College Advice Blog

May 10, 2012

5 Considerations Before Majoring in Video Game Design

The video game industry is growing faster than ever, and is outpacing most others. Interactive technology is regularly utilized by most modern companies, and the biggest video game releases regularly outperform the largest tentpole films produced in Hollywood. And now that entire generations are growing up with incredibly elaborate gameplay at their fingertips, more students than ever are thinking about making a career of their love for video games. Universities are acknowledging the trend, and offering a slew of new, video game focused major programs. And if you're one of those eager students, you could certainly do worse than investigate design as a potential career. However, it isn't all fun and games. Video game design is a challenging job, and positions at the best companies are highly competitive. Here are five things you should consider before setting yourself on this path with a major in video game design:

  • It requires much more than simple love of the game. Just because you spend every waking hour immersed in the world of the latest video game doesn't mean you'll be successful as a designer. An insider understanding of game culture is certainly an asset in your corner, but design is as much about technical skill as passion or creativity. Video game design is as complicated as engineering, so if math scares you, you may find this a daunting major.
  • The world of video game design is more akin to a pond than an ocean. In other words, competition is incredibly fierce. There are tons of video game companies, but the list of organizations that have serious hiring weight is quite small. Most of the best jobs go to people who already have track records, and have worked on popular games. And with more and more people interested in video game design, competition is incredibly fierce. You may find that snagging a job will entail a willingness to relocate and start at the bottom of the ladder. If you can't be flexible, you won't find a spot.
  • No major will prepare you for specialization. Designing a video game is the work of a veritable army. Hundreds, if not thousands of people work on a given game, and each of them is specialized. There are script writers, code engineers, artists, modelers, colorists, and a slew of office workers that make the whole thing possible. The design of the game itself is handled by the upper echelon of a company's producers and marketing staff. So working on the design of a video game means something vastly different depending on which aspect of the work you focus on. There are few video game majors that will prepare you for all of these tasks, so you'll have to decide what's most important to you. The problem is, before getting any real world experience, you may not know exactly what you want to do.
  • Overall career path. Due to all of the above, you'll have to be willing to embrace a slow and steady career trajectory in this industry. You will start in an entry-level position, even with a degree from a prestigious school. You may end up as a receptionist or game tester at first. In the end, you may be facing years of working up the ladder, hopping from position to position or company to company before you get to do the work you actually want to do.
  • Understanding the mobile world. Mobile and app-based gaming have certainly expanded the opportunities for game designers. Online video games are as popular as console games, and the lower price tag makes them popular with the mass of consumers. So make sure that you take the time to understand the mobile space, and how tablets and smartphones can be utilized for game design. It may give you a leg up on the competition.
About the Author
Graham Milton is a contributing writer for Download Free Games, where you can view more simulation games like Hunting Unlimited 2010 along with countless others.

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