If you’re interested in the technical, visual, and creative aspects of video games, a bachelor’s degree in video game design provides the foundation to succeed in the field. Video game design programs typically emphasize either the technical or artistic side of video gaming and game design, but there are some degrees that offer coursework in both. With a degree in video game design, you can become a video game designer, a graphic designer, an art director, or a multimedia artist.
According to PayScale, video game designers earn a median salary of $60,166 annually
Video game design schools provide opportunities for creative and technical-minded students to explore multimedia tools, skills, and applications that are essential to staying competitive in today’s gaming culture. According to PayScale, video game designers earn a median salary of $60,166 annually. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth in the multimedia artist field between 2016 and 2026, with a 4% and 5% growth for graphic designers and art directors, respectively.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Video Game Design?
A degree in video game design is ideal for students interested in how video games are developed, programmed, and launched. Students learn about the intricacies of video game storytelling and graphic design, gaming theory and application, and game management and marketing.
On-campus video game design schools are ideal for students with an interest in the gaming field. By pursuing a bachelor’s degree, students gain a breadth of knowledge about the technical and artistic aspects of video game design. Bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts degrees in video game design emphasize the humanities and artistic aspects of the field, while bachelor of science degrees focus on computer science and information technology.
Traditional and online video game design schools incorporate simulations, modeling, animation, and digital sculpting into their curricula to provide access to the latest technological and artistic trends and techniques. On-campus video game design bachelor’s programs often include hands-on training in laboratory settings, giving students the opportunity to design games of their own. Online programs provide a convenient option for professionals already working in the gaming industry or individuals looking to enter the field. Flexible online video game design schools offer part-time or full-time enrollment.
As you work on your bachelor’s in video game design, you may complete an internship or cooperative education program with one of the leading video game companies. This can lead to networking opportunities or a lucrative job in the field.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Video Game Design?
Careers in video game design require you to work independently and as part of a design team. Computer programmers, art and graphic designers, and software and web developers must work individually on tasks with the ability to bring ideas, project components, and production tasks to a group environment. A bachelor’s in video game design prepares you to collaborate with other computer programmers, information technology experts, and creative professionals on new and continuing gaming projects. Art directors and graphic designers also work with teams of artists, managers, and marketers to develop exciting projects that are relevant to the gaming industry.
- Art Director
Art directors develop the artistic vision of a project. They are in charge of the visual presentation of a game, movie, or other media, in addition to directing artists, illustrators, graphic designers, and other contributors on layout and format. Art directors may oversee budgets, schedules, and timelines and present updates about a project to executives.
Median Annual Salary: $92,500
Projected Growth Rate: 5%
- Graphic Designer
Graphic designers create visual images and logos by hand or with computer technology. They work closely with art directors and other project managers to determine the shape and scope of a project. Graphic designers edit images and redesign them as necessary before a project is released.
Median Annual Salary: $48,700
Projected Growth Rate: 4%
- Multimedia Artists and Animators
Multimedia artists and animators use computer software to create images, graphics, and animations for video games and other media. Multimedia artists and animators develop storyboards based on client needs and preferences, adjusting their animations and effects after receiving feedback. They may work as independent contractors or collaboratively with other artists and animators.
Median Annual Salary: $70,530
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Web Developers
Web developers create and manage websites, working with clients to develop and test website applications. Web developers write code using programming languages, integrate graphics and images, structure website layouts, maintain website support, and monitor website traffic. Some web developers may be backend developers, focusing on how a website works, while others are on the frontend, addressing a website’s appearance.
Median Annual Salary: $67,990
Projected Growth Rate: 15%
- Software Developer
Software developers design, test, implement, and analyze software for clients. Software developers may work closely with computer programmers to create or adapt an application or system according to need and use. They also recommend and perform upgrades, keep records of software performance, and work with other developers to create the best software outcomes.
