Students who earn a bachelor's degree in game design prepare for careers in the video game industry. Learners can focus on different aspects of concept creation, developing skills in art and storytelling. Alternatively, they can concentrate more on the practical aspects of coding and design.
Earning an on-campus or online degree in video game design can lead to a career as an animator, graphic designer, art director, or game producer.
In this guide, readers can learn about how to choose a bachelor's program in game design and what to expect in terms of program duration and cost. Readers can also explore descriptions of sample classes, concentrations, and potential careers.
What Is Game Design?
The gaming industry designs, creates, and sells video games. Students earning a degree in video game design can focus on the design aspects of game creation, such as 3-D modeling and animation, or they can learn about coding to program games. Video game designers work for companies like Microsoft, Nintendo, and others.
What are the Best Video Game Design Programs of 2020? Here are our top Five:
|1||Southern New Hampshire University||Manchester, NH|
|2||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|3||Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah, GA|
|4||Lindenwood University||Saint Charles, MO|
|5||Baker College||Flint, MI|
Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Game Design?
Most entry-level careers in the video game industry require a bachelor's degree. Jobs like computer programmer, graphic designer, and art director all require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree, although some positions may also require ample experience.
While earning an on-campus or online bachelor's degree in game design, students develop essential skills in animation and graphic design. After graduation, they can enter the workforce and apply for jobs like multimedia artist and game designer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual salary for multimedia artists and animators was $75,270 in 2019. Additionally, the BLS projects 4% growth for these careers from 2018-2028 — about as fast as the national average for all occupations.
A bachelor's degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate-level study. Employees with a master's degree typically make more than those with only a bachelor's. Individuals can leverage their advanced degree and work experience into higher positions.
What Will I Learn in a Game Design Bachelor's Program?
The curriculum of a video game design program teaches students about programming languages, creating dynamic gameplay experiences, and graphic design. These programs prepare students to enter the game design workforce immediately after graduation.
Below, readers can find more information about common courses and concentrations offered in game design programs. However, readers should keep in mind that not all programs offer the same options.
- Information Technology and Digital Games
This course introduces students to interface design and game implementation. Students learn about the fundamentals of game-making and the economics of the industry. This class does not require programming knowledge.
- Virtual Game Environments Design
Students explore the concept of game design as a virtual environment. This class evaluates systems theory, interactive design, and human-computer interactions. Students focus on creating exciting gameplay experiences through virtual environments.
- Graphics Game Engine
This course teaches advanced graphic design concepts like skeletal animation, lighting, and shading. Students use linear algebra algorithms in their design work and learn about forward and deferred rendering solutions.
- 3-D Modeling and Animation
Students learn the basics of 3-D modeling, with a focus on low-poly and high-poly models. The course explores fundamental techniques for different systems, including PC-, mobile-, and console-based games.
This course delves into the fundamentals of programming, exploring topics like file handling, data types, and common scripting language constructs. Students learn through practice by building simple scripts in class.
- Game Art
Students in this concentration take advanced courses in 2-D and 3-D modeling and animation. Students can use these advanced skills in the gaming industry across platforms.
- Mobile Game Design
This concentration focuses solely on game design for mobile devices, from the creation of simple apps to more complicated, collaborative projects. Students learn how to design, program, and market their mobile games.
- Game Development
Students take an interdisciplinary focus, combining advanced computer programming with skills in gaming development. This concentration may appeal to students who are more interested in the practical aspects of coding than artistic design.
- Concept Art and Illustration
This concentration features courses in art and design. Students on this path use their art to influence the overall look and aesthetics of a game. This concentration does not require as much programming.
An animation concentration focuses on bringing art to life in a video game. Students hone their drawing skills and explore both traditional and digital animation techniques for a variety of gaming platforms.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Game Design?
Graduates with a degree in video game design can pursue careers like programmer, graphic designer, and art director. Professionals can also translate their design skills into other industries, such as marketing or advertisement. Below, readers can find examples of potential careers, as well as the median annual salary for each.
- Multimedia Artists and Animators
These professionals use computer programs to create animations in games, TV shows, and movies. Animators can work with members of an artistic team to bring their designs to life on the screen.
Annual Median Salary: $75,270*
- Art Directors
Art directors oversee all artistic aspects of a game, movie, or other design projects. These professionals manage a team of artistic professionals and provide the final say on character and world designs, as well as graphics.
Annual Median Salary: $94,220*
- Computer Programmers
These professionals use computer code to build programs, apps, and games for digital devices. They must know several programming languages, and they run tests on their programs to fix any problems and bugs.
Annual Median Salary: $86,550*
- Graphic Designers
Graphic designers translate concepts into art via design software. These artists can work on small-scale projects for individual clients or as part of a larger team developing bigger projects, like video games.
Annual Median Salary: $52,110*
- Producers and Directors
Producers and directors oversee artistic projects and provide direction to a large team of creative professionals. Their vision guides the entire project and keeps everyone on task and under budget.
Annual Median Salary: $74,420*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Game Design Bachelor's Program
Readers should research a variety of game design programs to find the best fit for their needs. Applicants should make sure that target schools hold institutional and/or programmatic accreditation, which indicates that a college or program meets educational standards set by the Department of Education.
Students should also look into program-specific details, such as program length; whether classes are delivered in an online, on-campus, or hybrid format; curriculum requirements; and concentration options.
How to Get Into a Game Design Bachelor's Program
Bachelor's degree programs in game design typically require a high school diploma (or the equivalent), though some community colleges may accept students without one. While most colleges require standardized test scores, some schools allow applicants to take a placement test instead.
Applicants typically need to submit letters of recommendation and a personal essay. Readers can research school-specific requirements on each college's admissions webpage.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Game Design?
Full-time students typically complete a bachelor's degree in four years, while part-time students may take months or years longer to graduate. However, part-time students can continue working while they pursue their degrees.
Students looking to finish their degrees in less than four years should look for an accelerated program. Accelerated programs allow full-time students to take more credits each year to expedite the graduation timeline.
Most video game design careers do not require any certification or licensure after graduation, though professionals may pursue continuing education opportunities if they want to learn new skills.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Bachelor's in Game Design?
The cost of a bachelor's degree varies depending on the location of the school, the type of college, and the method of delivery. Public schools are typically less expensive than private schools, and students who pursue an online degree in video game design can sometimes qualify for in-state tuition, no matter where they live.