters, levels, puzzles, art, and animation, and they might even also have to code. So, to be able to do all these tasks, they have to have a lot of traits and skills. At the very least, they should have the following:

  • Artistic and creative abilities
  • Computer savvy
  • Attention to details
  • Organizational skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • High-stress tolerance
  • Communication skills
  • Design skills
  • Math skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Technology skills

Game Design Education

If you’re really serious about pursuing a career in game design, then it is highly recommended for you to take up an education first. This is because becoming a game designer isn’t just all about passion. There are also quite a ton of technical aspects that you need to know about as well. And you’ll only get to know all about these technical aspects in depth if you take up education in game design.

Luckily, for you, there are a lot of ways to study game design. For some people who are interested in this field but are not quite sure if they want to go further, they can take a certificate program or an associate’s degree. They only require a year and two years of study, respectively, so they are perfect for aspiring yet unsure game designers to dip their toes into the water. And if you are sure that you want to become a game designer, then you can choose to take up a bachelor’s degree, which takes up four years of study.

You can pursue even higher education if you are so passionate about this field and you want to broaden your knowledge further. And if that’s the case, then consider taking a master’s degree or a doctorate.

Basically speaking, there is a myriad of ways in which you can attain a game design education. All you have to do is to pick the program that fits your needs and attend the classes.

Game Design Curriculum

So, right now, you’re probably wondering: I want to take up a degree in game design, but I don’t know what the curriculum looks like. It’s understandable why you’re curious to know what a game design curriculum is. After all, you’d want to see what you have to study, so you’ll get better preparation once the program actually begins.

Normally, it is pretty difficult to make a definitive answer on how a game design curriculum looks like because it depends on the school. For game design, that is still true. But at the same time, the International Game Developers Associations (IGDA) believes that in order for game designers to reach their fullest potential, the industry and schools must work together.

What this means is that they believe that at the very least, schools should have the same fundamental courses to be taught to their students to cultivate a deeper understanding of what drives games. The following are the courses that IGDA recommends for a thorough education for game designers:

  • Critical Game Studies. In this course, students get to learn all about the history of game design and gain the vocabulary needed to communicate effectively about the field. They will also get to analyze games and get insight into what makes them successful or not. Additionally, they will also examine what these games share with other forms of media and culture.
  • Games and Society. This course will explore games from a sociological, psychological, and anthropological perspective. A classic example of this would be looking at how games reflect individuals and groups.
  • Game Design. This one is not a shocker. Game design courses teach students about the basics of game theory. Then the students get the chance to apply that said theory into designing a game that is interactive and more.
  • Game Programming. With Game Programming, students will examine the technical side of game design. Learning about computer science is a big theme in this course, and students will learn how that separate field applies to game design.
  • Visual Design. This course brings students back to the roots of game design: animation. Here, they get to study how to design the visual elements of video games. They may also have to learn all about drawing, painting, sculpting, as well as creating 2D and 3D graphics.
  • Audio Design. This course prepares students to design the audio experience of a game. As a result, this would incorporate a lot of music classes. Some of the classes that may be covered include music theory, composition, recording techniques, 3D sound processing, and more.
  • Interactive Storytelling. This course combines game design with creative writing. And the students will get to learn about the fundamentals of writing, such as plot, character development, experimental approaches to storytelling in literature, theatre, and film.
  • Game Production. This course is all about managing the process of game design, from documentation to budgeting to group dynamics through technical issues and testing.
  • Gaming Business. In this, students tackle the practical aspects of funding, legal issues, and marketing games. So, they will learn all about managing relationships with publishers, distributors, retailers, and the impact of piracy.
  • Game Design School: On-Campus

    When one thinks of attending a school to obtain a game design education, the first thing that will pop to their head is an on-campus school. Basically, an on-campus game design school is the one with the typical university or college setting. It’s the kind that you see on college brochures, with classrooms to go to and lawns where students can hang out or study.

