Key Careers in Video Games: A Beginner’s Guide
Published on Nov 12, 2021 by Abby Stassen
If you have a creative mind, a love of technology, and a passion for video games, a career in the video game industry might be right up your alley. With the right training, you can build games from the ground up with coding, design beautiful levels with compelling challenges, solve accessibility and usability issues, write game dialogue, and more. This guide will introduce you to just a few of the game industry careers you can pursue.
Video Game Programming Jobs
Game Programmer / Game Engineer
Game programmers and engineers help create video games using code. They can have a wide variety of responsibilities, like coding the game’s base engine using the design team’s ideas, writing and developing additional software, making sure that the game’s code will run on different platforms, and more. These roles have some overlap and may be titled differently depending on the employer’s preference.
Gameplay Programmer / Gameplay Engineer
Gameplay programmers (sometimes called gameplay engineers) focus on code that directly touches the gameplay experience as opposed to code that builds the game engine or larger systems within the game. They work on interactive systems within the game, like combat, write code that determines how a player can use objects, implement the game’s physics, and more. Some gameplay programmers specialize in code fro immersive virtual reality games on platforms like Oculus headsets or PlayStation VR.
Graphics Programmer / Graphics Engineer
Graphics programmers (sometimes called graphics engineers) use programming skills to write dedicated code that draws content to the screen as quickly and efficiently as possible. Their work is invisible but essential — a player will only notice graphics programming issues if something goes wrong, like if they encounter a visual glitch or a lag during gameplay.
Tools developers help the game development process run smoothly by providing game designers, artists, and programmers with the best tools to do their jobs. Tools developers often build software that is designed to create multiple games; they also create and maintain tools for a game’s 3D art suite or the game engine itself.
Networking programmers develop code for online multiplayer games. They help gamers play together online by making sure that the game’s events are happening simultaneously for players in different locations. Network programmers tackle complex areas of game planning, including gameplay mechanics, game engine requirements, network protocols, and client/server programming.
Video Game Design Jobs
Game designers take a game’s concept and write code that turns it into a playable video game. A game designer’s daily schedule can vary depending on the company they work for and the game they’re designing: Some designers spend most of their time looking at code while others work mostly with database packages or spreadsheets, among other responsibilities.
Systems designers use advanced math and data interpretation skills to map out a player’s progression in a game. For example, they use equations to determine how much experience a player needs to advance through a game’s challenges or levels, and how that player’s relationship to enemies changes as they advance.
Level designers are responsible for creating different video game levels and challenges within those levels. They plan the level, block out the level’s playable space, add characters, and more. They also determine the points at which a player might need a certain piece of information or support, assess the level’s pacing and flow, and set player goals.
Technical designers are a bridge between a game’s programming and design requirements. They anticipate the designer’s needs and solve issues within the game’s software, systems, and tools to help the design team meet their goals. They follow the development of tools that the designers use throughout the game development process and fix weak points in the team’s workflow. They might also teach the design team how to use new tools for a more efficient design process.
User Experience (UX) Designer
UX designers are the bridge between game designers and players. They identify the instructions and hints that will help players move forward in the game, create challenges of varying difficulty for players to solve, deal with usability and accessibility issues, and recommend elements that will encourage users to keep playing. They also conduct experiments to determine which design elements will meet a gamer’s needs and create solutions based on user feedback.
Video Game Producer Jobs
Video game producers play a major role in a video game’s creation. They help hire and manage the game’s engineers and designers, manage production schedules and budgets, and work with a game’s programmers, designers, and artists to solve problems across different game development disciplines. They also work with licensors and the game’s public relations team, and they make sure that the game is complete by its release date.
Technical directors are responsible for a game’s team of engineers. They help the engineers solve problems throughout the game development pipeline and make sure that all of the game’s code is executed correctly and meets budgetary, system, and other requirements. They need to be skilled at scheduling project deadlines and managing people. This is a very advanced, senior-level position that requires more than a decade of experience in the video game industry.
A creative director oversees a video game’s look and feel. They make sure that all of the game’s components — like storylines, characters, levels, goals, environments, and audio — fit together for a coherent gaming experience that matches the creative vision. They also help manage the project’s schedule and budget. This is another very advanced, senior-level position that requires more than a decade of experience in the video game industry.
Additional Video Game Industry Jobs
A video game writer develops a game’s story and writes scripts, dialogue, tutorials, character descriptions, and more. They work with the game’s design team to determine the game’s structure, write level overviews and flowcharts, and create all written components, like dialogue bubbles and text instructions for quests. They also proofread and edit the game’s writing in the postproduction process.
Video game translators are bilingual game professionals who help prepare games for release in a new country. They translate a game’s storyline, dialogue, and written components into the country’s primary language. They might also work with the art team to alter visual assets and write new text for packaging and instructions.
Audio engineers edit, mix, and master a game’s sound mix to create audio that matches the game’s aesthetic. This might include ambient noises, character voices, sound effects, and more. They might use pre-recorded sounds from audio effects libraries, audition and record voiceover actors, and record their own sounds to meet specific audio needs.
Trademark Specialists / Copyright Specialists
Video game trademark specialists and copyright specialists help game companies protect their intellectual property. They might register elements of a company’s game to prevent other game companies from profiting off of ideas that are too similar or identify instances where a competitor is reproducing or distributing a game without the creator’s permission. These specialists might also be attorneys who represent game companies in court.
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