Game Developer Job Description
Game developers work on teams to plan, design, and produce video games for computers, mobile devices, or game consoles. Their work involves creating visual content for the game and writing code to implement all the game’s features and functionality. This career requires a background in software development and mathematics and the ability to collaborate well with others to accomplish project goals. While many work full-time hours in game studios or at software companies, opportunities exist for game developers who prefer to work remotely or to self-publish their games online as independent developers.
Game Developer Duties and Responsibilities
Game developers work in a variety of organizations. Specific duties and responsibilities may vary, but there are several core tasks associated with the job, including:
Plan Game Projects
After receiving the game’s specifications and feature requests, game developers plan its storyline, characters, environment, activities, scoring, and progression. They break the project down into smaller parts for the team to handle, create schedules with estimated timelines, set milestones, and create prototypes.
Often coordinating with dedicated visual designers, game developers use computer applications to make 2D and 3D models of game assets, including scenery and characters. They also create graphics for game art and maps. This includes animating the characters and designing any virtual reality environments used.
Using programming languages suitable for the game’s target platform, game developers write the code that implements the game’s logic and allows the player to interact with the game world and its characters. This often involves having responsibility for specific parts of the code or game features and working with other developers to make the final product.
Test and Debug Games
Testing and debugging occur during the development process and after the game ships to players. Game developers use their eye for detail and automated testing tools to check for broken features and functionality, inspect their code for errors as they write it, and handle requests to fix performance and reliability issues.
Maintain Game Projects
After production, game developers continue to handle new feature requests and make improvements to the game. This can include producing add-ons and game packs, making updates that introduce new levels and characters, and adding online gameplay functionality.
Game Developer Skills and Qualifications
Game developers need creativity, artistic ability, and technical skills to make interesting games that look and run well. Employers often require them to have a bachelor’s degree in a computer science field and up to five years of experience in game programming, game design, or software development. Strong candidates usually also possess these skills:
- 2D and 3D design – while game designers sometimes help create designs for them, game developers still often work with 2D and 3D design tools to create game assets and implement existing assets into the game
- Analytical thinking – game developers analyze the requirements their employers give them to determine how to implement designs and write code for a functional game
- Problem-solving skills – they need to think critically to solve problems when debugging problematic game code, optimizing game performance, and turning their design ideas into code
- Organization skills – collaborating with game designers and other developers to complete projects successfully and on time requires an organized person
Tools of the Trade
Some tools game developers use include:
- Game design software (Unity, Unreal Engine, GameMaker Studio)
- Code editors (Sublime Text, Atom, Visual Studio)
- Automated testing tools (Selenium, Junit)
Game Developer Education and Training
Game developers often complete a bachelor’s degree in game development, computer science, or game design. These majors share courses in programming languages, algorithms, software engineering, graphics, data structures, and mathematics. Game-focused programs include specialized training in 2D and 3D modeling, animation, game design theory, game engines, and game production. Following up with a related master’s degree can help game developers stand out and potentially advance to lead developer positions with experience.
Game Developer Salary and Outlook
Game developers, classified as applications software developers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earn a median annual wage of around $101,800. The 10th percentile of game developers make about $59,900 a year, and the highest earners receive over $160,100. Game developers working full-time jobs receive benefits that include medical, vision, and dental coverage; 401(k) and profit-sharing programs; and paid holidays and vacations.
According to the BLS, the game development occupation will see very quick growth of 31 percent through 2026. While opportunities exist in console and computer game development, demand for mobile games particularly drives growth for developers. Proficiency in several game development tools and programming languages enhances prospects for game developers.
Interested in starting a career as a game developer? We’ve collected these helpful resources to get you on your way:
International Association of Game Developers – the IGDA offers game developers worldwide opportunities to develop their careers with education, online and local communities, job fairs, and access to experts in the field. Members also receive newsletters, discounts on industry software and events, and help with the job search process
Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design – author and game designer Scott Rogers has designed games for publishers like Sony, Namco, and Capcom. His guide introduces readers to the game industry and offers advice on brainstorming story ideas, developing characters, designing gameplay elements, developing game mechanics, selecting music, and more
GameDev.net – this online community features an active forum where game developers can get help with technical issues, receive feedback on their projects, and share ideas. Other features include a job board, a chatroom, news updates, and a project gallery
Sams Teach Yourself Unity 2018 Game Development in 24 Hours – designed to take 24 one-hour sessions to complete, this visually rich guide by Unity employee Mike Geig teaches the basics of developing multiplatform games. It also includes practice exercises and game projects
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