Video games are fun to play, but can prove devilishly complicated to build, incorporating multiple disciplines from UI/UX design to programming. For those tech professionals who want to plunge into game development, mastering the mix of technical and “soft” skills necessary to build great games can take a lifetime.
Necessary skills can vary by platform. According to Lightcast, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the tech skills that pop up most frequently in game designer job postings include:
- Game development (of course)
- Level design
- Epic Unreal Engine
- Adobe Photoshop
- Art Direction
- Microsoft C#
- 3D Modeling/Design
- Software Engineering
- Gaming Industry Knowledge
Knowledge of Unity and Unreal, the two most popular game development platforms, is essential for game developers and designers. Unity offers its own in-house education portal; Unreal likewise has lots of documentation available via platform creator Epic Games.
Fortunately, there are several ways to start learning those skills. Many tech professionals prefer online courses as their ideal way to learn new things. We’re going to explore some free and paid options for game development and design, which can help you determine which pathways work best for you.
Free Game Design Courses
Free game design courses are a lower-cost way to explore whether game development and design are right for you. Here are some options to consider:
- Introduction to Game Design - Coursera: This comprehensive course introduces you to core game mechanics, narrative design, and player psychology. Expect engaging video lectures, quizzes, and peer-reviewed assignments.
- Introduction to Game Development - edX: This coursework dives into the practicalities of game creation, including 2D and 3D games. You’ll learn everything from the nuances of animation and sound to in-game collision detection.
- Free Game Development Fundamentals and Tutorials – Udemy: Just like it says on the tin: these courses will give you crucial insights into building your first games, working with Unity (one of the big game development platforms), and more.
Paid Game Design Courses
Once you’ve decided that you want to really commit to game development and design, you can consider whether you want to take intensive courses that actually cost money. Here are some to consider:
- Game Design Foundations - CG Spectrum: This program is designed by industry veterans and equips you with the design skills, technical knowledge, and portfolio pieces needed to break into the game industry. It covers core design principles, storyboarding, prototyping, and more.
- The Complete Unity Game Development Course: This coursework comes with hours of video content, and teaches you everything from game concept development to programming with Unity. It's a cost-effective way to acquire a wide range of game development skills. (Cost: $19.99, Duration: Self-paced)
- MIT xPro Professional Certificate in Game Design: This comprehensive course breaks down what it takes to become a game designer, level designer, narrative designer, and other highly specialized jobs. Tutorials flow into a capstone project.
Other Ways to Supplement Your Game Design and Development Learning
There are lots of places to learn online beyond courses, including:
- Game Jams: Participate in online or local game development challenges to apply your skills, network with other developers, and learn from their experiences.
- Game Development Communities: Join online forums and communities like Reddit's r/gamedev or Discord servers to connect with other aspiring game creators, share your work, and receive feedback.
- Industry Publications & Blogs: Stay informed about the latest trends and technologies by reading publications like Game Developer and blogs from established game design studios.
Consider using your budding knowledge to build your own simple games, or contribute to a team working on an indie game. As you gain experience, you’ll be ready to take on more complicated game projects and land the gig of your dreams.