Salary Info & Essential Tips for Aspiring Video Game Developers & Designers

As a constantly evolving field, the video game industry offers exciting opportunities for aspiring designers and developers. However, with technology advancing rapidly and new gaming trends emerging each year, it can be challenging for new entrants to navigate the world of video games. But, don’t let that discourage you! With the right skill sets, mindset, and a bit of determination; folks can find their place in the gaming world. And we want to help – which is why we wrote this article for you! So, keep scrolling. Below, you’ll find the best career advice for video game developers and designers entering the industry in 2023.

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Best Tips for Professionals Entering the Video Game Industry in 2023

  1. Be passionate about gaming. Many successful game studios are run by professionals who have a passion for video game design and development. In fact, passion is an integral component of advancing in this particular industry. So, make sure you have a genuine interest in video games. 
  2. Take on smaller projects to build your portfolio and establish yourself in the industry. While a big game project backed by a major game studio is attractive, it’s unrealistic to expect those types of opportunities when you’re just getting started. So, we encourage you to focus on small projects and build from there. After all, it’ll help you gain the skills needed to tackle big gaming projects later on.
  3. Keep up with the latest gaming trends and technologies. As you are working to establish yourself, it’s important to stay up-to-date on what’s going on in the gaming industry. We recommend attending events, reading relevant publications, and participating in online video game forums to stay informed about the latest developments in the field.
  4. Develop a niche skill set. While it’s definitely important to have a broad range of skills, it’s also critical to develop expertise in a particular area. This will make you a valuable asset to a game development team. So, work towards developing a niche that can set you apart from other folks.
  5. Embrace constructive criticism. Feedback from others can help you to improve your skills and refine your craft. So, it’s important to be open to constructive criticism from colleagues, peers, and industry experts.
  6. Build a strong portfolio that showcases your skills and work experience. Your portfolio should include examples of your most successful work and showcase your ability to create engaging and immersive video gaming experiences.
  7. Network with other professionals in the industry. Connecting with others and building a network of professionals can help you throughout your career. So, stay on top of industry events, connect with others on social media platforms, and consider joining professional organizations to expand your network.
  8. Be willing to adapt. The video gaming industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to be adaptable and willing to learn new skills and technologies.
  9. Be patient and persistent in your job search. Landing a job in the gaming industry can be competitive, so it’s important to be patient and persistent while hunting for your dream job. 
  10. Finally, try to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Game design and development can be demanding, so it’s important to prioritize your well-being and mental health to ensure that you can continue to create innovative and engaging games.

“There are many museums dedicated to technology, artistic endeavors, music, and that sort of thing. From that perspective, I think games really do have a place as a kind of collaborative art or a synthesis of all these various aspects into a whole, and that, in itself can be perceived as art.”

– Hideo Kojima, Game Designer [known for Metal Gear Solid]

Skills Needed to Thrive in the Gaming Industry

Video game developers and designers need technical skills and artistic skills to succeed in the industry. Here are the key skills video game professionals need to thrive in 2023.

Essential Skills for Video Game Developers

  • In-depth knowledge of various programming languages including C++, Java, and Python
  • Familiarity with game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine
  • Efficient knowledge of algorithms and data structures
  • Ability to write efficient and maintainable code
  • Strong collaboration and communication skills
  • Ability to manage time well and work in a fast-paced environment
  • Proficiency in video game development tools such as game editors and 3D modeling software
  • Strong passion for video games and a desire to create immersive game experiences

Essential Skills for Video Game Designers

  • Understanding of game design principles including game mechanics, feedback loops, and pacing
  • Strong storytelling skills and an ability to create engaging video game characters
  • Understanding of game balance and difficulty tuning 
  • Knowledge of level design and tools for level scripting
  • Strong research and analytical skills to understand market trends and player preferences
  • Strong proficiency in visual design tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator
  • Knowledge of sound design principles and familiarity with audio editing software
  • Strong communication and collaboration skills to work successfully with other designers, game artists, and developers
  • Deep passion for video games and a strong desire to create unique gaming experiences.

