What Does a Game Designer Do? (Plus Common Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 6 December 2022

Published 11 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Game design is the process of developing game experiences, gameplay and game mechanics for entertainment, sports, education or experimental reasons. But this article focuses on the role of video game designer. There are many positions available in this field, and you may be able to find one that suits your skills, education and experience. You can also develop certain skills to help you excel in a game design role. In this article, we answer the question, 'what does a game designer do' and provide a list of skills you might need to work in this field.

What does a game designer do?

Video game designers use graphics and effects to create a detailed user experience. They create characters, worlds and backgrounds that interact with the user throughout the game. Some video game designers work on the storyline to make it more appealing. The primary purpose of a video game designer is to create content that engages users and produces satisfactory results.

There are several different types of games that a video game designer may produce. Designing each type of game involves extensive knowledge of graphics, computer programming and user experience design. Here are some common tasks that a video game designer might do:

  • Develop a game concept

  • Prepare prototypes of video games

  • Create art design for the game

  • Create a storyline for the game

  • Draft stories and scenarios for characters in the game world

  • Develop the interface, controls, animations and other digital production processes that deliver a seamless user experience throughout the game

  • Use game programming tools, like Unreal Engine, Unity3D or UDK

  • Supervise tests to ensure that the user experience is optimised for different platforms

  • Design different types of gameplay experiences

  • Create game world art, levels and maps

  • Create artificial intelligence for self-learning NPCs (non-player characters)

  • Create video and audio content and integrate them into the game

  • Plan and submit a project for review by a client

  • Ensure all game designs and art follow client specifications

  • Follow up with the client during the production process to ensure the project is on track

  • Present design ideas, screenshots or video clips for approval by the client

  • Document ideas, processes and procedures used throughout the development process

  • Create graphical effects such as animations, backgrounds, logos and other digital media used in games

  • Code scripts to produce effects such as explosions or enemy AI movements

  • Modify existing graphics and source code to customise a game to fit customer needs.

Related: 6 Steps For How to Become a Game Tester

14 Skills for video game designers

Video game design can be a highly competitive industry. Earning a bachelor's degree in game design, computer science or computer engineering can help you stand out from other candidates. There are also certificates in specialised areas that may demonstrate your dedication to the field. For example, many programming languages offer certification to show your proficiency. Consider using education and certification courses as a way to develop the skills needed to excel in a video game design position.

Here are some examples of common video game designer skills:

1. Programming skills

Video game designers regularly program different functions in games, including storylines, user experience and difficulty settings. Some computer languages that are required for video game developers include JavaScript, C and C++. It's important to learn at least one of these languages for nearly any role in video game design. To see which languages you could learn, research positions that interest you and see which languages the employers are interested in.

2. Project management skills

Video game designers manage multiple tasks to meet production deadlines. Some of these tasks may include assisting in story ideation, prototyping, coordinating with design staff and performing quality assurance, among other basic duties. Designers may monitor how much time they spend on each task to ensure they produce high-quality results on time. Overall, project management is essential to develop a game efficiently.

3. Storytelling skills

Professionals in video game design often assist in creating compelling storylines that engage users. Furthermore, they may help formulate characters, develop their backstory, the game's conclusion and other creative elements that can entice a user to play a game. You may be able to gain this skill by learning more about game theory or by taking a creative writing course.

Read more: Top 10 Jobs for Gamers (With Job Descriptions and Salaries)

4. Communication skills

Video game designers usually work within a large team or department, each with different functions. The ability to communicate with all team members, whether in person, via online messaging or email is important in creating a functional video game. Improving your communication skills can help you develop better working relationships with others, increasing productivity and content quality.

5. Collaboration skills

Collaboration is essential in developing story elements, game design and prototypes that benefit the end-user. Designers work closely with others to create complex functions that make video games work. They often hold meetings and brainstorming sessions to produce ideas. Developing communication skills, including active listening, can assist in cultivating collaboration.

Read More: Top 10 Tips on How To Work Collaboratively in the Workplace

6. Creativity skills

Creativity can help designers develop unique elements in their work. Creativity may include the ability to develop unique game environments, characters, storylines or other features. A creative design course can help you develop skills to put your ideas into action.

7. Technical skills

Video game designers often use different technological elements for development. These include programming languages, applications and tools that produce playable results for users. To develop this knowledge, research positions that interest you and decide which technologies are important to your potential career as a video game designer.

8. Marketing skills

Video game designers often know how to market their designs. Effective marketing means you know the right way to convey your message, from social media posts and email communications, to trade shows and online advertising. To develop these skills, research positions that interest you and figure out which strategies work best for your industry.

Related: 12 Essential Marketing Resume Skills (With Examples)

9. Design thinking skills

Video game designers often collaborate with different users through prototyping to develop ideas that improve user experience. Consider joining a game design team or taking a course that teaches the practical applications of design thinking. These skills can help you contribute to your team's productive output and produce better results in your career.

10. Interface design skills

Video game designers work to develop interactive interfaces, including both virtual and physical controls, which users can employ to play games. This may include developing software or hardware controls for specific game functions, creating online menus and creating digital signs in malls and stores. To learn this skill, you might take courses in interaction design or study the subject more in-depth at an accredited institution of learning.

11. Data visualisation skills

Video game designers often work to create data visualisations, for example, to provide insights into the current marketplace. You might be asked to produce charts and graphs that show how much revenue a particular game has generated. A better understanding of the latest technology and tools for creating such visualisations can help you develop these skills. You may also want to learn more about data visualisation software and other data tools, which can assist in making data-driven decisions for your designs.

12. Graphic design skills

Video game designers often produce graphical elements for their games, such as character models or 3D environments. This may include graphic elements for the game's menus, maps or user interfaces. To develop this skill, you might take a course in graphic design or practise this skill while working in a professional position related to game design.

Related: What Is a Graphic Designer? Definition and Requirements

13. Testing skills

Video game designers supervise testing of their games to make sure they function correctly before release. These tests may include beta tests for prospective releases and focus groups to identify what users like and dislike about a particular title. If you want to advance in your field, you can become familiar with these testing strategies so you can implement them when needed.

14. Game analysis skills

Game analysis involves moving beyond a superficial assessment of games and provides insight into how video games produce benefits for users. This type of analysis involves studying the effect of video games on players' experiences and learning why these effects occur. Additionally, you may consider taking a course or studying this subject more in-depth at an accredited institution of learning.

Explore more articles