What do you need to become a game designer?

Updated February 21, 2017

The field of game designing, which once included just a few popular home video game systems, today extends to computer games, online gaming, games for mobile devices and other emerging technologies. Game designers combine programming skills and technical knowledge with the ability to tell a story in crafting games that attempt to connect with an audience.


Game designers need a strong educational background in the field. Originally one of the only avenues open to game designers was a degree in computer science. However, many colleges and universities now offer specific majors in video game design. These programs, most of which lead to a four-year bachelor's degree, prepare students to go directly to work in the video game industry. While employers may be willing to hire self-taught designers or ones from related fields, a degree in computer science or game design is the best option for aspiring game designers.

Graphic Design Skills

Some game designers focus on the graphic elements of video games rather than actual software programming. These game designers need strong graphic design skills both in traditional media such as ink and paint as well as computer graphics programs, which allow designers to enhance their artwork and transfer it directly into the game environment. Graphic designers in the gaming industry are involved in the creative assembly of characters, environments and the overall visual styles that set games apart from one another.

Storytelling Sensibilities

Game designers also need an ability to tell a compelling story. While not all video games are strictly narrative, many make use of stories as characters move through environments and toward a goal. A background in literature, creative writing, popular culture or media studies can prepare a game designer to create stories that will draw in users and unite all the technical elements that compose a game.

Knowledge of Gaming

An understanding of how users interact with their games is necessary and how gaming has evolved since its origins. Designers must be students of gaming, learning about new technologies in development so they can design new games that take advantage of these technologies. At the same time, game designers need awareness of other popular games and what about them appeals to users. Knowing what types of games users want to play gives a game designer an essential advantage in creating the next popular game.

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