What are the different job occupations in the video game industry?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Dennis, who wants to know what are the all the different job occupations in the video game industry?

In this episode, you’ll learn:

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Hello and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, Episode No. 4. I’m Jason W. Bay from GameIndustryCareerGuide.com and I’m answering your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games. Today I’m answering a question from Dennis who asks about the different kinds of jobs in the game industry. Dennis asks “From reading credits of games that I finish I see all the names of all these different positions and I just wonder if this is a career path that has no limits. Are there really such a wide variety of jobs in the gaming industry?”

This is a great question Dennis. As you’ve seen in the game credits that you’ve read, there are dozens of different kinds of jobs in the video game industry. Now, many of these jobs are quite different from one another and I’m going to talk about a couple that are actually extremely different from the others that you might not have even ever heard of before. But most of the jobs do fall into just a few different areas of study. These main areas of game jobs are game design, game art, game programming, and game production. Those are the areas that contain most of the game jobs so I’m going to talk about those ones first.

Let’s start with game design. What does a game designer do? Well, they design the game levels. They tune and balance the game play. They might even write the outline of the game story or in some cases, write the game story. Most game studios break the design job down into separate areas like level design, mission or quest design or overall game design. Larger game teams, however, might break things down even further. A big game team might have one or more designers dedicated to specialty areas like combat design, tuning and balancing or pacing. But most of all, the job of a game designer is to make sure the game is fun. That’s the most important thing.

Next is game art. What do the game artists do? Most of all, they bring the game to life by creating the visuals and the motion that you see and interact with while you’re playing the game. They use digital art tools to concept and create the art. They create the landscapes that you see. They model and animate the characters that you play with and that you interact against. They build the user interface art. So all of those menus and heads up displays, all that’s arted by the artists. There are many sub-specializations that any artist could spend an entire career working to master. Some examples of specialized areas include concept art, character modeling, character rigging, animation, environment art, and visual special effects. So there are a lot of different niche areas that an artist on the art team could get into.

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But what about the game programmers? What do they do? Well, game programmers write the game’s source code. Now, source code is a special type of language that programmers use to tell the computers what to do. By writing source code they create the game features, they will debug the game systems. So once they’ve written the source code, things can be wrong with it or it can have problems and they need to go in and figure out what those are and figure out how to fix them. They also optimize the performance of the game. So they might make an area of the game run faster or more smoothly with a higher frame rate. They translate the player’s actions into results inside of the game world. So for example, when you push forward on your control stick, that makes the character move forward. Well, a programmer has to tell the game that that’s what happens.

All but the smallest game teams have several sub-specializations for programmers so that they can focus on well-defined areas of the code base. For example, the server code or the combat system or the characters and the artificial intelligence or the player input and player movement. There’s physics, there’s the graphical display and there’s also types of programmers that work just on the tools and pipeline which build the computer tools that let the artists and the designers and the other people on the team actually create the game art and other assets.

Next, let’s talk about game production. Producers keep the dev team focused and working together towards the goal. They plan and schedule the work of the game team and they keep a long term view of the project. Depending on the team, they might also handle the business side of things, manage expectations of the studio executives and the publishers or any other clients that the game teams are working for. When I talk about game production I also lump the quality assurance and QA people into the production group. For example, the game testers. Their job is to ensure that the game team is making a high quality product. They take games that are under development and they analyze them, find bugs, write bug reports, and collaborate with the development team to get those bugs fixed.

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Now, those are the main areas on the game team. But there are a few others. For example, game audio plays a role. A couple of examples of the jobs that you’ll see on the game audio team are composers. The composers are the ones that create the sound track to the game. Creating a sound track for a game can actually be more complicated than making a movie score because many of today’s games have interactive music that changes based on what the player’s doing. Also on the audio team are audio engineers. The audio engineers create sound effects and record sound effects using fancy software to make the awesome sounds of monsters, weapons fire, explosions, and they build immersive audio soundscapes that really bring the graphics to life.

There are also a few game jobs that you maybe have never heard of because they’re fairly new in the grand scheme of things. And they came about because of a need that live games, that are always on 24/7, have come to expect. One of the new job areas is business intelligence. People doing business intelligence collect and analyze data about how the players are using the game. So they’re collecting the statistics, looking at them and trying to find patterns and how the players are using the software. Coupled with business intelligence are the product managers. Product managers take the data that the business intelligence group is bringing in and they use that information to help the game team make changes to the game’s design that will make a better experience for the players or help make the game more profitable for the game company. Or in a perfect world, they accomplish both of those things at the same time.

Now that’s a lot of different games job but there are many that we didn’t get to. These ones are just the most common areas. You’ll find links to more detailed information about all these different game jobs and more by checking out my Quest for Your Career series of articles. You can find the link to that article in the show notes. For more information and inspiration about getting a job in the video games, go to GameIndustryCareerGuide.com.

That wraps it up. Thanks to Dennis for the question and thank you for listening. I’ll see you next time, right here on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.

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2 comments on “What are the different job occupations in the video game industry?
  1. Md.Tanvir says:

    Hi Jason,
    I have a question for you. Does game developer has opportunity or right to work independently on making and selling games online to App Store? Thanks

    • Jason W. Bay says:

      Yes – anybody is allowed to make games and sell them in the App Store (on both Android and Apple). Thank you for the question, I will go into more depth in a future podcast!