What is the Difference Between a Game Developer and a Game Designer?

Game DeveloperThe term “video game developer” is used generically to mean people who develop and design video games, but what is the difference between a video game designer and a developer? You can’t visit a doctor’s waiting room or the games department at Wal-Mart without seeing kids and adults alike absorbed in playing a video game. The market for these fantasies is exploding. Children who have grown up with the concept don’t even question the virtual worlds but, if you are thinking about a career in this field, you might want to know about the nuts and bolts of creating them.

Game Designers

Actually, the nuts and bolts reference may not work with creating video games. Perhaps architecture might be a better analogy. When people talk about home builders, they often mean everyone from the architect to the project developer who designs housing projects to the person who hammers the nails into the framework. The same is true of game creation; many people use the term “developer” to refer to everyone from the people who dream up the concept to the company that pays for the project and markets it, but there are two distinct professions involved: designer and developer.

Career Igniter says the designer is the person who is responsible for the “overall design and purpose” of a game. You might think of a designer as the architect who plans a new home. He knows about how people utilize a home and understands things like traffic routes through the halls and where people like to gather. He thinks about the esthetics of the home, planning fireplaces and dining rooms and determining where windows should be for the best lighting and view. The architect also understands how building materials can be affected by climate and other things and decides the best materials to use for the project. He draws up plans to present to the construction people who will build his house. In the same way, videogame designers come up with game concepts and plan everything from the way characters look and sound to the appearance of the environment they “live” in. They anticipate, and plan for, every action and reaction of the characters to their surroundings and create a story line. They create whole virtual worlds with traffic flow problems and complications like ogres and landslides. When the game idea is complete, the designers turn the game over to the developers.

Game Developers

Continuing with the architecture analogy, the building developers take the vision that the architects gave them and bring it to reality. They measure and cut and piece the building together using the plans as a guide and making the building a reality. In the same way, videogame developers take the designer’s vision and flesh it out. They write code that will make the characters look, sound and act as the designers intended. They take the territory “map” and create believable virtual worlds where the storyline can take place. Developers also work out programming bugs and discover glitches. Designers must understand the psychology behind why people play and even get addicted to playing video games. Developers have to know computer languages so that they can use computers to construct the software and make it work.

Education Needed

Both designers and developers must have computer knowledge and skills. The designer, however, will also study psychology and art. The developer will study algorithms and gain proficiency in C++, Python and other computer codes. The minimum needed for either of these jobs is a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a related field with specialization toward the design or the developing end. If you earn a degree in either field, you will need an internship for both experience and networking; these “dream jobs” are highly competitive. Graduate degrees make you more employable and earn higher-level positions.

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According to Stack Exchange, the projected job growth for both designers and developers is 23 percent which is much higher than average. Videogame developers and designers have the same potential for earning; those who work on applications or single aspects of a game earn a median salary of $92,600 while those who work on an entire system make $101,410. The difference between game developers and game designers is like the difference between architects and construction foremen: without both, the dream never becomes reality.