“In and of itself, technology is not meaningful. It acquites meaning when it enables the game creators to rbing something new into the world.” 

– Mark Cerny, Game Designer & Developer [known for arcade game Marble Madness, and his design work on various Playstation consoles]

a person holding a blue, glowing video game controller

Key Differences Between Game Designers & Game Developers

There’s no doubt that game designers and developers play an integral role in the game development process. However, it should be clear that they have two distinct roles. 

game designer is tasked with designing the overall concept and visual aesthetic of the game. This includes its mechanics, narrative, and characters. Game designers hone in on the player experience and collaborate with the development team to bring their vision to life. On the other hand, game developers are tasked with solving the technical challenges that arise while creating a game. They write code, create graphics, code animations and use their skills to ensure that a video game runs smoothly. They collaborate with designers to take a video game from concept to console. 

Simply put, game designers focus more on the conceptual side of game development and game developers focus on the technical aspects of how the game functions. 

How Game Designers & Developers Collaborate

When working on a video game project, designers and developers often collaborate in various ways to bring the game to life. 

Some examples of how they may work together include:

  • Game designers and game developers may work together to brainstorm and refine the overall concept and visual design of the game.
  • Game designers create the game’s mechanics, story, and characters, and game developers work to implement these elements into the game’s code and engine.
  • Game designers and game developers collaborate to ensure that a game’s user interface (UI) and user experience(UX) are intuitive, engaging, and visually appealing.
  • Game designers may create the initial mockups of the game’s levels and environments, so game developers can take these designs and create the 3D models, textures, and lighting – essentially bringing them to life.
  • Game designers and game developers also collaborate to test and refine the game during the development process, ensuring that it is fun, challenging, and bug-free for the end user.
  • Game designers and game developers collaborate to optimize the game’s performance, making sure it runs smoothly and efficiently on a variety of platforms and electronic devices.
gamers playing a video game that is sports related

Average Salary Range for Game Designers & Developers in 2023

The average salaries for game designers and game developers vary depending on a few factors, including geographic location, the candidate’s work experience, the size of the company or game studio, and the specific job titles folks are seeking. However, according to our research, these professionals can expect to be paid the following salaries: 

Game Designer Salary Range

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for game designers in the United States is $85,600 – with the salary range being as low as $65,000 for entry-level designers and as high as $113,000 for seasoned professionals. 

Payscale reports a lower salary range of $40,000 to $96,000, with a median pay of $59,000.

Game Developer Salary Range

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for game developers in the United States is $79,500 – with the salary range being as low as $62,000 for new game developers and as high as $102,000 for those with a lot of industry experience. 

Payscale reports different salary expectations, with the range being around $58,000 to $132,000 and a median salary of $86,000. 

Note that salary expectations can vary and one’s experience plays a huge role in that – along with many other factors. 

African american man holding two joysticks

Resources for Designers and Developers in the Video Game Industry

  • Game Developer – a popular website that shares articles and learning resources for video game developers and designers. 
  • Unity Learn– a robust repository of online courses and tutorials for Unity game engine users. 
  • Unreal Engine Documentation – an expert-level guide to using Unreal Engine, including reference materials, examples, and tutorials. 
  • IndieDB – a site for game designers and developers can use to find forums, articles, and learning resources. 
  • GitHub– a repository-based platform that allows developers to collaborate and learn from one another.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list of resources by any means. There are plenty of other resources available for designers and developers to learn more about video game development and the nuances of the industry they’re entering. 

“Computer and video games represent one of the most important new media developments of this generation. Unlike many other forms of entertainment, they offer players the opportunity to explore, be creatice, learn through interaction and express themselves to others. It is vitally important that we protext and nuruture this new art form so that it can reach its full potential. Like most forms of artistic expression that have come before (music, novels, movies), the primary critics of video games are people that do not play them.”

 Will Wright, Game Designer [known for SimCity and The Sims]