Game design refers to the overall theme and character of a video game. Designers don't write code or animate games; rather, they determine what a video game is going to be about. The job of a game designer is to create the plot and story arc, characters and settings of a game. Then, artists and programmers work to bring the game designer's visions to life.
Average Annual Salary for Game Design:
As of 2011, "Game Designer" magazine reported that the average annual salary of a video game designer in the United States was $70,223 per year. Designers are paid less than most workers in the video game industry; for example, artists and animators earned an average of $71,354 during the same year, programmers averaged $85,733 a year, and video game producers made an average of $88,544 a year. However, designers earn considerably more than video game testers, who reported a mean annual salary of $49,009 in 2011.
Pay by Experience:
As with most occupations, video game designers tend to earn more as they gain industry experience. According to "Game Developer" magazine, designers who had been working in the industry for three years or less earned an average pay of $44,758 in 2011. Those with three to six years of experience averaged $59,312 a year, and those with more than six years of industry experience made an average of $77,065. Designers who had advanced to the position of lead designer or creative director reported an average income of $95,652 after six or more years in the industry.
As of 2011, video game designers working in the western United States tended to earn more than those in other parts of the country. The average salary of a designer in the West was reported as $76,560. Those in the Midwest averaged $68,889 a year, followed closely by designers working in the Northeast, who reported an average annual income of $67,125. As with most occupations in the video game industry, designers in the South earned the least, averaging just $58,032 a year.
Bonuses and Benefits:
In addition to their salaries, many designers get additional perks through their employers. Seventy-five percent of designers received some kind of bonus in 2011, and the average amount of additional income paid to a designer annually was $14,259. Ninety-six percent of game designers polled by "Game Developer" magazine received medical insurance through their job in 2011, and 92 percent received dental insurance.