What Does a Game Developer Do?

Gaming is more ubiquitous now than ever before. They’re in our homes and on our phones, and with development budgets for big-box games reaching the tens of millions, it’s no wonder the video game industry feels like a new revolution.

From a video game programmer to a sound designer or animator that works in game design, there are many options for jobs you could get in the gaming industry. One of the most popular jobs is a video game developer.  You’ve probably enjoyed the benefits of a game developer’s work—whether you’re a hardcore gamer with a decked out setup or just like to kill time on your lunchbreak playing CandyCrush on your phone. 

Every game, big or small, needs developers to bring them to life. 

But what does a game developer do? How much do game developers make? 

What is a Game Developer?

Developers are world builders, earth shakers, devious masterminds behind plot twists or hours of addictive gameplay. They take the kernel of an idea and work on it until it turns into a finished packaged game ready for the market.

Simply put, developers oversee the creation and development of a game from concept to distribution. The entire game development pipeline can be broken down into 3 stages:1

  • Pre-Production – This stage is where the team can determine what the game is about, from the genre, story, and characters to the core gameplay and mechanics. It’s also the time to decide what your target audience will be, what platform to put it on, how you’ll monetize your game, and what your budget will be.

  • Production – The team comes together in production to actually make the game itself. Developers and programmers will work together to create the backend of the game. Key design concepts are translated into code so that you have a fully functioning, playable game. At this stage, developers with different specializations will work on different parts of the game. For example, testing and debugging your game is one aspect, while world building is another.

  • Post-Production – The developer’s job isn’t quite done even after the game has been released to the public. A team will be responsible for maintaining the game as players come to it, whether it’s fixing bugs or releasing new patches or bonus content.

  • What are the Different Types of Game Developers?

    The process of games development is multifaceted, which means you need people with different skill sets for different problems. This is true whether you have a large studio with hundreds of team members or a small indie team where one person has to wear many hats.2

    ‘Video game developer’ is an umbrella term that applies to the different roles needed to bring a game to life. Job descriptions for developers can span a variety of responsibilities and job titles. You can specialize in one area of game development, or you can be a jack of all trades if you want to learn how to develop a game app by yourself.

    Some of the different types of game developers include:3

  • Game Designers – Designers create the main concepts of the game, from the storyline to the general aesthetics. They design the obstacles that give the game progression, whether it’s defeating a final boss or the logistics of resource management games.

  • Artists/Graphic Designers – Graphic designers bring a game to life through the artwork, from character design to backgrounds. Artwork is an important aspect to the player experience, especially when it comes to making the interaction with the world of the game realistic and believable. This means that the physics of the world should be reflected in the graphics, whether that means a character jumping or the way shadows move.

  • Sound Designers – Sound is also an integral part of a game’s mood and the immersion of the player. Good sound design is a part of the storytelling, whether it’s background music or sound effects. 

  • Programmers – Programmers turn ideas into code that helps the game run smoothly. Different programming languages can translate a player’s intent into a directive computers can understand. Programming is what makes it possible to blast a monster out of the sky, or plant a flourishing virtual farm.

  • As of 2021, the value of the video game industry market clocks in at around $138.4 billion.4 It’s a continually growing, competitive industry with plenty of opportunity for skilled individuals.

    There are many more areas of specialization when it comes to game development with different skill requirements, but in general you’ll need:

    • Strong math, analytical, and problem solving skills
    • Good communication skills
    • Knowledge of at least one or more programming languages, such as Java, C++, or Python
    • Experience with engines (Unreal Engine, Unity, etc.)5

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    There are a lot of skills needed to become a game developer and learning how to become a game developer can seem like a daunting task. If you’re a beginning coder, the amount to learn can seem daunting. But you don’t need to go back to school to pick up the basics of programming.

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    1. CG Spectrum College of Digital Art & Animation. How Video Games Are Made: The Game Development Process. https://www.cgspectrum.com/blog/game-development-process
    2. Game Designing. They Like Math, Computers, and Art. Video Game Developers, Who Are They? https://www.gamedesigning.org/career/game-developer/
    3. Learn. What is a Game Developer? https://learn.org/articles/What_is_a_Game_Developer.html
    4. Statista. Value of the Global Video Games Market from 2021 to 2021. https://www.statista.com/statistics/246888/value-of-the-global-video-game-market/
    5. CG Spectrum College of Digital Art and Animation. What is Game Programming and How To Become a Programmer https://www.cgspectrum.com/blog/what-is-game-programming