Careers in video game development
Work for play:
ideo games aren’t only for play; they also provide work. The workers, known as game developers, make a living creating the games you enjoy playing. Making video games is a serious—and big—business. According to the Entertainment Software Association, in 2009, the video game industry had sales in excess of $10 billion and employed more than 32,000 people in 34 states. Creating these games is complex and requires the collaboration of many developers, who perform a variety of tasks, from production to programming. They work for both small and large game studios to create games that can be played on many different devices, including ...view middle of the document...
The different design teams flesh out a specific part of the game, such as its mechanics and storyline. The designers then compile their ideas in a game design document, which describes the game and its features in detail. From this document, programmers create a prototype game. Designers use feedback on the prototype to revise game features. Many game studios also use the prototype to secure financing from publishers, allowing the designers to continue developing the game. Once the game receives funding, programmers begin building its technological framework. Meanwhile, artists create concept art, such as character illustrations, that helps designers visualize the game. Completion of the prototype signals the start of the production phase of development.
Drew Liming and Dennis Vilorio
Lifecycle of a video game
The concept for a video game can come from a variety of sources. Many games start as a new idea for a story or technology the development team would like to explore. Others come from an established property, such as a novel or film. Still others attempt to perfect a style or formula found in another genre or game. But whatever the impetus for its creation, almost every game follows a similar development process: preproduction, production, and postproduction. The length of this process is often determined at the beginning of the preproduction phase and depends on a game’s size and programming needs.
Drew Liming is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. He is available at (202) 691-5262 or liming.drew@ bls.gov. Dennis Vilorio is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. He is available at (202) 691-5711 or vilorio.dennis@ bls.gov. 3
In the production phase, teams of designers, artists, and programmers use the design document as a guide to create the game. The teams collaborate to make the most of each other’s expertise. “Art isn’t displayed correctly until an engineer makes it work, and it doesn’t work until a designer defines how it should work,” says Louis Catanzaro, creative director for BeachCooler Games in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Fall 2011 • Occupational Outlook Quarterly
Postproduction and beyond
Postproduction focuses on playing the game to test it for errors, called bugs, and on tweaking it to eliminate unwanted elements. The quality assurance staff tests the game by playing it and attempting to do things the development staff never considered. As the game testers find bugs, they document the errors and assign them to a programmer, designer, or artist to fix. Testers might also find that parts of the game are inconsistent or imbalanced. Fixing these issues might require tweaks to existing features and content. Dealing with bugs and tweaks can make postproduction time-consuming. The process may take as long as production, especially for more complex games that have bigger budgets. When a game is released, it is...