With sales of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii and Nintendo DS holding strong, gaming continues to be a billion-dollar industry. In 1999, game software sales topped $6 billion, states the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The field is extremely competitive and involves a team effort of various workers putting in long hours to ready games by their intended release dates. In some cases, job title lines are blurred, as one person takes on many tasks.
The overall conceptualization of a game is developed by a game designer. Level game designers hash out what occurs in different sections of the game. They work directly under the lead game designer, who determines how the entire game unfolds. Designers must be creative storytellers with knowledge of computer programming. A college degree in writing, English, art or computer science allows effective communication of ideas to develop increasingly involving, exciting gaming experiences, explains the BLS. Annual salaries range from $40,000 to $70,000, reports the A Digital Dreamer website in 2010. Lead designers earn $45,000 to $90,000 annually.
3-D Artists and Animators
Various types of artists create the visual images within a video game. Lead artists are in charge of the overall artistic content. Concept artists work with designers to sketch storyboards. Animators--proficient in Macromedia Flash, Alias/Wavefront, Lightwave 3-D, 3-D Studio Max and other computer software--create the realistic movements of characters and objects, according to Online Education Database. Other artists create 3-D models for animators. Background artists create scenery. Texture artists add detail by wrapping textures around objects using computer software. Artists and animators must understand geometry, love art and have artistic talent, be skilled in computer design software and remain open to criticism. In 2010, A Digital Dreamer estimates average annual salaries as $40,000 to $65,000 for artists, $45,000 to $70,000 for animators and $65,000 to $80,000 for lead artists and animators.
Gaming programmers write software to make games run properly. Online Education Database reports that programmers make up about 50 percent of all gaming positions. Mathematical equations are input into computers. This technical coding determines the extent of movement of characters, vehicles and other objects. Multiple programmers work under the direction of the lead programmer. A degree in computer programming or computer science and strong skills in mathematics and programming languages are critical. Programmers must stay on top of improvements and advancements in their field. Yearly wages range from $50,000 to $90,000, while lead programmers earn $75,000 to $100,000, reports A Digital Dreamer in 2010.
Testers play games and catch technical and other glitches before being released to the public. Close attention to detail is paid during play to detect problems with character movement, sounds, screen freezing, and more at any point of the game. Testers may make suggestions for improvement. Excellent written communication skills are needed to compile detailed reports for programmers to fix any bugs. While it seems like a dream job for serious gamers, repeated play of each level is needed to ensure nothing is overlooked, explains the BLS. Many enter the industry as testers while taking classes in game design. Salaries range from $25,000 to $45,000 annually, according to adigitaldreamer.com in 2010.