What Is the Job Outlook for a Video Game Designer?

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The video game industry is a major industry in North America and is rapidly expanding. While the industry did see a decline in sales numbers in 2009, the December 2009 sales were at an all-time high. As of July 2010, there are between 600 and 1,000 open positions in the video game industry, and that number will likely rise. The major requirements to work in the industry are a degree in software programming or graphic design and a love of video games.

Finding Jobs

  • While there are a couple job boards dedicated to technology jobs and include video games, there isn’t a job board dedicated solely to listing jobs in the video game industry. Most video game companies will post job opportunities on their websites and on their forums. Although companies are looking for qualified individuals, they also like to hire people who a familiar with the kind of games that company makes. It’s best to look for jobs on the websites of the companies that make your favorite games.

The Big Three

  • Electronic Arts (EA Games), Activision and Unisoft produce a vast majority of all games and are a great place to start a job search. This is because each company is sub-divided into hundreds of additional companies. EA Games produces The Sims, but the game is developed by EA’s subsidiary company Maxis. Activision’s multi-billion-dollar Call of Duty franchise is developed by the subsidiary companies Infinity Ward and Treyarch. Between the three, as of July 2010, there are nearly 1,000 openings in various areas.

Non-programming Jobs

  • Out of the more than 500 job openings listed by EA Games on its website, only one is for a writer. However, nearly half of the positions are dedicated to graphic artists and videographers. All characters in a game begin as a sketch on a piece of paper, and rarely do the people who sketch characters, locations and buildings actually do the programming for the game of what they sketch. That is what programmers do.

Programming Jobs

  • Most jobs in the industry are programming based. Programmers, level designers, character animators, texture artists, interface designers and sound engineers are all programming positions. Because of the demand for high-definition games, there has been an increase in the amount of designers, programmers and artists needed to aid in the effort of making games look as real as possible. Programming jobs are hardest and require the most training and work to complete. The video game industry’s main customer base (12- to 24-year-old males) is not tolerant of mistakes (known in the industry as bugs or glitches), so there is a demand for perfection.

Working in the Industry

  • Working in the video game industry involves long, often stressful hours in an office, and when deadlines are near it isn’t uncommon for programmers to work between 30 and 40 hours in a weekend. Even game tester jobs aren’t easy. They spend countless hours playing a game before it releases to search for bugs and glitches. This requires playing the game over and over, all within a short period of time. While it can be a fun place to work, a video game development office is a highly stressful work environment.

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  • Photo Credit office job image by Oleg Kulakov from Fotolia.com
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