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Arkansas State University

Learn Game Design With a BS in Digital Technology & Design

Over the past few decades, video games evolved from an esoteric pastime to an international sensation. Video games have overtaken music and movies as the most profitable wing of the entertainment industry. Marketplace contributor Phoebe Unterman points out that video game revenue has more than doubled over the last decade, going from $41.9 billion globally in 2007 to $99.6 billion in 2016. Naturally, the industry has seen a tsunami of new talent to keep pace with demand.  

The video game sector, like all facets of the entertainment industry, is fueled by creative ideas and technical execution. Every game, from blockbusters like God of War to indie hits like Cave Story, begins with a basic premise that’s brought into reality through programming. While most video games are produced by teams of designers, some smaller titles may be produced by one or two people. The technical know-how gained in a BS in Digital Technology & Design program is a powerful tool for understanding how video games are produced, and how an idea can turn into an exciting interactive experience for the player.

The Building Blocks of a Video Game

Like any movie, novel or album, video games start with an idea. Whether it’s a story, a mechanic or simply an interactive visual, this idea serves as the starting point for the game’s storyboard. Dummies contributor Andre LaMothe defines a storyboard as “… a sequence of drawings that show the levels of the game or the different scenes and goals.” Essentially, the storyboard is an outline.

It’s important to remember that, when it comes to designing a game, every single detail must be accounted for. Everything must be programmed into the game. As LaMothe points out, “You have to think of every possible detail … because when you make your game, you are a god.” Consider as many details as possible when storyboarding the game you’d like to design. A memorable video game takes the player on an immersive journey, and you’ll want to avoid potential breaks in their immersion.

Just as the storyboard is a more detailed version of the original idea, a design document is a more detailed version of the storyboard. “The goal of the document is to record all your ideas in a format that resembles a movie script,” LaMothe writes. This allows you to examine each of your ideas, characters and environments more closely, to make sure they form a cohesive world. It’s an opportunity to second-guess the overall narrative and universe of the game before taking the leap into the design phase of development.

Programming and Prototypes

When it comes to software platforms for video game design, there are several options. Kotaku contributor Zoe Quinn writes, “There are an enormous variety … and more are being created all the time.” She goes on to list a few programs suitable for beginners, such as Twine, Stencyl and GameMaker. Larger development teams designing more advanced and detailed games will use more complex software options. As Quinn points out, “…if you can think of a specific sort of game you’d like to make, you can likely find a code library or program that will help you make it.”

The online Bachelor of Science in Digital Technology & Design at Arkansas State University offers a course in 3D Digital and Game Design, which familiarizes students with the fundamentals of 3D content creation. This, and courses like Design Technology or Design Literacy, will give students an understanding of how digital design works, and how to apply it to video game production.  

Making a Living Designing Video Games

Behind every blockbuster game is a team of designers dedicated to creating the most immersive and entertaining experience they can. CareerExplorer reports that starting salaries for video game designers in the U.S. start out around $47,000, and top out at around $173,000. The average salary is $90,270.

Like many industries, salary depends on experience and education. Candidates with a bachelor’s degree will be more attractive to potential employers than candidates with an associate degree.

Creating an immersive and memorable experience for gamers is a rewarding enterprise, and the industry is thirsty for people with the requisite experience and education. Earning a B.S. in Digital Technology & Design is a great step toward becoming a successful video game designer.

Learn more about A-State’s Bachelor of Science in Digital Technology & Design Online.


Dummies: Designing Video Games

Marketplace: The Gaming Industry’s Rise to the Top

CareerExplorer: Video Game Designer Salary

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