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Bachelor's Programs in Game Design

Finding the Right Game Design Program & Exploring Careers

Updated on: 11/29/2018
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The video game industry is rapidly evolving, sparking the demand for multimedia artists and animators to grow along with it. As long as new mobile applications and games continue to emerge, skilled game designers will be needed to create their cutting-edge imagery and sophisticated special effects. Earning a bachelor’s degree in game design online will give you dgital skills you need for a career beyond just video games–game designers can also train to create simulations for military training as well as education entertainment systems. Get an overview of what you might expect from taking game design courses online, as well as a list of top programs in the country.

How Much do People with Game Design Degrees Make?

While the specialization possibilities within the game design industry are broad, there are a few standard career paths everyone interested in earning their bachelor’s degree in game design should consider because they are lucrative, fast-growing, or both. Take a look at the salary and growth potential for some common career paths in game design below:

Job Outlook: +5.6%
Good Fit For:

A video game designer must be able to code on gaming systems or computers to produce playable games, skills that are learned as part of a bachelor’s program in game design. Tasks could include creating and testing new concepts and storylines, making the ability to think innovatively important. Teamwork is also essential, as game designers must map out their concepts for other team members to help with the larger development process.

Job Outlook: +30.7
Good Fit For:

From modifying existing applications to new app creation and development, an app developer is a creative offshoot of software development that students with their bachelor’s in game design may consider. Beyond technical skills, app developers often coordinate with or oversee teams of programmers, making the ability to communicate well and provide leadership important. Building strong relationships with and understanding user needs is also a must, making client research and relations experience helpful.

Job Outlook: +8.4
Good Fit For:

An animator role is ideal for students with a bachelor’s degree in game design, especially those who are adept at using animation programs like Flash and Maya 3DSMax. Animators also need strong creative thinking skills to develop stories and their characters. Building a portfolio of creative work is essential for showcasing abilities. While many roles require working independently, the ability to collaborate can also be useful for large-scale projects.

Job Outlook: +4.2
Good Fit For:

Those with excellent visualization and brainstorming skills combined with technical software abilities learned while earning their bachelor’s in game design may find general graphic design appealing. Graphic designers are often the first people taking ideas and putting them to paper visually. Strong people and professionalism skills are also required, and designers must be able to take criticism in stride as clients request changes on products or projects.

Sources: BLS 2018

In general, students who grauate with their bachelor’s in game design may slot well into roles as computer programmers. If you’re interested in this aspect, check out the average wages state-by-state for this postion below.

What Courses Should I Take to Become a Game Designer?

A wide variety of coursework is required of anyone thinkng about earning a bachelor’s degree in game design online, including general education courses and those specific to their areas of focus. Students will acquire the fundamentals of traditional and digital arts as well as the technical and programming skills that will help them to create and develop video games on various platforms. Core courses focus on game design, animation, game engine development and storytelling, whereas others provide supplementary skills that could be useful in your career as a game designer.

Here are five sample courses you might expect to see in an online game design bachelor’s degree program.

Mobile Application Development

As the popularity of mobile gaming continues to grow, so, too, will opportunities for employment. More game design schools are now offering mobile application development courses to help students to learn how to develop their own apps, thus giving them a formidable skill to take with them into the job marketplace.

Engineering Virtual Worlds

Here, students will learn to create multi-user two-dimensional and three-dimensional virtual worlds to be used in a game. Students will learn the underlying technologies involved, the methodology behind building a game world, and how to host a virtual community.

Scripting for Games

In this course, students will learn scripting fundamentals and how to script in a game engine. This will involve creating basic script files and learning to understand variables, functions, loops, events, conditional statements and classes.

Design of Virtual Game Environments

Students will learn the basics of interactive design, interface design, information design and human-computer interaction to create a virtual environment for an electronic game. You’ll learn cybernetics, systems theory and game theory to get a good grasp on how virtual game environments create experiences.