Median Annual Salary: $103,560
Projected Growth Rate: 24%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Video Game Design Program
Video game design degrees are interdisciplinary in nature, combining artistic and technical coursework to teach students about the design process and gaming industry. Video game design degrees may be offered through a bachelor of science program, focusing on the mathematical, software, programming, and technical aspects of video games. Some programs also offer bachelor of arts or fine arts degrees to video game design students, emphasizing the creative, aesthetic, and historical aspects of the field. Bachelor of science degrees in video game design include coursework in programming languages, 3D applications, game mechanics, algorithm analysis, and optics and motion. Bachelor of arts and fine arts video game design degree courses incorporate game theory and history, storytelling and scripting languages, art and music fundamentals, and the psychology of gaming. Those interested in the information technology aspects of gaming will benefit most from a bachelor of science degree, while those who prefer to focus on the stories, images, and emotions of gaming may find a bachelor of arts or fine arts more suitable.
Video game design bachelor’s degree programs last four years for full-time students and often include a capstone or senior project demonstrating knowledge, skills, and ability to design a game. You may conduct a final project individually or with a group. On-campus projects may be completed in a digital resource lab or comparable setting. Online programs may provide the opportunity to use digital applications with your classmates, independently online, or through a course delivery system. Online or on-campus programs may also offer internship opportunities to work with gaming professionals directly.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor’s in Video Game Design Programs
Video game design bachelor’s degrees are accredited through their institutions. Colleges and universities are regionally or nationally accredited by an agency approved by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.
Regional accreditation refers to the area where a school voluntarily submits itself to the accreditation process. There are six regional accrediting bodies in the United States. Regional accreditation is considered more prestigious with more stringent standards and closer oversight than national accreditation. Public, nonprofit colleges and universities with regional accreditation are more academically oriented. As a result, their courses and programs are more easily transferable among institutions.
Colleges and universities that offer career-oriented programs are more likely to be nationally accredited. National accreditation is common among for-profit, career, technical, and vocational schools. There are also degree-specific and program-specific national accrediting bodies. These specialized agencies offer accreditation in cooperation with institutional agencies within a particular industry or field.
Bachelor's in Video Game Design Program Admissions
If you’re interested in a bachelor’s degree in video game design, look for programs that meet your needs. For on-campus and online programs, you must submit a formal application, high school or transfer transcripts, and appropriate test scores. Some schools have minimum GPA requirements, and you may need to submit proof that you meet specific mathematics and science course requirements. Many video game design programs require a creative, design, or programming portfolio or writing samples to apply.
- Minimum GPA: Many schools require a minimum high school or transfer school GPA, but there are allowances for students that do not meet the minimum requirements to enter a program on a provisional basis. If you do not meet the minimum GPA, you may receive an opportunity to submit a justification or explanation of your academic record.
- Application: Applications are submitted online or through the mail. Be sure to check your prospective schools’ deadlines for submission, as deadlines vary between schools. CommonApp is a useful tool that allows you to submit multiple applications at once.
- Transcripts: For admission to a bachelor’s program as a first-time student, you must submit your high school transcripts. Transfers students must submit transcripts from all prior learning institutions. Many high schools and colleges send transcripts on your behalf, often for a fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Some applications require letters of recommendation from teachers, employers, or associates that can attest to your academic ability and personal character. Be sure to give your recommendation writers plenty of lead time to work on their letters and have a few backups in place in case someone is unable to write a letter for you.
- Test Scores: Many colleges and universities require the ACT or SAT for admission. Check to see which tests your potential schools require and the minimum scores for admission. When you take an ACT or SAT, you may request that your scores be sent directly to your potential schools upon completion or at a later date for an additional fee.
- Application Fee: Most colleges and universities have an application fee, which typically ranges between $25 and $100. The fee may be waived for students who demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Video Game Design Program?
