The Salary of a Video Game Designer and the Skills You Need to Maximize It

Video games are big business, with the most popular titles earn billions of dollars. With all that money at stake (so to speak), how much do video game designers make? Is game design more lucrative than other tech jobs?

For an answer, we can turn to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings across the country. According to the platform’s calculations, video game designers earn a median annual salary of $85,943 per year, and those with more than nine years of experience can easily earn six-figure salaries. Meanwhile, Glassdoor game designer salary slips at $117,191 per year.

(To compare, Dice Tech’s Latest Salary Report placed the average salary for technologists at $104,566, up 6.9% between 2020 and 2021.)

Compensation within the video game industry can vary wildly, of course. Indie game designers who create a hit can earn millions, or even billions, of dollars. in a notable case. But game designers also complain about relatively low pay, long hours, and the dreaded “critical time.”

Are game designers in demand?

According to Lightcast, employers posted some 3,361 job openings for game designers over the past 12 months. Although gaming is extremely lucrative and popular as an industry, it is a niche relative to game design job opportunities. That being said, the industry also employs many other types of technologists, from data scientists to product managers, expanding the potential pool of open positions.

Is game design a dying career?

Lightcast also predicts that, as a profession, game design will grow 14.6% over the next 10 years. It seems like a logical assumption based on the games’ enduring popularity.

What are the most valuable skills for a Game Designer?

Here are some of the technical skills that appear most frequently in game designer job postings:

  • Game development (sure)
  • C++
  • level design
  • Epic Unreal Engine
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Maya
  • Artistic direction
  • MicrosoftC#
  • Zbrush
  • 3D Modeling/Design
  • Prototyping
  • Python
  • Animation
  • Software engineering
  • Knowledge of the gaming industry
  • QA
  • Unity

Keep in mind that, if you want to access the maximum opportunities in the game, you will have to learn tools and platforms such as the Unreal Engine and Unity. You will also need to understand abstract principles such as level design and software engineering. If you’re just starting out in tech, working on personal projects involving these tools and skills (like your own game) can help you learn everything you need to apply for entry-level jobs in the field.

Is it stressful to be a Game Designer?

That’s an excellent question. If you’ve paid attention to the gaming industry over the past few years, you know the controversies over “critical time” and the lack of work-life balance. Last summer, for example, reports accused Activision Blizzard of overworking and underpaying its quality assurance staff. Earlier this year, a article in Polygon suggested that TT Games technologists were subject to a “crisis culture” that led to burnout.

However, other game companies have experimented with initiatives like a four day work week. While companies are currently desperate for tech talent, technologists are becoming more vocal about the need for work-life balance, and many managers are trying to do the best they can. Gaming will likely remain an intense industry… but hopefully more human.

About Byron G. Fazio

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