If you are planning for a career as a video game designer, artist, or programmer, you will have a variety of career paths to choose from. It is important to know exactly what job functions each one involves so you don’t end up in a field with tasks that aren’t suited to you.
If a video game isn’t very fun, the game designers will likely bear the brunt of the blame. Game designers design gameplay, rules, interface, and controls, which are organized in a design document to serve as a guide throughout development.Common game designer roles include the following:
- Game designer
Creates a highly detailed design document containing a blueprint of all aspects of the game’s design, gameplay, interface, world, and other features. Game designers update the design document continuously throughout development to keep the rest of the development staff up to date and consistent on the design.
- Mechanics designer
Designs rules for the gameplay and ensures that they remain carefully balanced throughout the game. Also known as a systems designer.
- Level designer
Level designers are responsible for designing levels, missions, and environments, often placing elements of terrain designed by the environment artists.
Tasked with writing the game’s story, character dialogue, cut scene or narration text, game tips, and menu text. Writers must work closely with other designers to follow their plan for the game.
- Lead designer
Has years of experience in all aspects of game design and uses their seniority to lead a team of game designers. The lead designer works closely with other department leads and gets the final say on all major design choices.
Video games offer exceptional opportunities for artists, boasting a wide range of creative freedom and a variety of work in both 2D and 3D. Concept artists produce reference materials to aid in all visual areas of game design and development, including characters, world environments, creatures, weapons, vehicles, and objects. Common game artist roles include the following:
- Concept artist
Highly proficient in traditional hand-drawn arts and 2D software such as Photoshop and Painter. Concept artists are responsible for the look and feel of the game by creating characters, creatures, environments, and all manner of visual aid for the rest of the art team.
Designs 3D models for characters, creatures, and objects using tools such as Maya or 3DS Max. Must have extensive knowledge of anatomy for humans and animals to create life-like features.
- Environment artist
They sculpt the game world environment by creating 3D terrain features, landscapes, architecture, and objects.
- Texture artist
Creates textures and skins using Photoshop and 3D programs to cover models of characters, objects, terrain, and architecture.
Animators work with 3D assets from modellers to create realistic animations for characters and creatures. They understand anatomy and physics thoroughly to bring believable movements to fictional beings.
- Cinematic artist
Works with storyboards from concept artists to generate in-game cut-scenes running off the game engine or prerendered cinematic movie scenes.
- Technical artist
Technical artists serve as problem solvers for all different areas of the art team, rather than taking part in the actual creation process. They require years of experience to be knowledgeable about various 3D software and game engine tools so they can provide support and solutions to the art team for difficult road blocks.
- UI artist
Designs the game’s user interface, such as menus and HUD (heads-up display, or on-screen info), and handles any technical issues relating to it.
- Art director
The highest rank art job, also known as the lead artist. Art directors have served in a variety of other artist roles in the past and bring a lot of experience from those jobs to their position.
Programming is one of the most laborious parts of video game development and is one of the most frequent job openings. Many entry-level jobs are for small tasks requiring programmers, so it can be a great way to break into the gaming industry for a starting job even if programming isn’t your major.Common programmer roles include the following:
- Junior programmer
Works on an intern or entry-level basis to perform smaller miscellaneous programming tasks.
- Engine programmer
Responsible for designing the base engine that the game will run on. Engine programmers are familiar with physics and graphics APIs and usually have a history of experience in other roles to qualify for the job.
- Graphics programmer
Highly skilled in 3D modeling, special effects, and graphics optimization. Graphics programmers excel in advanced mathematics like linear algebra, calculus, and vector math. Their jobs are high expertise and high pay.
- Physics programmer
Designs the physics used by the game for simulating real world physics or special effects.
- AI programmer
Develops the logic and rules to simulate artificial intelligence for the game and enemies, and works on pathfinding and decision trees. AI programming is expanding significantly as games become more advanced.
- Audio programmer
Builds the sound engine for the game to support sound effects and music. Lower demand job.
- Network programmer
Handles aspects of the game that make an online multiplayer experience possible, including network security, latency, synchronization, client/server architecture, and database creation and management. This is a high demand job due to the surge in online multiplayer gaming.
- Lead programmer
Oversees advanced programming tasks and team management. The lead programmer is experienced in multiple programming areas and makes important design and technology decisions, as well as attending meetings with other department leads to ensure consistency between all areas.