Video game designers design video games, but they typically focus on one aspect of a game, such as character design, level design, puzzle design or environment design. Many designers have their hands on a game, so the likelihood of designing an entire game is very rare. Because so many people take part in the inception and creation of a video game, salaries often reflect this.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that software developers earned an average of $92,080 per year, or $44.27 per hour. But this figure accounts for all developers, including both word processing and games for consumers. Video game designers earn closer to $57,500 on the low end and up to $88,500 on the high end, according to The Creative Group, a national recruiting service for interactive, design and marketing talent.
As with any job, location has a direct impact on salaries. Game designers working in San Francisco, for example, earn more than 35 percent above average per year. In this city, you’re now looking at a salary range of $77,913 to $119,918. Those working in Irvine, California, also fare better than most, earning 24 percent more than average. A video game designer can expect to earn $71,588 to $110,183 per year. The same, however, can’t be said for designers living in Spokane, Washington, where salaries are 18 percent less than average.
Video game designers — as well as all other software developers — should see a 30 percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much faster than the anticipated job growth of 14 percent for all occupations. The better-than-average growth rate is directly related to demand. Consumers want more software of all kinds, including gaming applications.
Game designers often need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering to get a job, but many undergraduate programs are available that focus on video game design. The University of Southern California, University of Utah, DigiPen Institute of Technology, the Art Institute of Vancouver and Michigan State University are among the schools that have programs for students interested in this discipline.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Software Developers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Software Developers
- The Creative Group 2012 Salary Guide
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.