    An on-campus school for game design is also one that is the most recommended. This is because you’ll get a more active, hands-on, and experiential kind of education. You’ll face your teacher and your classmates every day during lessons, so there is ongoing communication happening there.

    Plus, if you would be doing some practical exercise, the teacher can overlook everything and see if everyone’s doing it right. If they don’t, the teacher can easily correct the students. And finally, with an on-campus game design school, you will also have access to the technologies used for game design.

    Basically, an on-campus game design school is a great route to take when taking education in game design. You get to interact with your peers and teachers on a regular basis, plus you get to use all the technologies provided by the school. The educational experience you’ll get from this institution will definitely be impactful.

    Game Design School: Online

    It’s true that an on-campus game design school is a great choice. After all, with all the benefits it offers, it’s no wonder why people always recommend attending one. However, not everyone is lucky enough to attend an on-campus school. And if this is the case, then those aspiring game designers should consider studying game design online. Here are three reasons why online game design schools are as brilliant as on-campus ones:

    Flexibility of Time

    The biggest benefit that an online game design school offers is flexibility in terms of time. Sure, just like any other school, there will always be deadlines to remember, but other than that, your day-to-day schedule is up to you. You get to learn anywhere, anytime, so long as you have a stable Internet connection.

    Are you a morning person, so studying during daytime is more productive for you? Or are you more of a night owl who thrives in being productive when the whole world is asleep? With an online school, you get to do either! It’s such a liberating feeling.

    The Pacing

    Speaking of flexibility, online game design schools also allow you to learn at your own pace. We all know that in traditional schools, there’s always the pressure of catching up with the lessons as fast as you can because there is a fixed schedule. This can be a problem for some people because not everyone is a fast learner. Some people need more time to let lessons sink in, and since traditional schools don’t give them more time, they’re forced to learn fast. And that would just take the joy out of learning.

    Thankfully, with online schools, that problem is taken out. Now, you can download the lectures (they usually come as either videos or written transcripts), and then read or watch them for as many times as you like. That way, you’ll grasp the lessons better, thus making your experience very meaningful.

    Easy Interaction with Classmates and Teachers

    An online school will also make the interaction between your classmates and teachers easy, in a way. Sure, it’s actually different from the kind of interaction you’ll get in on-campus schools. But interacting through an online setting is also beneficial in its own way.

    If you need to really communicate with your classmates or teachers about something, all you have to do is to message or video-call them. In other words, reaching to them can be done easily. You don’t have to wait for the next day to speak to them face-to-face because you can contact them with just one click on your phone or computer.

    The One Disadvantage: No Access to Necessary Technologies

    We’ve already established all the great things that an online game design school has to offer. But despite all these great things, it does have one major disadvantage. And that is the lack of access to necessary technologies for game design.

    As a field, game design is heavily reliant on technology. There are specific gadgets, applications, and software that game designers should have. It’s true that eventually when you get a job, you’ll need to have these for yourself. But at least, when you’re still at school, on-campus game design schools will give you access to the necessary technologies. With an online school, however, this is not the case.

    With an online school, you have to figure out for yourself how you’re going to compensate for it. This might mean buying the technologies for yourself or borrowing someone else’s. Either way, it’s going to be extra work and possibly extra expensive. And you have to be ready for that.

    The Bottom Line: Which Is Better, Campus or Online?

    At the end of the day, it actually doesn’t matter where you’re going to earn your degree in game design. Sure, going to a prestigious on-campus school will get you some points, but still, your chances of getting a job rely heavily on your own skill set. So, don’t worry too much about where you want to go.

    Both traditional game design schools and online ones are great choices. They have their own pros and cons, and it’s up to you to figure out which of the two is the better fit for you.

    Related article: How Much Money Does Gaming School Tuition Cost in Canada?

    After School: Working as a Game Designer

    About the Job

    Now that you’ve finished your game design education, it’s time to find a job. And you should know by now that working as a game designer isn’t exactly all fun and games. There’s so much sweat and blood poured into creating a game, so you have to be ready to exert that much effort.