Video game design degrees vary depending on the school and program. Some programs focus on the computer technology aspects of video game design, while others emphasize storytelling and artistic elements of gaming. Many technical-heavy programs are offered through computer science departments. Programs that focus on art, animation, narrative, and music are commonly found in communications, multimedia, art, or other liberal art departments.
|Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media with a Game Development Concentration||A bachelor of arts in digital media with a concentration in game development emphasizes drawing, design, color, and core principles of game design. Game aesthetics and theory are combined with the study and application of game art, design, and interaction.||Game designer, technical designer, technical artist, level designer, web or social media developer|
|Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Development||A bachelor of arts in game art and development emphasizes storytelling and creative writing alongside drawing, modeling, and art. The program presents theories, training, and strategies for students to create interactive designs and develop appealing characters and visual images.||Graphic artist, story developer, lead artist, animator, modeler|
|Bachelor of Arts in Game Design||A bachelor of arts in game design focuses on the behavioral components of gaming. The degree provides a foundation in game theory, analysis, aesthetics, and character development while incorporating aspects of economics, psychology, and communication into the curriculum. Students also study foundational skills like drawing and modeling.||Game designer, level designer, story developer, technical designer|
|Bachelor of Science in Computer Information and Game Design||A bachelor of science in computer information and game design concentrates on the engineering and programming aspects of gaming with coursework in algebra, calculus, programming languages, and physics. Students also study game theory, analysis, and mechanics.||Software developer, software engineer, web developer, technical designer, systems designer|
|Bachelor of Fine Arts in Digital Arts and Animation||A bachelor of fine arts in digital arts and animation gives students the opportunity to create 2D and 3D images and graphics as well as hone skills in drawing, storytelling, and producing video games. Students gain hands-on training in applications, software, and other tools used in professional digital arts and animation.||Texture artist, character animator, effects animator, storyboard artist, character modeler, conceptual illustrator|
Courses in a Bachelor’s in Video Game Design Program
Coursework for a bachelor’s in video game design program varies by school, but there are several core classes that most have in common. Most undergraduate video game programs include classes on art and animation design and development, game theory and aesthetics, storytelling and character building, and computer programming.
- Introduction to Game Theory
Game theory courses introduce students to the strategies of decision-making with respect to video game design and development. Students learn how and why video games are used as economic, social, and educational tools and how they function in contemporary society.
- Interactive Entertainment
Interactive entertainment coursework provides students with a background on different forms of entertainment and how to best engage audiences using new and developing media like video games. Students may get to develop their own interactive project as they study theories, practices, and trends in entertainment.
- Writing for Video Games
Writing for video game classes teaches students about the history of storytelling, character development, and other aspects of writing for video game audiences. Students study tropes, rhetorical elements, stylistic messaging, and other elements of writing as they develop stories of their own.
- Computing for Creative Practices
Computing for creative practices courses focus on how to use computer programming languages and tools to create and develop artistic media. Students learn how to use computers to shape, connect, and simulate video game experiences.
- Programming for Game Design
Computer programming coursework incorporates fundamental computer language, coding, algorithms, and scripting. Students learn the tools and techniques of programming and how, why, and when to apply specific skills and tools.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Video Game Design?
Full-time video game design bachelor’s degrees take about four years to earn. Most programs require 120 credits, which includes general education and degree-specific classes. If there are prerequisites for a program that you do not meet, you may need to take additional classes. Many video game design degrees include program coursework that must be taken in sequences, such as programming and art classes. This can lengthen a program if you get off-cycle with synchronous course offerings.
Some online video game design degrees allow students to take classes year-round and shorten their degree to as few as 20 months. On the other hand, part-time students typically take longer than four years to receive their degree.
How Much Is a Bachelor’s in Video Game Design?
The cost of a bachelor’s degree in video game design varies based on several factors, such as whether you attend full-time or part-time, whether you are an in-state or out-of-state student, and if there are additional fees attached to the program. Full-time students pay tuition based on semester rates, while part-time students pay per credit hour. Undergraduate tuition is much lower for in-state students than nonresidents. In addition to tuition, there are other expenses to consider, such as housing, commuting, and the cost of supplies. Technology and supply fees are common for degrees with heavy technical and studio components like video game design.
