Being a game developer gives you the unique power to create your own world. Game development is the beautiful crossroads where math, art, and computer science meet in a playable experience. That alien world you’ve imagined since you were a kid, or the zombie mystery you’ve dreamed of as an adult, is possible with the right skill set.
But what does a game developer do? How does one begin a career path towards becoming a game developer—and once you’re there, what does financial compensation look like?
What Does a Game Developer Do?
Wondering how to become a game developer and how to develop a game app are all normal questions to have! Developers do more than just write fancy code—there are many aspects that go into building a game and making sure it’s perfect before releasing it to the public. Game developers often have to:1
- Create and plan a game’s storyline, characters, gameplay, and scoring.
- Break projects down into small chunks, and assign those projects to parts of their team.
- Create tight schedules, timelines, and milestones for each project.
- Create prototypes for the game.
- Coordinate with visual designers and artists.
- Create 2D and 3D models of the game, characters, maps, and animation.
- Create any virtual reality elements of the game.
- Test and debug the game, checking for gameplay, broken code, and functionality.
- Take requests to fix any performance issues.
- Use coding language fit for the platform the game will be published on.
- Produce add-ons and updates to the game post-production.
It takes a whole team of dedicated developers to perfect and publish a product. While in rare cases a single developer may complete an indie game by themselves, there is no finished FIFA or Assassin’s Creed without the power of teamwork.
Game Developer Salaries
How much do game developers make? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies game developers as “Software Developers.” According to BLS, the median pay for software developers in 2020 was $110,140 per year, or $52.95 per hour.2
Most game developer positions also offer full-time benefits like medical, dental, vision, and 401(k) programs. However, these stats can vary based on location and experience.
According to Ziprecruiter, game developer salaries as of April 2021 ranged from:3
- $35,000 – $47,000 on the low end of the spectrum (5% of jobs, usually requiring 2 years or less of experience)
- $155,000 – $167,000 on the high end of the spectrum (4% of jobs, usually requiring 7-10 years of experience).
- $83,000 – $95,000 at the middle ground (encompassing the largest percentage of jobs at 23%)
Those salaries just cover the salaries under the official “game developer” job title. However, if you’re looking to do a similar job at a similar rate, you should also look for job titles like:
- Game Designer
- Senior Game Programmer
- Senior Game Developer
- Game Engineer
- Gaming Engineer
All these positions contain many of the same responsibilities in the world of game creation. It may just take some searching to find the right title for your skill set.
Paths to Becoming a Game Developer
Completing a bachelor’s or subsequent master’s degree in computer science, game development, or game design are all viable paths to gaining the right tools for game building and becoming a video game developer, video game programmer, or even a software engineer in the video game industry.
However, you don’t necessarily need a formal degree to become a game developer. Anyone who does the right research and puts in hours of software engineering may be qualified to build their dream game from scratch. And there are educational programs and platforms available to jumpstart your career.
Once you’re knowledgeable within the game design field, what kind of career path will get you where you want to go? There are 3 main routes to choose from.4
#1 Be an Indie Game Developer
As an indie game developer, you work for yourself or a small, non-corporate team.
Pros: You are much more in control of your game design and story, and you’ll gain a lot of work experience coding, testing, and perfecting your game.
Cons: The workload can be intense, and the games you make may have a harder time getting off the ground when it comes to release.
#2 Join a Gaming Company
Large game publishers like Ubisoft and Sony have the money and resources to hire large teams of 1000+ people.
Pros: The pay and benefits are likely steadier than an indie team can provide. There is the opportunity to dive deep and specialize in one area.
Cons: You have less control over the game content and production.
#3 Work Freelance
Find jobs by working contract positions and providing skills that larger companies don’t offer in-house.
Pros: You have work flexibility, create your own hours, and can specialize in your chosen skill.
Cons: Work is not guaranteed, and you likely won’t receive benefits.
How Disney Codeillusion Can Start You On Your Path
Before you complete your dream game, you need to practice the basics. What better way to begin your journey than with Disney Codeillusion—an educational, RPG-style platform that breaks down coding basics into bite-sized lessons.
With its cast of friendly Disney characters, Disney Codeillusion provides a “no-stuck” educational experience in learning about programming languages and video game development. Learn web development, game design, and media art skills alongside your favorite friends, like Snow White, Aladdin, and Ariel.
The comprehensive program contains 125 lessons that average 30 minutes each. And when your adventure is over, you can take your accomplishments offline with postcards and a keepsake magic book.
Start your journey to discovering the magical world of game developing today with Disney Codeillusion.
- Jobhero. Game Developer Job Description. https://www.jobhero.com/job-description/examples/computer-software/game-developer#:~:text=Game%20developers%20work%20on%20teams,the%20game's%20features%20and%20functionality.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Software Developers. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm
- Ziprecruiter. Game Developer Salary. https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Game-Developer-Salary
- Game Designing. The In-Depth Guide to Game Developer 101. https://www.gamedesigning.org/career/game-developer/