Careers in the Game Industry – 2014 and Beyond

Posted by Lisa Galarneau on March 5, 2014 in Editorial -- Share:

If you’re into games to any degree, then a career in the games industry might be for you.  In this article we will look at the roles available in the game industry, as well as some of the skills you might consider developing if one of these career paths is of interest to you.  If you’d like to know how much you could expect to make in any of these careers, check out the Game Developer Salary Survey 2013.

One thing to know is that people in the game industry tend to work very hard. and hours can be long, especially during ‘crunch’ time (when a title is about to launch).  Still, game companies can be very fun places to work, especially if you enjoy spending time around other gamers in a highly creative setting.

Game Production


Executive Producers might be responsible for a portfolio of games, and create budgets and launch strategies.  An MBA or degree in business administration or management is helpful, and a wide array of experience in the games industry is mandatory.
Producers are typically limited to one game and are responsible for project management, scheduling and budget.  They guide the overall course of game development and make sure all the pieces come together adequately.  Courses or certificates in project management or game production are nice to have, but not always required.

Game Research


Market Research is where it all begins, by looking at the overall landscape, understanding competitors, and defining audiences for a game.  It might also include making recommendations about launch strategy and may even affect the concept and design of a game.  Market researchers typically have degrees in business, statistics or social science.
Player Research is related to the experience of game play and might involve game usability testing or play-testing.  Most player researchers have advanced degrees in psychology or the social sciences and may be experts in human factors research.
Data Science is an emerging area related to data collected on players and game play.  Data scientists analyze collected data and make predictions about future player behavior or help development teams with predictive models to accelerate game play.  Most data scientists have backgrounds in computer science and are skilled with databases, algorithms and machine learning.

Game Design


Game Designers are central to any game project and responsible for designing the overall story and game play elements.  They maintain game design documentation and ensure that other elements (art, sound, writing, etc.) are cohesive.  There are many professional programs available that focus on this area.
Mechanics or System Designers are focused on specific game mechanics, which can vary according to the genre of the game.
Level designers are responsible for designing specific tasks, missions or quests, and design both obstacle and reward systems to accompany them.

Game Art


Concept Artists are responsible for conceptualizing the game’s story, settings and characters.  A background in fine art is typical, but there are also programs available that focus on video game art.
Character Design and Modeling (or Animation) is the field focused on developing characters and character detail and illustrating them in 2D or modeling them for 3D.
Level Designers on art teams are responsible for implementing the overall look and feel of a game into individual levels.
UI Design is responsible for the overall user interface including the HUD (heads-up display) and other status mechanisms.

Game Music and Sound Effects


Audio Producers and Managers are responsible for all audio content in a game, and may manage various people.  A background in sound recording is useful, or a certificate in sound design for games.
Composers write original music for games, much like film or tv composers write scores.
Sound Designers are focused on all of the ambient sound in a game, and work to uphold the game’s vision through sound.

Game Storytelling and Writing


Narrative Designers are responsible for the overall story and for ensuring that the narrative plays out through all the various elements of the game.  Any sort of creative writing background is useful here, and experience with games, in particular, is mandatory.  Education in game design theory and game mechanics is also helpful.
Writers are typically given projects to work on, like writing content for quests, or character dialogue.

Game and Systems Development


Game/Systems Architects are responsible for overall technical design of a world and may recommend or develop a game engine, as well.  A background in computer science is typical for this role, and specific education in game development is also useful.
Game Developers and Programmers are typically assigned to some aspect(s) of the game and may work on one or several components for a length of time.

Game Testing


Quality Assurance positions are not terribly well paid, but they are frequently entry level.  You’ll be playing games to find glitches or bugs, or even issues with usability.

Game Talent


Character Models are used as a basis for concept art or 3D models.  A standard modeling portfolio is just about all you will need, though games-specific experience is also appreciated.
Voiceover Actors supply the voices for characters.  Any voiceover experience could be relevant, but you will need a demo reel and will have to audition.
Motion Capture Actors are agile and disciplined people who take direction readily.

Marketing and Advertising


Marketing roles in game companies can cover a lot of territory, from strategic planning to communications, event/trade show planning, marketing and advertising campaigns, and social media.  If you have experience in other digital-related fields it’s possible to parlay that experience for the games industry, especially if you’re an avid gamer yourself.

Customer Support

Customer Support roles are some of the most important, and some of them are entry level positions.

Community Managers monitor and moderate social media, forum posts, knowledge bases and other locations where game information is shared.  They help resolve disputes and often provide input on the player point-of-view to development teams.

Educate Yourself

It’s never been easier to educate yourself for a career in the games industry.  Playing a lot of games is helpful, of course, but there are also many books, tutorials and websites that will help you learn specifics.  If you’re really serious, consider a degree or certificate from a school that specializes in game design and development:

Are you interested in a career in the games industry?  Tell us about your aspirations  and your plan to make it happen!

Written by

Dr. Lisa Galarneau is a socio-cultural anthropologist, futurist and games researcher. She's been playing video games since 1981 (Pong!) and loves adventure-style games, RPGs, online games, simulations and anything novel. Her love for games has been passed onto her gamer kid, and she spends a lot of time observing and pondering the future of games.

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