15 Best Video Game Jobs
Do you want to make games for a living?
If you love playing video games, chances are your dream job is working and making original content in the video game industry. But do you know exactly what kind of job you want? Read on to learn about some of the most rewarding and well-paying careers in the industry. Salaries increase with years of experience, and can vary with the size of the project and from studio to studio.
Computer code is the DNA of video games.
Entry-Level Salary: $40,000
Programmers write all the code that makes up a video game. This includes modifying existing code and writing original code from scratch. In larger projects programmers have specific roles such as AI programming, physics programming, or system programming.
Another aspect of programming is identifying and fixing any bugs found by the QA team. Programming requires an extensive knowledge of computer languages as well as the ability to learn new things quickly, but knowing that you had a hand in crafting a video game from nothing into a finished, playable product is a feeling like no other.
2) Cinematic Artist
A screenshot from the Mass Effect 3 cinematic trailer.
Entry-Level Salary: $65,000
Cinematic artists determine how the cinematic elements of a video game are viewed and experienced. This can include in game cut scenes and promotional content created before the video game’s release. As games become more cinematic, this job will become more important in shaping the player’s experiences and expectations when playing through the actual game.
Part of a cinematic artist’s job could be to create game trailers, like this one for Fallout 4:
Fallout 4- official trailer.
Those with an interest in film will fit perfectly into this job, as video games strive more and more to fulfill that experience of awe and wonder that movies are so successful at eliciting from their audience. You make the player’s experience feel larger than life and are able to present games in the fluid, cinematic way that is now so often expected.
3) Character Artist
Concept art for Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Image from Brandon Russell
Entry-Level Salary: $45,000
Depending on the scope of the game project and the size of the studio, character artist’s responsibilities can vary from job to job. Typically, they are in charge of creating both 2D and (depending on what the game requires) 3D models of characters present in the game. This includes how the character’s face looks and their expressions, the clothes they wear, and sometimes can include animations the character will perform throughout the game.
Character artists must have a mastery of a wide variety of art styles in order to accommodate multiple types of games they might be tasked with working on. If done well, they can be the deciding factor in how iconic and memorable a video game character is, and have a significant impact on the overall effect of the game on the gaming population. Seeing your creation come to life and exist in a living, breathing is something few other careers can offer.
4) Environment Artist
The city in the sky, from BioShock Infinite.
Entry-Level Salary: $50,000
Environmental artists create everything that a player sees while experiencing the world of a video game. You make the world feel alive and dynamic, enticing players to explore and want to live in the fantastical world you have created.
Environmental artists work closely with level designers and concept artists, creating environments that both intrigue players and fit in well with the overall feeling and design of the entire game. They must also take into account how game quests and essential story points will fit in with their environment and the theme of the game as a whole.
As someone who creates the art of a video game world, there are no limitations to what your imagination can bring to life, and no telling the impact you can have on a player that finds themselves happy and free in your world.
5) Level Designer
Ruins of a fort in the open world of Skyrim.
Entry-Level Salary: $50,000
Another path a game designer can take is one of level design. Level designers do just that: design levels. Whether it’s a city, a large open world, or a simple level in a platform game, level designers have a hand in determining how the level looks and the type of gameplay that exists for the player to experience. This includes puzzles, where items appear, scripted events, the presence of non-player characters- anything the player is able to do in a level is designed and implemented by the level designer.
If you are interested in creating game spaces for players to explore, spaces that are able to be both unique and fit in with the rest of the game world, a level design position is the job for you. You’ll get to craft gameplay and shape what it is that we all love about video games- an experience that is fun, challenging and memorable long after the controller is put down.
6) Audio Artist
Mixing sound levels is an important part of creating a believable, polished gameplay experience.
Entry Level Salary: $30,000 or $30 - $40 hourly
Every sound you hear in a video game is created and placed there by an audio artist. In some cases a composer will be responsible for creating a game’s music, but every other sound effect and piece of dialogue you hear is mixed and mastered by the audio artist.
Typically, there are two types of audio artists: an audio programmer and an audio designer. Audio programmers deal with writing code and putting the sounds directly into the game. Audio designers do the actual recording of sound, as well as editing and adjusting levels in relation to all other sounds in the game.
Of course the specific duties of an audio artist vary from game to game and studio to studio, with some preferring to hire freelance artists while others take them on as salaried employees. But one thing that is the same: the ability to bring a video game to life with a rich soundtrack that pulls the player in and immerses them in a world that you helped create.
7) Content Designer
Garry’s Mod: where the player becomes the content designer.
Entry Level Salary: $53,000
A video game content designer falls under the general category of game designer, and their duties will vary based on the size of the game being worked on or the studio they are working for.
Generally, content designers are responsible for creating the overall plot and characters that appear in a game. This isn’t to be confused with a game writer, who writes out the exact text and dialogue that appear in game. Content designers must create a plot that naturally drives gameplay forward and design characters that players care about and relate to.
As a content designer, you are in charge of creating what makes the game fun and memorable. Everything that the player sees and interacts with you will have some part in. Like a level designer, you are making the experiences and shaping the world that a player will want to continue to visit and explore day after day.
8) Game Writer
Story and mission scripts from the Grand Theft Auto games. Image from Rockstar Games
Entry Level Salary: $50,000
Perhaps one of the most undervalued jobs in the industry, game writers are tasked with writing dialogue between characters as well as most of the text that is found within a game.