Due to the added costs of housing and commuting for on-campus classes, online programs typically cost less than on-campus programs, even if the school charges an additional online fee.
Certificate Programs a Bachelor’s in Video Game Design Prepares For
- Certificate in Game Design
A certificate in game design provides continuing education for designers and developers that want to advance in the video game industry. A certificate introduces the fundamentals of video game design, game systems and mechanics, and game studio roles and development. It is an on-campus format and offers hands-on exercises for practical experience.
- Computer Gaming Certificate
Computer gaming certificates incorporate computer science specializations into a series of classes that explore the growth of the video game industry. Students learn how to apply gaming technology to business, education, biotechnology, medicine, and geography.
- Web-based 2D Game Development
A certificate in web-based 2D game development focuses on video game creation and the languages used to recreate classic video games on mobile applications and desktop computers. Students learn how to code and maintain games and applications with hybrid classes and technology lab activities.
- Video Game Design and Development Certificate
A video game design and development certificate incorporates modeling, graphics, art, design, 2D and 3D imaging, scripting, and virtual reality into an abbreviated program that teaches students how to create and maintain video games. Coursework begins with the fundamentals of programming and advances through hands-on experience and simulations.
- Game Development Certificate
A game development certificate emphasizes the history and prototyping of video games for working professionals. Students learn about graphics interfaces, studio production, and game testing and hardware as well as how to implement, assess, and test video games.
Resources for Video Game Design Students
Game Studies is an open-access international journal of computer game research. The journal includes interdisciplinary content, focusing on the aesthetic, cultural, and communication elements of video games. As a web publication, the nonprofit journal gives scholars a platform to share ideas with other video game professionals.
The International Journal of Computer Games Technology is an open-access journal that was founded in 2007 to provide a forum for video game research, reviews, and information on the latest developments in video game technology. The journal also includes content on other forms of interactive digital media and computer-based entertainment.
The International Journal of Design publishes research on all aspects of design, including animation and video game design and development. The journal is published annually to facilitate communication between video game professionals, academics, and scholars.
Gamasutra is a web-based magazine about art and design in the video game industry. Gamasutra provides information on the latest updates in the field, job listings, blogs, and social media connections.
Game Developer magazine, published between 1994 and 2013, is available online for students, professionals, academics, scholars, and people interested in the history of game development. The collection includes over 200 issues with reviews, interviews, and articles about game development and the video game industry.
Professional Organizations in Video Game Design
Many organizations offer resources for students and professionals in video game design to advance their careers, such as networking opportunities, up-to-date industry information, and practical workshops. Additionally, many organizations maintain active job boards and provide other job opportunities to assist students with securing a job after graduation.
The Graphic Artist Guild works to protect and promote the professional, social, and economic interests of its members. Members include artists, animators, illustrators, designers, cartoonists, and other graphic design professionals who can take advantage of webinars, career support, and resource links. The guild includes students, professionals, scholars, and art representatives.
The IGDA focuses on cultivating community, professionalism, innovation, leadership, and fun within the international game developing community. IGDA members gain access to global networks of game developers, game development resources, industry discounts, IGDA newsletters, and advocacy opportunities.
The SEGD is a nonprofit organization for graphic artists, designers, illustrators, brand strategists, industrial designers, students, academics, and other industry participants. The SEGD hosts chapter meetings, conferences, and talks in addition to providing research to build a global community of graphic design professionals. The SEGD also offers job listings and awards for students and professionals in graphic design.
The SIAD is an international learning society that supports illustrators, artists, and designers. Student, ordinary, and master members must meet SIAD qualifications to take advantage of the society’s benefits, which includes news about industry competitions and contracts, intellectual copyright registration, and access to awards.
The AIGA is the largest organization of graphics professionals in the U.S., with more than 70 chapters across the country. The AIGA connects professionals, students, freelancers, business owners, and design enthusiasts to define global standards, inspire the public, and encourage ethical practices. Members of AIGA gain access to networking opportunities, conferences and events, professional development resources, job boards, and designer directories.