What Is a Game Coder’s Salary?

Game coders write the code that brings video games to life. Learn how to become a game coder. Discover salaries and the best-paying cities.

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by Marisa Upson

Updated September 16, 2022

Edited by Madison Hoehn
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If you enjoy gaming in your free time, are pursuing a career in streaming, or just like a casual hour of Minecraft, you may have also wondered what careers fall in the gaming sphere.

Game coders are not the only professionals needed to create games, but they may be some of the most important. Game coders write the code that brings video games to life for players. They may focus on programming games for mobile phones, computers, or consoles. Some well-known games include Pong, Space Race, and World of Warcraft.

A few of the most popular coding languages used to create games include C#, C++, and JavaScript. Game engines are also commonly used by game coders to lay the framework and create complex code. The artificial intelligence (AI) component of coding establishes the physics of the game world, helping control non-player characteristics.

Game coders may work in large studios, such as Ubisoft, where hundreds of people work on a project. Others work for indie studios that may consist of just 5-10 team members.

What Is Game Coding?

Game coding refers to the code, or the set of computer language instructions, that's written to make a game functional and playable.

Prospective game coders must learn the top game engines, such as Unity and Unreal Engine. These game engines enable coders and developers to create a video game's fantasy world. While Unity offers an intuitive and simple-to-learn language code popular among indie developers, many large studios turn to Unreal for its graphics and photorealism.

Game coders also need to learn certain programming languages based on the platform. For example, those using Unity need to know the C# programming language, while Unreal Engine is written in C++. Other commonly used coding languages in video game creation include Java, JavaScript, SQL, and the markup language HTML5.

Like other IT and computer fields, there are several positions in video game programming and coding. These include graphics, audio, user interface, and AI coders. Depending on the size of the project and studio, coders may work in a highly specialized area or take responsibility for the lion's share of coding.

What Does a Game Coder Do?

Game coders work with game developers, game designers, artists, and animators to take the idea of a video game and turn it into a playable game. These professionals write the lines of code that create the environment and the actions that users see when playing the game. It may dictate how fast a character runs or how they react when an enemy appears.

Some key responsibilities may include translating the vision and the game developer's specifications into code, building game engines or tools for existing engines, and testing and fixing bugs.

This position requires problem-solving skills and the ability to collaborate and communicate with others. Game coders also need to know certain programming languages and have experience with game engines. They should possess a solid background in math and computer skills.

How Much Does a Game Coder Make?

Salaries for game coders vary considerably based on the level of experience, employer, and location.

According to Payscale, video game programmers earned an average yearly salary of $63,400 as of July 2022. The top 10% made $90,000. Zippia reports that the average entry-level salary for game programmers was $65,000 as of August 2022, with the top 10% earning $134,000.

Salary by City
City Name Average Salary (2022)
Novato, CA $119,930
Seattle, WA $113,200
Quincy, MA $105,620
Washington, DC $102,090
Bend, OR $100,760

Source: Zippia

How to Become a Game Coder

Game coding is a competitive industry. It requires staying up on the latest trends and developing a deep knowledge of the process. Aspiring game coders can gain this knowledge by earning a bachelor's degree, attending game coding or game design bootcamps, or completing online courses. Remember that self-taught coders often spend years perfecting their craft and have the portfolio to prove it.

A bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field can provide students with foundational knowledge and help them stand out in a competitive field. Some employers require candidates to possess a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience. These programs may offer specializations in video game design and development. Some schools also offer bachelor's degrees in game programming.

An immersive bootcamp prepares students to enter the workforce with job-ready skills. Many bootcamps include hands-on projects that lead to a portfolio, an essential requirement in your job search. As a bootcamp may focus on specific game engines and coding languages, make sure it offers the instruction that aligns with your career goals.

Frequently Asked Questions About Game Coders

Is game coding hard?

Game coding can be difficult depending on your educational background and your passion for the field. Game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine help to simplify the process and can do much of the heavy lifting. That said, coders must still possess in-depth knowledge of programming languages like C# and C++.

Consider learning a programming language first, followed by a game engine. Then, learn how to use the language in the game engine. Game coders also need a solid background in math and logic, as well as an analytical nature. Coding a game from scratch is much more difficult.

Can you make $200,000 as a game coder?

While $200,000 a year is not your average game coder salary, it is possible to earn that much annually. It may require working your way up into a senior programming position that includes a base salary and a bonus. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide a separate category for game programmers, they report on computer programmers' salaries.

According to the BLS, Washington offers the highest pay for computer programmers, who earned an average annual wage of $183,610 as of May 2021. Remember that earning this much money usually requires years of experience and a commitment to continually improving your craft and staying up on the latest trends and technology.

How long does it take to become a game coder?

The length of time it takes to become a game coder depends on the learning path you choose. For example, earning a bachelor's degree usually takes about four years. Some online programs may offer accelerated options. Bootcamps typically run about 12 weeks to six months. Many of these programs offer full-time or part-time and online or in-person options.

Many employers also prefer candidates with some experience. You may acquire this experience through internships, bootcamps, and working on personal projects. Developing a professional portfolio demonstrates your abilities to potential employers and is critical when entering this field.

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