Video game engineers are an important part of a game development team who takes care of a range of advanced technical tasks.
Due to the skills required, becoming a game engineer can take some time and education, but it can also be a very well-paying job.
In this article, we will go over what exactly a game engineer does, what kind of education you will need to become one, and how much money you can expect to make.
Game Engineer vs Developer or Designer?
It is not uncommon for the titles game designer, developer, and engineer to be used interchangeably. While there are some overlaps between these roles, they do also have their differences.
The differences between these roles and the tasks that each handles will vary depending on the team they are part of, but there are some general differences.
The title ‘game developer’ is a relatively general term basically meaning anyone who works on a game. Game developers may handle a number of different duties including programming, level design, beta testing, and more.
A game engineer will handle many of the same tasks as a regular developer, and more. An engineer may be tasked with more highly technical jobs that require advanced knowledge.
For example, if your company wants to work with a custom game engine, a game engineer may be responsible for designing this engine in order to ensure the best performance.
An engineer may also be responsible for things like building and maintaining network code, as well as developing internal tools to help with development.
A game designer is different from the previous two as he or she tends to lean more heavily into the creative and abstract side of game development. They may for example come up with new gameplay concepts, level ideas, or visual concepts.
Designers may also help to come up with the overall mood and direction for the project. Designers may also handle technical tasks but to a lesser extent.
All of these roles play an important part in game development, and will usually work closely together to complete projects.
For example, a game engineer may build a custom-level creation tool, a designer will come up with the visual concepts and objectives, and a developer will code and construct the actual gameplay. In this way, each member of the team can focus on their own specialties to make a great final product.
Why Are Game Engineers Important?
Games are getting more and more advanced and so the need for highly skilled engineers is growing. In fact, game engineers may be responsible for much of the amazing progress we have seen in video games over the years, using their advanced knowledge to push the technology even further.
In addition to becoming more technically demanding, games have also become increasingly complex projects. Having highly experienced and knowledgeable engineers is crucial to producing high-quality games on time and on budget.
Finally, game studios rarely just release a game and move on to the next project. Games are now live services requiring years of support so players can keep enjoying the experience.
An engineer will be crucial to creating stable and well-documented game systems, as well as maintaining those systems for years to come. When something does break, it’s important to have a knowledgeable expert to fix it.
What Education Is Required To Become A Game Engineer?
A game engineer is a very important role that requires knowledge of a lot of technical subjects. If you are hoping to get a job as a game engineer, your best bet will be to pursue post-secondary education in a related topic.
Despite the name, you shouldn’t feel the need to get an engineering degree to be a game engineer. Instead, good choices for education may include computer science, game development, software engineering, and more.
Beyond a bachelor’s degree, you can do more to help you stand out and land a job as a game engineer. You could for example continue beyond your bachelor’s degree and pursue a master’s degree in a relevant field. This will obviously expand your knowledge, but also help you to land better jobs with higher pay.
Outside of academics, your work experience will be an important aspect. This can begin as early as you are in school, looking for courses and internship opportunities involving game development.
Once you start looking for a job, consider that you may not land the role of an engineer immediately. Instead, it may take a few years of experience to prove and develop your skills before these higher-level roles will be more accessible to you.
Skills Required From A Game Engineer
A game engineer may be expected to possess the following skills among others
- Advanced programming skills in a variety of languages such as C++, C#, and Python
- Experience working with libraries and APIs
- Ability to understand and break down complex technical problems
- Ability to manage projects and teams
- In-depth knowledge of video games, the game industry, and the game development process
- Knowledge of the hardware. Functions, and limitations of common video game platforms including consoles and mobile.
How Much Does A Game Engineer Make?
Video game engineers are generally well paid, though your compensation is going to depend on your capabilities, level of experience, and who you work for.
A new game developer or game engineer may start out making around $70,000 a year, but as they continue their work this can grow to above $200,000.
There are many companies that hire game engineers, so it should be fairly easy for an established engineer to find work and negotiate a competitive salary. This makes a game engineer an appealing career choice as there is great potential for growth and advancement.
What Tools Does A Game Engineer Use?
As a game engineer, you will probably do a large majority of your job on the computer, though there will not be any one piece of software you will use. Many studios take advantage of industry toolkits such as Unity or Unreal Engine. You may also use custom in-house tools, or perhaps write your own.
On a more advanced level, some engineers may also be involved with video game hardware. This could include minor things like determining hardware specs for games, too much larger tasks like helping to design entirely new video game hardware.
How To Find Game Engineer Jobs
There are countless studios these days, big and small, in need of game engineers. One way to find jobs is to simply keep an eye on job boards for companies in your area and apply the old-fashioned way.
Another way to land a job may be to leverage connections you may have made in the industry on your way to becoming an engineer. For higher-level roles like this, a good recommendation from another person can go a long way.
If you make enough of a name for yourself in the industry, eventually companies may even try to recruit you for your skills.
It may also be worthwhile to consider relocating to where many game developers are based. In the US, many developers are located along the east coast in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and others.
Other US cities include Austin, Chicago, and New York. Outside of the US, Canada and England are also major locations for game developers, in cities such as Montreal, Vancouver, and London.
When it comes to the actual hiring process, you are going to need to prove your skills match up with what studios are looking for. As well as having a strong resume, it will be a good idea to build a portfolio of past projects and accomplishments.
If you really want to show off your skills, consider creating a few case studies, demonstrating the problem at hand, how you approached it, and the results of your work. This will be a great way to show developers you know your stuff.
Once you do land a job as a game engineer, your work doesn’t end there. Your role will likely present you with constant new challenges you will need to overcome, and you will always be learning and growing your skills as new technologies are developed.
If you choose this path, we hope your career as a game engineer is an exciting and fruitful one!