5 High-Paying, Fun Jobs In Video Game Development

From “Call of Duty,” to “Madden NFL,” to Halo,” (just a few examples of the dozens of big-budget games series around), gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry. According to the latest data from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), consumers spent $6.7 billion on video games in 2012 (the latest year for which full data is available). Additional delivery formats, such as subscriptions, digital full games, digital add-on content, mobile apps, and social networking gaming, accounted for another $7.7 billion in consumer spending. While this is roughly a $2 billion drop in sales from 2008, video gaming is still a very lucrative business.

In addition, ESA’s Sales, Demographic, and Usage Data Report reveals some interesting facts about the computer and video game industry. For example,

  • 58: the percent of Americans who play video game
  • 30: the age of the average gamer
  • 55: the percent of gamers who are males
  • 31: percent of women who are 18 years old or older, while only 19% of gamers are boys who are 17 years old or younger
  • 13: the number of years the average gamer has been playing

The take home points? The average gamer is loyal and is willing to shell out money for quality video games. As long as this trend continues, there should be a demand for talented video game developers in the foreseeable future. This demand is reflected in the amount of money game studios are willing to pay for talented workers: Game Developer Magazine’s 2013 Salary Survey lists the average yearly salary in game development as $84,337.

Wannabe gamers will find the greatest chances of employment in areas with the most gaming studios. According to GameJobHunter, the 20 U.S. cities with the most game studios and jobs are – in alphabetical order - Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Eugene, Gainesville, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Be advised that at small game studios, employers may be required to wear many hats. However, large studios employ a variety of video game developers in several high-paying positions.

5 Artists And Animators – Average Salary $75,009

Artists are responsible for how the game looks, and some artists also design the game’s packaging and promotional material. The art director manages the art department and makes decisions regarding the artwork and visual style of the game. Depending on the studio, there may be one or more lead artists, each overseeing a team of artists to ensure consistent artwork.

The concept artist creates storyboards, drawings, paintings, and sculptures of characters, landscapes, and other game elements to help guide other artists and designers.

Based on the images of the concept artists, modelers create 3D images and they also build the skeletons for characters. Animators control the movements of the game’s objects and characters.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there may be other artists involved in developing the game as well. Motion-capture artists record the movements of people or objects, which are used to guide animators in making the game more realistic. Cinematic artists create the promotional videos used to market the game, and photographers take pictures that are used to create concept art.

Most game artists have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in game design, game development, or an art-related subject.

4 Game Designers – Average salary: $75,065

Video game designers develop the creative aspects of video games, including the characters, the plot and the gameplay elements. The DOL identifies various types of designers, including the lead designer, who is in charge of the design team. The lead designer conducts meetings to brainstorm new ideas, and also handles team assignments and schedules.

The content designer is responsible for creating the plot and characters. The level designer develops the right environments for each level of the game. The game’s text and the conversation among characters are all created by the writer.

Most video game designers have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in computer science, game design, or game development. Those who don’t major in computer science should be knowledgeable in programming and scripting languages. Writers usually have a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, or Journalism.

3 Audio Designers/Audio Engineers – Average Salary $81,543

Many studios combine the functions of audio designers and audio engineers and some contract these workers instead of having full-time audio employees. Audio designers and engineers create a variety of sounds for video games, including creative sounds, technical sounds, and cinematic sounds. They also search through commercial audio libraries for sound effects.

Audio designers and engineers also mix and edit sound effects using multi-track software and hardware. Some audio designers and engineers have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in audio or sound engineering, but other only have a high school diploma and hands-on experience.

2 Producers – Average Salary: $84,127

The video game producer handles the administrative aspects, or day-to-day operations related to the studio’s games and staff. This person conducts meetings with the various departments to plan and coordinate workflow. The producer also ensures that the game is developed within budget, and that target dates and deadlines are met throughout the development, production, and marketing process.

According to the DOL, producers usually have a bachelor’s degree. A specific major is not listed, but business skills would prove valuable in this position.

1 Programmers – Average Salary: $92,151

Programmers use various computer languages to create video games. They write lines of code that determine how a game operates. The lead programmer manages the programming team and also meest with other team leaders to discuss the game’s progress.

The job of the artificial intelligence programmer is to determine how game characters respond to a player’s actions. The network programmer allows games to compete or form teams online and also creates the code that prevents players from cheating. Using algorithms, graphics programmers create the game’s 2D and 3D graphics.

The physics programmer writes code to make sure the game adheres to natural laws, and also write the code for explosions and other particle effects. The code for the game’s menus and heads-up displays are created by the user interface programmer. The tools programmer writes code that automates and simplifies the game development process for other team members. Most programmers have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering.

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