Learn . . . and earn!

Computer Gaming Programmers & Artists

TechCareers: Computer Gaming Programmers & Artists

By Helen Ginger

ISBN: 978-1-934302-56-9

Publication Date: January 2011

$14.95 (softback)

Buy now at the TSTC Waco Bookstore.

Each TechCareers book has three sections:

  • detailed career information, necessary skill sets and  potential career pathways including salary ranges;
  • overview of required degrees and/or certifications that includes sample degree plans from schools in the United States; and
  • additional information including a comprehensive listing of instructional programs, major employers and industry-related websites/blogs.

Whether you’re a high school or workforce counselor looking to steer people into a career field best suited for them, a mid-life career changer, or just want to learn more about the state of the industry, the TechCareers series has the information you need.

“A person entering the gaming field can expect a lifetime of learning and being on the front lines of creativity.”

Think Playstation, Xbox and Wii. Think World of Warcraft, Halo and Call of Duty.Playing any of these games on any of these consoles makes you part of the multibillion dollar industry of computer gaming. Who creates these games? TechCareers: Computer Gaming Programmers & Artists gives an insightful overview of the quickly growing field of video gaming.

From the beginning of video games with Atari to the multibillion dollar industry it is today, learn how new technologies and innovations require more knowledge and manpower each year to create new games that push gaming to higher standards.

From Pong to World of Warcraft

Before there was PacMan or even WiiSports, there was a very simple game called Pong. The game, invented in the ’70s by Atari, involved two players manipulating two bars up and down along the sides of the screen, hitting a ball so it would go back and forth – much like table tennis but on a computer screen.

Atari installed the first Pong machine in a tavern in California, and it became such a hit the company configured it for a home gaming system. The world was never the same.

From the two-player game of Pong to the globally interactive online games like World of Warcraft, computer gaming has become an estimated $27.5 billion industry. This figure includes the regular console games, online games, iPhone apps, pilot training simulations and military training games, each requiring millions of dollars of invested in time, people, equipment and sweat to make them successful.

Occupational Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of programming is projected to increase by a massive 32 percent from 2008-2018, while artistry is expected to grow by 12 percent. Multimedia artists and animators held about 35 percent of the artistry field in 2008.

Computer gaming includes a variety of professions requiring vastly different people working on the games with one thing in common: a love for creativity.

Some of the jobs included in this industry are:

  • Designers
  • Story builders
  • Artists
  • Composers
  • Producers
  • Production technicians
  • Productions assistants
  • Simulation programmers
  • Graphic artists
  • Animators
  • Screenwriters
  • Editors
  • Clay modelers


With the amount of specialization needed, of course, there is payoff. The salary range for computer gaming is higher than many other professions. For programmers, the average starting salary, according to the Game Career Guide, was more than $80,000 in 2009. Not far behind are artists and animators, who start with an average annual salary of $71,000.

Of course, the salary does depend on where you live. The states with a higher percentage of computer-gaming jobs possess the higher-ranging salaries. California and Washington top the list of best-paid states. Average salary for gamers in these states is around $81,000 and $74,000, respectively. States with fewer available job offerings in this profession typically have lower salary averages For instance; Colorado is 10th on the list of top earners in the United States with an average salary of $66,000.

Career Pathways

Students interested in the field usually choose one of two tracks: programming or graphics.On the technical side, you’ll learn programming languages, like C++ or DirectX. This is the down-and-dirty, math and logic core of computer gaming. After mastering basic programming, you then can move on to upper-level programming such as:

  • Animation programming
  • Multi-user interface programming
  • Advanced mathematical applications
  • Artificial intelligence

On the artistic side, a graphics track will take you into the physical look of the video. This includes 2D and 3D elements of modeling, animating and texturing. You will work with a number of art software programs including:

  • Photoshop
  • 3ds Max
  • ZBrush
  • Combustion

Whether you want to get into the technical details of gaming as a programmer or work with the aesthetics like artists, computer gaming provides a variety of career options. For those who have creativity, drive and dedication, this book provides valuable information on how to break into the industry and what is required to succeed.

About the Author

Helen Ginger taught at San Antonio College and Incarnate Word College after receiving her master’s degree from Southwest Texas State University. She served as the executive director of the Writers’ League of Texas and is an owner-partner of Legends In Our Own Minds. She also wrote TechCareers: Automotive Technicians and TechCareers: Avionics Technician.

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