    As was mentioned earlier, the primary task of game designers is to develop and design video games. But that’s only the general overview of their job. When you divide that overview into bite-sized tasks, you’ll realize that game designers need to do a lot of things.

    The following are the most common tasks that game designers have to do:

    • Brainstorming, collaborating, and making revisions with teammates (writers, programmers, testers, artists, musicians)
    • Designing elements such as characters, levels, and puzzles
    • Compiling a game design document that describes a game in detail
    • Working with artists and programmers to lay out the game
    • Focusing on user experience and game interface
    • Creating art and animation
    • Coding and programming
    • Managing projects (budgeting, time management, and communicating with other departments)
    • Testing and QA

      Essential Skills for a Game Designer Job

      Because the game designer has a lot of tasks to do, the job requires so many skills from those who wish to apply for the position. The following are only some of the skills that you’ll need for this kind of job:

    • Enthusiasm, Passion, and Knowledge. Since working as a game designer is going to be really hard, it’s great to have enthusiasm and passion to keep you going. It’s also a great asset to have first-hand knowledge about gaming because that will provide some great insight into your own work.
    • Computer Skills. Technology plays a major role in game design. So you better make sure that you’re at least competent in coding or creating graphics and other computer skills.
    • Artistic Ability. Aside from technology, art is also an integral part of game design. Graphics, animation, and story are the crux of a great video game. So, if you want to become a game designer, you need to have an impeccable artistic ability.
    • Teamwork. It takes a team to create a video game. So, you need to have great interpersonal skills so that you can better communicate with other people.
    • Game Designer Salaries

      Factors That Affect the Salary

      It’s true that the video game industry is thriving as of right now, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy to determine how much game designers get paid. After all, there are quite a lot of factors that come into play when we’re talking about salaries. The most common factors are the ones that follow:

      • Your company or employer: Is the company you’re working for a large and well-known one? Or is it just a small, not-so-well-known video game company? The prominence of the company you work for can give you a bigger salary.
      • Your job experience: How long have you been working as a game designer? If you’re just new, you’re probably going to get low pay. But if you’ve been in this industry for years now, then your salary will also be higher.
      • Your education level: If you’ve studied college in a game design school, you’re more likely to get better pay.
      • Your geographical location: Cities usually have a high-cost living, and so, the video game companies there will also give out bigger salaries. However, if you’re working in a rural area, then that might not be the case.
      • The length of your position: Game designers can choose to work under contract or under a long-term/permanent basis. If it’s the former, then your salary is going to be fixed. But if it is the latter, then you have more chances of seeing your salary grow.

      How Much Is a Game Designer Salary?: An Estimation

      Even though we can’t really make an exact answer for a game designer’s salary, we can at least take a guess. The ones mentioned below are the median annual salaries for video game industry jobs:


      Median Annual Salary





      Video Game Designer




      Quality Assurance Tester


      Sound Designer


      Business Marketer


      Related article: Top 10 Animation Schools in Canada


      Today is a great time for the video game industry. So many people have found entertainment in video games, thus resulting in great demand for more video games. So, it’s understandable why so many people have aspired to work in the industry someday. After all, aside from the lucrative nature of the industry, it also allows people to unleash their creativity. And who wouldn’t want to get paid for being artistic and creative?

      But trying to figure out how to make your own path as a game designer is no easy task. So many things have to be considered, and thinking about them will just give you a headache. For situations like this, aspiring game designers would need a guide of sorts to walk them through the video game industry and what the game designer job entails. And that is the purpose of this post: it is to guide you.

      There are still so many things to know about the industry and the game designer job position. The ones mentioned are simply the most basic information that you need to know. Read everything thoroughly and continue to do your research because the trends in the video game industry are as fickle as the weather. Use everything you’ve learned to your heart’s content, and one of these days, you’ll find all your game designer dreams have come true.