When video games first emerged in the 1970’s, there was some doubt as to the viability of the industry. Though there was a respectable level of interest by consumers, it was uncertain whether the initial interest would continue to build or wane with the majority expecting the latter would hold true. As technology has advanced over the last several decades, video games have evolved from their original simplistic and basic forms into entire virtual worlds where individuals can immerse themselves in multi-player experience with other gamers around the globe. Any doubt as to the continued viability of the gaming industry was eliminated when sales over the last few years exceeded expectations by reaching a multibillion dollar level. With consumer demand continuing to rise, job growth in the game design field is projected to increase by 34% over the next five years making the industry a favorable career prospect.
The game industry offers a range of professional opportunities for individuals interested in pursuing a career in video game design. With the industry expanding from a child entertainment focus to include adult entertainment, video game companies are in need of skilled and qualified individuals with creative abilities and technological savvy. Individuals who are capable of combining artistic skills with programming and software capabilities to develop a videogame suited for a range of multimedia devices are being sought by video game companies. People are needed who understand the intricacies of what differentiates a popular video game from one which won’t fare as well with consumers; an individual who likely has spent significant time enjoying the games themselves.
Video game designers aren’t limited to one position or even to the video game industry. There are numerous steps in video game design which must be completed to take an idea from a storyboard to a completed product. Many hours of collaborative teamwork are required with a team of individuals with specialized positions and assigned tasks. Game design teams include modelers, 3-D animators, programmers software engineers and project coordinators. But these capabilities do not serve only the video game industry. The United States military branches commission companies to create simulation training programs used to train their members. Law enforcement organizations have also been known to train their employees in a similar manner, utilizing simulation training software to prepare them for combative situations they will encounter on the job.
An aspiring video game designer will need to complete high school. The foundational courses in mathematics, science, technology and English will be essential for an individual intending to pursue a technology driven career. Students will need strong communication and analytical skills which are developed with coursework in these subjects. Technology and computer courses provide the groundwork for future education in these areas. Art courses will teach students the fundamentals of design, color and a range of other areas which will be necessary in any type of design career. Since colleges require students to complete two years in a language, it would be recommended. Languages also help individuals develop skills which are useful in college and future professions.
The majority of highschools offer students the option of attending their technical programs. Technical high schools provide career focused curriculums which train students in their area of interest. Students interested in a career in game design could benefit from a program in computer science, information technology, graphic design or any other related field. The programs generally include courses in the elemental subjects necessary for acceptance into college. Additionally, students are provided focused training in their specific field. Academic coursework and hands on training are both an integral part of the technical highschool experience. Taking advantage of this type of program will help build skills in the areas which you will need to eventually develop an expertise in to become successful as a game designer or part of the game design team.
As strange as it may seem, playing video games is necessary for an aspiring video game designer. Without substantial experience playing the games, designing a video game would not be possible. That is not to say an individual should focus solely on playing video games under the guise of preparing for a future career. Concentrating on school work is important. But a person really needs to understand video games from a gamers perspective; frustrations, positive and negative aspects, Knowing what causes an individual to continue playing a game, what holds their interests and the reason an individual may not enjoy playing a game provides a video game designer with essential insight into the world of video games. Experiment with a variety of video game genres to experience the various types of games.
Though some game design professionals are self educated, it is rare for a company to hire an individual without a college level degree. There are a range of options and opportunities from which an individual pursuing a career in the video game design field can select. Associate, bachelor and master degree programs are all available with salary and promotional opportunities commiserate to the degree held by the job candidate. Though an associate degree can provide much of the foundational academic knowledge and training necessary to successfully perform the functions of an entry level position, obtaining a bachelor degree will provide further instruction and additional opportunities for advancement. The video game technology field encompasses an extensive range of capabilities which cannot be fully studied with a two year degree, barely with a four year. However with the additional classroom and laboratory time, students will have the opportunity to develop a proficiency, perhaps even an expertise, in some of the requisite areas.
The game industry prefers to hire individuals with experience. Companies need an individual who understands the various aspects of the industry and full comprehension is attained through practical experience. Implementing a creative idea into a workable concept is not a simple process. The probability of issues arising to complicate the project is high. A person with experience will be able to anticipate potential problems, to prevent them when possible and to effectively correct them when they do present. The premier game design schools have sophisticated laboratories on their campuses with the latest technologies used in the industry used to train their students. Most schools immerse their students in practical computer design; concentrating mainly on performing the functions and tasks of the profession and less on the academic segment. Though the academic areas are essential, students develop a more thorough understanding of the field through performance.
Internships and job opportunities afforded by the college are another means of attaining the experience employers are seeking. Many game companies develop affiliations with the design schools in order to recruit their most promising students as company employees. Students who participate in internships have the opportunity to learn the inner workings of the game design field from industry professionals and to perform many of the functions and tasks associated with the various positions. The networking potential afforded by an internship is invaluable also. Industry connections made through an internship can provide professional opportunities in the future. Some associations can lead to employment offers while others can present consulting opportunities; supplying resources in terms of information on the newest emerging technologies and software.
A professional portfolio provides prospective employers with visual evidence of your capabilities through your work. During your time in college and any internships or paid positions, incorporate any completed projects into your portfolio. It is important to show the progression and culmination of your experience. You can include group projects you in which you participated. These will serve as examples of your ability to work collaboratively. Any type of private projects on which you may have worked and even incomplete projects you are still developing. Employers want to see the range of your capabilities as well as any specializations you may have developed. Generally, colleges will provide assistance with developing a professional portfolio either through their career assistance centers or even with a course for that sole purpose.
The video game industry has a wide range of available positions involving an array of functions. In most cases, expect to work up from an entry level position. Video game designers must have a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of the process to develop consumer friendly, popular games. Some individuals begin their career as video game testers. These people actually are paid to play video games and give their opinions on the experience. To obtain this type of position, you will need to utilize the communication skills acquired throughout the educational path. Other positions may involve only one specific aspect of the design process; modeler, animator, scripts. Each position will serve as a stepping stone to the next. It is important to build your reputation as a capable and valuable team player throughout each position. You will develop experience and connections which will eventually result in a lead game designer role.