Game Design Major Guide

Game Design Major Guide

Majoring in game design is a great way to become a part of the exciting, fast-growing, and competitive world of electronic gaming. Read on to find out more on what you can expect as a game design major.

Game design is the design, development, marketing, and distribution of video games for computers, consoles, arcades, smart devices, and interactive web media. This multibillion-dollar industry offers countless opportunities for career advancement for designers, programmers, graphic artists, writers, and more.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Game Design.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a game design major.

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5 Reasons to Major in Game Design

1.Game design majors are part of a rapidly growing field.

In 2020, Reuters reported that the video game industry would top $159 billion in revenue for the year, representing a greater than 9% year-over-year growth for the field. Those numbers are expected to swell to even greater proportions in the coming years, which means that career opportunities abound.

2.Game design majors come from a wide range of disciplines.

Beyond the obvious importance of computer programming and graphic design, gaming has come to incorporate an increasingly wide range of dimensions including storytelling, sound editing, web security, and more. This means that many different talents and educational pathways can lead to work in the video game industry.

3.Game design majors have high earning power.

The game design business is highly competitive but if you succeed in this field, you have a chance to earn a competitive salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2019, the median salary for multimedia artists and animators was $75,270; for computer programmers, $86,550; for software developers, $105,590.

4.Game design majors get access to cutting edge educational programs.

Game design is a hotbed for innovation, from new learning technology and emergent robotics to exciting new ways of leveraging augmented reality and artificial intelligence. As a student of game design at an influential school, you’ll get the chance to do hands-on work with amazing technology and experiment with bold new ideas.

5.Game design majors are influential.

The growth in the gaming industry is due in part to the way that electronic gaming has effectively permeated every part of our lives, from interactive use of our smartphones to the way we learn, work, and play. Leaders in the field have had a profound impact on the way we connect, compete, and collaborate. Today, top influencers in game design are breaking new ground in video game storytelling, arcade console development, interactive fiction gaming, and much more.

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What Kinds of Game Design Degrees Are There?

Depending on your college, the game design major may fall under a number of different departments or schools, including visual and performing arts; computer science; or even engineering. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in game design, be sure that you know where this degree is housed at your school, and that you take all necessary steps to qualify for admission into the relevant umbrella program, especially as you advance to higher degree levels:

  • Associate in Game Design: This two-year degree can qualify you for entry-level work as a coder, game tester, or a graphic designer. If you’re interested in working as a coder, you may want to combine your associate’s degree with a “coding boot camp” certification. Coding boot camps are typically independent crash course programs for those interested in improving credentials and qualifications.
  • Bachelor of Game Design: Though you can gain entry-level work with an associate degree, game design is an extremely competitive field that draws many talented applicants. Earning a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university will significantly improve your appeal to prospective employers as well as help you find a concentration within the field. A bachelor’s degree can qualify you for a wide range of opportunities, whether you’d like to take your skills to an educational technology company, interactive gaming corporation, or casino slot machine manufacturer.
  • Master of Game Design: Earning a master’s degree in game design can set you on a path toward high earnings and industry leadership. This two-year program gives you the chance to immerse yourself in a specific area of design, from software development and game engineering to sound editing and web security. In addition, your master’s degree will give you an edge with employers, as well as qualify you to advance within your organization.
  • PhD in Games: As a sign of this field’s incredible growth, schools are increasingly offering this terminal degree in game design. Often housed in a larger school such as the School of Computer Science, or the School of Communication, this doctoral degree will give you the chance to conduct research in a field defined by technological innovation. You could also qualify to become a professor in game design or a related subject area.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the Major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

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What Are Some Popular Game Design Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, game design falls under the broader umbrella of visual and performing arts. Game design concentrations within include:

  • Design and Visual Communications
  • Commercial and Advertising Art
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration
  • Game and Interactive Media Design
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What Courses Will I Take as a Game Design Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a game design major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as computer programming and Introduction to Game Design Methods. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. As a game design major, your options will include such courses as:

  • Computer Games and Simulations for Education and Exploration
  • Music and Technology: Sound Design
  • Interactive and Non-Linear Narrative: Theory and Practice
  • Creating Video Games
  • Games for Social Change
  • Games and Culture
  • Data Storytelling
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What Can I Do With a Major in Game Design?

The growth in the game design field is about more than recreational gaming. In addition to rapid growth in areas like eSports, augmented reality, and RPG, game design majors go on to work in educational technology, mobile app development, and more. The combination of technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and creative thinking that you’ll master as a game design major will apply in many different workplace settings. Your game design major can lead to a wide range of career opportunities, including these top jobs:

Curious how far you could go with a Major in game design? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!


Check out The Most Influential Schools in Game Design and get started on your path to a game design degree.

And if you’re shopping for the right college, be sure that you’ve reviewed our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!

We also offer comprehensive Career Guidance for students at every stage in the educational journey.

Or get tips on studying, student life, and much more with a look at our Student Resources.

Student Submitted Questions on Game Design Major Guide

Camila asks, “What is the professional background of the faculty in a game design program? Do they have experience working in the gaming industry?”

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: This will depend on the school and the particular faculty member, but many faculty members have direct experience working in game development and would have held positions such as programmers, artists, producers, or designers across a variety of fields. Many will have a software engineering background and bring this technical expertise to the classroom.

Charlie asks, “How does the curriculum balance theoretical knowledge with practical, hands-on game development experience?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: Programs try to strike this balance so that students enter the industry prepared. The program typically accomplishes this through foundational courses that give students a framework for engaging with more complex topics. Technical skill development, project-based learning, and labs should allow students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience while becoming familiar with the theoretical aspects of the field.

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