The Art of Video Game Design

by Catherine Keich
The Art of Video Game Design

Forerunners. Titans. Great Journeys. The Longest Journey. Twisting Nethers. Solid Snake. ... Carl C.J. Johnson.

If you're familiar with one, any, or all of these terms, imagine yourself creating the imagery and animation that make these worlds and characters come alive -- the challenge assumed by game artists, designers and developers.

Game design continues to be one of the hottest fields in art, and if you're considering an art or design education, you won't go wrong focusing on animation, 3-D illustration, storyboarding, modeling, and web design -- skills necessary for a career as a game designer. (A few computer programming classes in your curriculum won't hurt either, and a focus on computer science is essential for video game developers, who code and architect the software that runs most games.)

Not all interactive video games are for fun and leisure. Government agencies and businesses use serious games for training exercises or simulations.

And the platforms are changing too. An increasing number of games are designed for mobile devices like the iPhone, iTouch, and other mobile platforms. Gaming on a variety of mobile devices is expected to grow exponentially in coming years.

The Companies

Game design and development companies, most often based in southern California, include:

  • Electronic Arts, creators of Battle Forge(TM) and The Sims(TM),
  • Activision Blizzard, famous for Guitar Hero® and World of Warcraft®,
  • Disney Interactive Studios, offering family-friendly games like Club Penguin and Disney Fairies, and
  • Sony Computer Entertainment, which markets the PlayStation products, and is known for titles like Gran Turismo® 5 Prologue, Ratchet & Clark®, and many others.

The Education

What degrees do you need to break into the field? A bachelor's degree is required for most game design and game art positions, though occasionally an associate's degree will be sufficient. Master's degrees in game design or animation are most helpful for advanced positions like Art Director.

Animation and web design skills are of course key, but classic visual arts skills like drawing and sketching are necessary as well.

Schools that offer degrees in animation, game design or visual communications include:

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Online Division
Related degrees: Bachelor of Science degrees in Game Art & Design, Media Arts & Animation, Graphic Design, or Web Design & Interactive Media; or Associate of Science degree in Multimedia & Web Design.

Academy of Art University
Related degrees: Associate's Bachelor's or Master's degrees in Animation/Visual Effects, Computer Arts-New Media, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Digital Arts & Communications

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