Video game design and development is the process of creating interactive stories that users can participate in. In a video game design program, you will learn how to develop games that can be played on computers, game consoles and mobile devices. Video game production requires that many people with an array of skills work together toward a single vision. You can study general game design or a specific concentration like animation or programming. Either way, you will learn about the game development process and gain skills in scripting, graphics and design. Game design job candidates are primarily judged on their experience and the quality of their portfolio, so you should expect to start in a junior position before you become a designer. And although some talented designers manage to enter the field without formal education, a degree improves your job prospects. You can study video game design at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
Certificate in Video Game Design
If you are interested in game design but you do not want to pursue a full degree, you can earn a certificate.
- Credit hours/length of study: 6 – 12 months (15-20 credit hours)
- Coursework: If you choose to earn a certificate in general game design and development, you will take classes about the history of gaming, graphic design, animation and prototyping. On the other hand, if you earn a certificate in animation or programming, you will take more specific courses in those areas. For example, you might take 3D modeling and texture mapping for an animation certificate. And a programming certificate will offer courses like C++ programming, software engineering and programming logic.
- Employment prospects: Game design certificates are generally for people who want to explore the field before committing to a degree program, so they will not qualify you for a professional job in the field of game development. However, you could become a quality assurance tester, who plays games to test them for bugs before they are released to the public.
Associate Degree in Video Game Design
An Associate of Arts (AA) in Video Game Design offers many design courses that focus on developing artistic skills. The AA is a good choice if you want to be an artist or graphic designer or if you plan to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program.
An Associate of Science (AS) in Video Game Design has more technical classes than the AA to teach you skills in programming and scripting. The AS is a good option if you want to be a programmer or transfer into a bachelors program.
An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Video Game Design offers hands-on courses that focus on technical job skills. The AAS is a terminal degree, which means it is the best option if you want to start working in video game design as soon as you graduate.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2 years (60-72 credit hours)
- Coursework: The exact courses that you will take in an associates degree program in video game design will vary according to your school and the specialization that you choose to pursue. However, in any game design program, you will take classes that help you develop your artistic and computer skills. Some of the art classes that you are likely to take include 2D and 3D modeling, animation and photo editing. You will also take more technical classes like computer programming, level design and game production.
- Employment prospects: You will be qualified for entry-level positions at game design companies. You may be able to work on a team of game designers or as a digital artist or modeler. You will also be able to work as a quality assurance game tester.
Bachelor’s Degree in Video Game Design
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Video Game Design offers liberal arts classes in addition to coursework in game design to give you a broad education. The BA is a good option if you want to work in the field or continue on to graduate school.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Video Game Design provides more scientific and mathematical courses to give you a strong technical background. The BS is the best choice if you want to become a programmer.
A Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Video Game Design has more fine arts and design classes to help you develop your game design esthetic. The BFA is best if you want to be an artist, writer or lead game designer.
- Credit hours/length of study: 4 years (120-130 credit hours)
- Coursework: In your video game design bachelors degree program, you will take courses in programming, game design theory and digital art. You are likely to take classes that teach you programming languages like C++ and Java along with level design and user interface design. You will also take classes in animation, 3D modeling, graphic design and drawing. Finally, you will take some advanced mathematics courses like calculus and trigonometry.
- Employment prospects: You will be qualified for many jobs in the game design industry after you earn a bachelor’s degree in video game design. Depending on your area of focus, you could work as a game designer, programmer or artist. But you should keep in mind that video game design is a very competitive industry, so you will need to build an outstanding portfolio if you want to be noticed by large companies.
Master’s Degree in Video Game Design
The Master of Arts (MA) in Video Game Design offers classes that help students develop specific skillsets in the track that they choose. The MA is a good choice if you want to obtain a senior position at a game development company.
The Master of Science (MS) in Video Game Design has more business classes that are designed to train students for leadership roles. The MS is the best option if you want to become an executive who manages design teams at a video game design company.
The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Video Game Design offers fine arts classes to help artists perfect their craft. This is the best choice if you want to be a video game artist, animator or graphic designer.
- Credit hours/length of study: 2-3 years (30-45 hours)
- Employment prospects: A master’s degree in video game design qualifies you for management positions in the game development industry. You can become a producer or executive, or you can lead teams of designers and artists.
There are several fields you may be qualified to work in with a degree in video game design including:
- Game Designer
- Sound Designer
- Quality Assurance Game Tester
- Gamasutra – The Art and Business of Making Games
- Game Creation Resources
- Game Dev – Game Developer Community
- Gamespot – So You Wanna Be a Game Designer
- IGDA – International Game Developers Association
- Michigan Jobs & Career Portal – Video Game Designer
- NASAD – National Association of Schools of Art and Design
- O*NET Online – Video Game Designers
- Work for Play – Careers in Video Game Development
- Working So Others Can Play – Jobs in Video Game Development