Career paths in the gaming industry

The gaming industry is growing. And a number of new video games hit the market every month, whether it’s for consoles, PCs or smartphones. But who is actually involved in the production?

“Basically, you can divide the professions in the game industry into three areas,” says Felix Falk, CEO of Games – The Association of the German Game Industry. Namely within the technical, such as the programmer’s, creative-artistic, for example within graphics and the commercial professions, such as game marketing and project management.

The gaming industry suffers from a lack of skilled labour. “There are currently vacancies at about every other gaming company in Germany,” says Falk. So if you want to pursue a career in video games, you have many options. A sample:

  • Game Programmers: When the story is for a game, it has to be programmed. Teamwork is required here. Especially for larger games, it is necessary to work with the source codes over several weeks and months. “We get the order, and then it’s a question of taking the initiative and dividing the work,” says Markus Schenk (name changed), game programmer at a major international game developer.

While some colleagues would work on the main game, others would take care of bugs in the game and fix them. “You don’t always need an education or training for this job. Many people simply teach themselves how to program,” says Schenk.

Earning opportunities: According to the salary atlas from the Federal Employment Agency, the average monthly gross salary (median) for full-time employees is just over 4800 euros. With InnoGames, a large German gaming company has published its salary ranges for 2022. For the position “Programmer Regular” there is an annual gross salary between 58,000 and 75,000 euros.

  • Game Designer: The tasks in game design range widely. Basically, it’s about designing the game mechanics. According to the Game industry association on its website, the basic game idea must be translated into rules that result in gameplay. Game designers can specialize in the user interface, in the game elements, but also in the narrative elements, i.e. the development of the story and the dramaturgy.

Above all, communication skills are required, but also analytical skills, the ability to think logically and abstractly and good organizational skills. “The designers have to create concepts that the programmers can implement,” says Schenk.

Earning opportunities: In the salary atlas, the average monthly gross salary is estimated at around 3470 euros. For experienced game designers, however, the salary can also be significantly higher.

  • Graphical designer: The big open world games are the flagship for many game developers. But regardless of the size of a game, proper graphics are critical to user well-being.

Graphic designers therefore work closely with the game’s writers to adapt the visual style to the story. It’s about making characters, items and the game environment meaningful.

“Many of those who work in this profession have completed training as, for example, product designers,” says Schenk. In addition, courses such as communication design and media design are just two of many other career entry options.

Earning opportunities: According to the salary atlas, the average monthly gross salary for graphic designers is 3470 euros.

  • Sound Designer: In addition to the sometimes epic music that accompanies some games and is developed by composers, there are the sound designers who breathe life and love into the overall game. They develop a real background noise for the gaming experience.

For this, sounds like footsteps or weather events must be displayed perfectly. “We programmers try to offer the sound designers as much support as we can,” says Schenk. Anyone who likes to program is in good hands in this profession.

Training as a media designer for sound and film or courses such as sound engineering, sound and music production, for example, leads to a career.

Earning opportunities: In the salary atlas, the average monthly gross salary for the professional groups “sound engineer” and “media designer – image and sound” is estimated at around 3000 euros.

  • Game User Researcher: What do consumers want, what requirements must a game fulfill and does the game fit the spirit of the times? Game user research specialists attempt to answer such questions using social science research methods. To do this, they also work directly with users.

“We invite some of the consumers directly to us, talk to them about their ideas and let them test the games on our consoles,” says Markus Schenk. A degree in psychology, for example, gives access to the subject. But disciplines such as computer science, sociology, user experience management or communication science are also available.

Earning potential: The salary atlas indicates an average monthly gross salary of around EUR 5,900 for the job profile “UX researcher”. However, the earning potential may vary depending on the industry. The median gross monthly salary for the job profile “Customer Experience Manager” is around EUR 4,880.

Those interested can find out more about other job descriptions and the respective access possibilities, for example on the career site “gamecampus.de” of the gaming industry association.

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