Game writers are just recently becoming a valued commodity in the video game industry. Before, dialogue and in game text used to be passed off as additional, second-tier tasks to those who had a different primary focus in a game’s development. But as video games lean more towards pieces of artistic expression and less towards mindless shoot-em-up entertainment, writers are sought after in increasing numbers as story and quality dialogue are given a higher priority than they have been in the past. Video games are a new and ever-evolving way to tell interactive stories, and game writers can create compelling characters and rich plots in a way no other form of media can.
9) Games Journalist
Games Journalism: connecting the industry and the consumers.
Entry Level Salary: $32,000
While not directly involved in the development process, games journalists play an important role in the success of a video game and in the industry as a whole. Games journalists are responsible for previewing games and writing about related press before they are released, and also reviewing games once they are.
The gaming population looks to these journalists for guidance on what games are good and what games aren’t, and the articles they write can have a significant impact on how many gamers will be willing to spend their hard earned money on a game. Games journalists get to travel to video game expos, keeping the public informed about the future of the industry and any exciting products that are coming down the pipeline, and get to play games before the majority of the population can.
10) QA Tester
Testers play the same game over and over, scrutinizing every detail. Image from G4TV.
Entry Level Salary: $16,000 or $8 - $10 hourly
The QA department is an essential part of a video game’s development process, and is also where most people start when attempting to break into the industry. Testers play a game several times over, searching for bugs and stress testing each and every aspect of the game. Any bugs found are recorded and sent back to the development team, which attempts to fix the bug before sending it back to QA, where it is tested once again.
In some cases testers also give feedback on how fun a game is to play, or what parts of the game may have been confusing or didn’t fit well with the overall feel of the game. Testers experience games in multiple stages of development and ensure that they are in the best condition possible for their fellow players. And there are definitely worse jobs than getting paid to play a video game all day. QA testers are often hired as temporary workers, and on a project-by-project basis.
11) PR Manager
Bethesda’s Fallout 4 launch party. Image from Jason Merrit, Getty Images.
Entry Level Salary: $60,000 - $70,000
Moving on from the development side of video games is the lesser known, but equally important, public relations field. PR Managers are responsible for promoting a game and creating hype around its release. This can include scheduling interviews, writing press releases, and creating preview and launch events.
Working in PR means you get lots of hands on experience with the game you are promoting, as you must know it inside and out in order to create an effective media strategy. You also get access to industry events, and are able to wine and dine your way into relationships with big players in the video game business.
It is a highly social job, but one that allows you to become immersed in the industry and create fun and innovative ways to get the public excited about your game.
12) eSports Commentator
eSports caster H4nni, famous for being a competitor in DOTA’s first competitive league.
Average Professional Level Salary: $60,000
One of the newer career paths in video games is that of an eSports commentator, also called casting. As an eSports caster you give running commentary on what is happening in the match, interspersed with facts and thoughtful analysis of strategies that can be used in game.
Being a caster requires extensive knowledge of the game that is being commentated on, as well as an engaging personality and the ability to improvise quickly and articulately. The excitement of being an eSports caster comes not only from getting paid to play and talk about video games, but from the following you will acquire if you become successful at it- if people like your personality and style, they will seek your work out in the future. Most casters start out on their own YouTube or Twitch channels, the goal being to earn fans to boost their popularity and get noticed for larger tournaments.
13) Community Manager
Official community support boards for World of Warcraft.
Entry Level Salary: $50,000 - $60,000
The most popular video games and franchises acquire a large fan base that needs to be continually engaged to hold their interest for future releases and bonus content. A Community Manager is in charge of keeping the company in communication with the fans, planning out content calendars and up-keeping social media channels for players to view and keep up to date with news and upcoming developments. They must also develop and maintain a positive support system with consumers, the result of which is taken back to the development team for consideration and potential improvement of the product.
Community Managers strive to keep players interested and excited about a game long after its release. You help form a community around a game, and can share your passion and love of video games with people who are just as engaged as you are.
14) Marketing Manager
Taco Bell and Overwatch: a genius marketing strategy.
Entry Level Salary: $60,000 - $70,000
Marketing Managers focus on how best to sell a game to the public. This can include the use of social media like Twitter and YouTube, releasing videos and writing blogs showcasing features of an upcoming game, and creating advertising campaigns.
Like those involved in PR, working in the marketing department gives you the opportunity to go to gaming conventions, get in on exclusive industry parties, and network with the leading industry giants. Previous experience in advertising is usually required.
15) Social Media Manager
The Twitter page for Elder Scrolls Online.
Entry Level Salary: $45,000
Unlike Community Managers, who are responsible for keeping engaged with the fans online, Social Media Managers are responsible for creating the content that keeps those fans engaged. They respond and communicate to the public as the brand or studio themselves, as opposed to Community Managers who maintain a personal online presence and seek out community spaces.
A Social Media Manager must have, unsurprisingly, lots of experience with social media, most notably with Twitter, Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube. You must also be able to identify trends and keep an eye on other games promotional strategies, analyzing what went right and what went wrong. And what could be better than getting paid to talk about video games online!
No matter what path you choose to take in the video game industry, each of the jobs listed above is essential in the creation of a quality game. Video games require a great amount of work and communication between several different fields, and the resulting product is something that brings joy and entertainment to all.
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