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What is game design?

From Mario Kart to Minecraft, FIFA to Final Fantasy, video games have played a huge role in many of our lives. Christmas mornings were spent unwrapping, loading up, and getting to know the next best game that year. Coming on leaps and bounds in the past decade, video games have gone from a niche hobby to a multi-billion pound industry of simulation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. Far more than a pastime, video games have become a social way of life for people of all ages.

But at their heart, they’re fun. Being able to design, write, engineer, and market video games is a skill that very few have, despite the size of the industry. As a graduate of games design, you’ll be uniquely equipped to combine your technical and creative skills to play a part in the happiness of millions of people around the world.

Games design entry requirements

There are no specific course entry requirements for this niche degree. While many universities would like to see maths and computing on your list of qualifications, to help with the coding and programming element of a games design course, they’re not essential. Other subjects like physics, IT, media studies, and design technology will be useful.

More important is your character, so pay close attention to your personal statement. You should demonstrate both the technical (analytics, data handling, and programming) and creative (curiosity, artistic direction, and innovation) qualities that make up a successful games designer. Remember to tailor your application to the specialism of games design that you want to develop.

A levels – Entry requirements range from CCD to BBB, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for BBC.

Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBB to AABBB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring ABBBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for CCC.

Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.

What you will need to do
  • Apply in January
  • Personal statement
What you won't need to do
  • Audition for a place
  • Pass an entry test
  • Show work experience
  • Submit a portfolio
  • Attend an interview

I’d like to become a games designer, but my maths isn’t great.

Don’t worry, that’s what calculators are for. Maths isn’t a big part of the job for many games designers, particularly if you’re in the creative department dealing with illustration and animation.

Why study game design at university?

The video game sector is booming, and showing no signs of slowing down. Digital purchases of games have recently overtaken film and music combined, and video game tournaments are now offering multi-million-pound prize pools for their winners. With a degree in games design, you’re giving yourself an entry point into one of the hottest industries on the planet. And even if you change your mind during your degree, your design, programming, coding, and engineering skills are going to be sought after in all parts of the technology and computing sector.

Your unique combination of technical and creative skills will set you up with great employability prospects in lucrative industries, ranging from software development to data science. But if you pursue a career in one of the 2,000 UK-based game design studios, as most graduates do, you’ll have the opportunity to work on digital media that is playing a greater part in society by the day. Whether it’s a classic beat ‘em up for the arcade, or a bespoke simulation to help fighter pilots in the military, you won’t be leaving work bored.

Some modules you may study are:

  • Character animation techniques
  • A.I. scripting for games
  • Algorithms and data structures
  • Computer games marketing
  • Indie game development
  • Experimental gameplay
  • Games engine creation
  • Theory of games design

Should I be searching for a course with a placement year?

This is all down to personal preference, but spending a year working in the video game industry would only increase your chances of getting a job. At the cost of delaying your graduation by a year, you can potentially spend one of your years working with a games design studio, giving you that invaluable ‘stand-out’ experience.

What can you do with a game design degree?

A games design degree will be most useful when applying for these jobs after university:

But don’t underestimate its use in other sectors too:

What's it like to study game design?

You’ll spend an average of 15 hours per week in the classroom with your tutor, but expect to spend much more than this in the studio working on your ideas. This is in keeping with the jobs you’ll find yourself in, which will involve lots of collaborative work as you strive to produce the best possible experience for the player.

Game design is a very vocational course, meaning it’s more focussed on real-world skills and less on academic theory and learning. Everything you’re taught will be useful in your future job, so from the start you’ll be encouraged to think like a games designer or developer. You’ll be given the skills and freedom to develop your own ideas, and part of the curriculum will be to design and prototype your own games. You’ll have to pitch them and develop your skills in digital asset creation, wire-framing, and 3D modelling.

But like all degrees, you’ll start with the basics. The core theories, concepts and methods of game design will help you decide where your passion and specialist skills might lie. Computer science will be at the heart of everything, and the knowledge you collect throughout your course would prove useful in many other sectors including media, technology, marketing, and entertainment.

Game design undergraduates can expect the following tasks during their studies:

  • writing reports and essays
  • attending lectures and seminars
  • hearing from industry speakers
  • creative workshops
  • technical labs
  • placements and industry experience
  • project and group work

 

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