3D Modeling and Animation

With a focus on modeling and learning the basics of low poly and high poly models, students will gain an overview of what the 3DS max program does for video games. Learn how they are used with mobile, personal computer and current generation consoles.

How to Choose the Best Online Game Design Program

Choosing the “best” online game design program is really more about choosing the “right” program for your needs. This includes your budget, the area of game design on which you would like to focus, and what career you want to pursue once you earn your degree. Here are some frequently asked questions from students considering pursuing game design.

What area of study should I focus on within game design?

This answer is different for every student, and when pursuing a bachelor’s in game design you’ll be able to get a taste for the many different specializations within the field. Common roles within the industry include:

  • Art, Animation – Taking care of a game’s visual concepts, artists and animators are in charge of the style and functionality of a game and its characters.
  • Coding, Design – Focus on this if you’re interested in developing the platform, operating system and mechanics of games. Design is often broken down into more finite specializations, such as level design, systems, interface, game-play, etc.
  • Ideation, Story Development – Specializing in generating the overall theme, and developing the worlds, characters and their stories before they are actually created.
  • Project Management – Every development project needs someone to track deadlines and ensure timely production. This is the role of a project manager.
  • Sound, Audio Engineer – A game’s audio is important to creating the overall game experience, which is why audio and sound engineers are needed.
  • Tester – Ensuring every little piece of a game operates without a glitch, testers play and find errors before launch.

You should choose a game design school with a bachelor-level curriculum list that matches your interests and has a track record of producing students who have done what you’d like to do in your career. Keep in mind, game design roles sometimes involve long hours, but if you are enamored with the end result, putting in overtime may be worth it.

What tools and programs do game design students learn to use?

Game design pros use a variety of different software and workstation platforms, depending on their specialization and preferences. But primary programs you’ll get to know while earning your bachelor’s degree in game design are After Effects, Visual Studio, Unreal, Assembla, Unity 3D, Blender, Photoshop. Fun tools you can get to know on your own might include TVPaint for drawing animations, or Evernote for scribbling out ideas.

Do I need to have a game idea to get the most out of a game design degree?

No, but if you do have a game idea you’d like to get off the ground, you may want to consider becoming part of the game industry to get noticed. A formal education—earning your bachelor’s in game design—is often an easy place to start, to learn more about the industry and decide if there’s a specialization within it that interests you. Producing and publishing a game is a very involved task, and earning a bachelor’s degree in game design can better prepare you to create the game you have pictured.

Scholarships & Financial Aid for Game Design Programs

Just as with any other major, bachelor’s game design students, including those learning online, may need to rely on some financial aid or scholarships to help afford the cost of college tuition. Fortunately, there are many scholarships available for game design students, including the following:

Emagination Game Design offers its Rick Goodman Scholarship program to help college-bound gamers realize their dreams. Students pursuing a game design degree can earn a partial scholarship through the program by applying and demonstrating their passion for video game design and development.

Robert Morris University was the first school in the nation to offer gaming scholarships when it added eSports to its varsity lineup in 2014. Student gaming athletes can earn up to 50 percent off tuition and 50 percent off room and board.

The University of Southern California (USC) hosts a summer seminar program on video game design to showcase the latest developments in the gaming industry. Students can compete for USC Cinematic Arts Scholarships by submitting an essay that expresses their passion and skill for game design and development.

The Randy Pausch Scholarship is a $2,500 scholarship supporting game design students and others in interactive entertainment. Applicants can pursue career paths such as art, animation, programming, game design, music composition and more. The scholarship was established to support students who are pursuing careers specializing in the development of interactive entertainment. Some restrictions apply.

UAT Thinking Scholarships from the University of Advancing Technology offers thinking scholarships that recognize students who create original works and ideas that the school determines demonstrate elevated critical thinking. They also offer financial need–based scholarships to help to alleviate some of the financial burden of pursuing a degree.