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Job roles

  1. Game Designer - Computer Games Game Designers are responsible for devising what a game consists of and how it plays. They plan and define all the elements and components of a game: its setting; structure; rules; story flow; characters; the objects, props, vehicles, and devices available to the characters; interface design; and modes of play. Sometimes the Game Designer is the originator of the game’s concept or premise. More often, most of the core ingredients are already defined and the Game Designer must decide how to create the best game using these elements, within the constraints of budget and timescale. Games are usually large projects and the design process might be shared between a number of different people, overseen by the Lead Designer. Game Designers are employed by development studios, both independent and publisher-owned. The current industry climate means that most conventional publishers and developers are increasingly risk averse. Originality and creativity are valued, but a thorough knowledge of a game’s target audience and market is equally if not more important. Game Designers should also have a deep understanding of the capabilities and benefits of different hardware platforms (eg PC, console, mobile device, etc.), as well as familiarity with software technologies and techniques appropriate to each platform. A lot of game design builds on what’s gone before, but as the medium develops and matures the challenge for the Game Designer is to create new and engaging titles that will expand the current genre base and cater to new audiences.
  2. Level Editor - Computer Games The Level Editor defines and creates interactive architecture for a segment of a game, including the landscape, buildings, and objects. They must be true to the overall design specification, using the characters and story elements defined by the Game Designer, but they often have considerable scope to vary the specific look and feel of the level for which they are responsible. The Level Editor also develops the game play for the level, which includes the challenges that the characters face and the actions they must take to overcome them. The architecture helps to define those challenges by presenting obstacles, places to hide, tests of skill, and other elements to explore and interact with. The setting and atmosphere devised by the Level Editor can also give the player clues as to different ways of progressing though the level and the game as a whole. Level Editors play an important role in game development, creating memorable environments and game play elements to satisfy an increasingly sophisticated and widening games audience. They need to be inventive, and understand the design factors which contribute to an entertaining and absorbing game play experience. They should also keep up to date with advancing technologies. Level Editors are employed by development studios, both publisher-owned and independent.
  3. Lead Artist - Computer Games (AKA - Art Director or Creative Manager) The Lead Artist is responsible for the overall look of the game. Working with the Game Designer in the first instance, the Lead Artist devises the game’s visual style and directs the production of all visual material throughout the game’s development. The Lead Artist produces much of the initial artwork themselves, setting creative and technical standards and also determining the best tools and techniques to deploy. In conjunction with the producer, the Lead Artist puts together and manages the team of artists and animators who produce the bulk of the art assets for the game (including environments, characters, objects and effects) under the Lead Artist’s direction. The Lead Artist must ensure that the art and animation team works to schedule and within budget. They also work closely with the programming team to make sure that all art and animation assets produced can be easily imported into the game engine. Lead Artists are employed by development studios, both independent and publisher-owned. This is the highest paid position in the art department, reflecting the skills and experience required. The computer games market is highly competitive and subject to seasonal peaks – the hours can be long and the work quite pressurised, particularly as launch dates approach.
  4. Technical Artist - Computer Games The Technical Artist acts as a bridge between the artists and programmers working on a game. They ensure art assets can be easily integrated into a game without sacrificing either the overall artistic vision or exceeding the technical limits of the chosen platform. The role is a relatively new one for the games industry, but is becoming increasingly important as consoles and PC hardware becomes more complex. Despite their technical knowledge, the Technical Artist works part of the art team, and coordinates closely with the lead artists and the art director, as well as the lead programmers.
  5. Artist - Computer Games Artists create the visual elements of a game, such as characters, scenery, objects, vehicles, surface textures, clothing, props, and even user interface components. Artists also create concept art and storyboards which help communicate the proposed visual elements during the pre- production phase. Some games try to look as realistic as possible while others aim for a more stylised or fantastical look and it is the Artist's job to model and texture characters and objects to achieve the desired result. The look of the game and its graphical detail is often a significant factor in a game's success, second only to its playability. There are various specialisms within the art department, including 3D object modelling, character design, textures, environments, and so on. Each has responsibility for the creation of particular art assets with a game, but there is also a lot of movement between roles. Artists are employed by development studios, both independent and publisher-owned. As well as producing graphics for the game itself they might create artwork for packages, promotional materials and websites.
  6. Animator - Computer Games Animators in the games industry are responsible for the portrayal of movement and behaviour. Most often this is applied to give life to game characters and creatures, but sometimes animations are also applied to other elements such as objects, scenery, vegetation and environmental effects. Specialist software packages are used to create the animations, which are used for both automated or ‘in game’ behaviours and predefined sequences or ‘cut scenes’. Well animated characters bring a game to life – literally – giving players an increased sense of involvement and interaction. However, as with other game development disciplines, animators must portray movement and behaviour in an efficient and effective way which makes best use of the game engine’s technology, and maximises the opportunities for game play and interactivity. Animators work for development studios, both publisher-owned and independent, and also for specialist outsourcing companies. Unlike other sectors, where work is often on a project-by-project basis, Animators in the games industry are usually permanently employed.
  7. Audio Engineer - Computer Games The Audio Engineer creates the soundtrack for a game. This might include music; sound effects to support the game action, such as gunshots or explosions; character voices and other expressions; spoken instructions; and ambient effects, such as crowd noise, vehicles or rain. The soundtrack helps to create a more immersive experience for the player by reinforcing the mood of the game. It can also enhance game play by affecting the tempo and adding emotional depth. Audio Engineers work for development studios, both independent and publisher-owned. The size of the audio department depends on the company, but can consist of just one or two people who are sometimes required to work very long hours, particularly as launch dates approach. Budgets and resources vary, but the role of Audio Engineer is becoming increasingly important as game projects grow in complexity, with some titles requiring full orchestral scores. Audio Engineers also work for specialist outsourcing companies and localisation services that re-version games for different territories.
  8. Lead Programmer - Computer Games The Lead Programmer leads the programming team responsible for creating all the computer code which runs and controls a game. Programmers have various roles and specialisms including AI (artificial intelligence), game engine development, user interface, tools development, and physics. These are all overseen by the Lead Programmer who is responsible for the technical specification of the game and manages the overall code development process. It is also their job to make sure that everything happens effectively and on time. Lead Programmers are employed by development studios, either independent or publisher-owned. This is one of the highest paid roles in the games industry, reflecting the responsibility that goes with the role and the skills and experience required. This high pressured job can involve hard work and very long hours. The Lead Programmer must also inspire the creativity and technical excellence at the heart of game development.
  9. Programmer - Computer Games Programmers work at the heart of the game development process. They design and write the computer code that runs and controls the game, incorporating and adapting any ready made code libraries and writing custom code as needed. They test the code and fix bugs, and they also develop customised tools for use by other members of the development team. Different platforms (games consoles, PCs, handhelds, mobiles, etc.) have particular programming requirements and there are also various specialisms within programming, such as physics programming, AI (artificial intelligence), 3D engine development, interface and control systems. Games development is an increasingly complex process and large teams of Programmers might be involved in creating a game, some in leadership roles, some working on just one aspect. Programmers are employed by development studios – publisher owned and independent. They also work for middleware producers, an increasingly important sector providing cross platform graphics rendering, game physics, sound management, AI, and other specialist tools. Programmers might also work for localisation companies which translate and re-version games for different territories. The work is office based and the atmosphere is usually informal. It can also be a highly pressurised job and Programmers often work very long hours, particularly as launch dates approach. The financial rewards for good Programmers are potentially high and their skills are in demand not just in the UK, but also in Europe and the US.
  10. Project Manager / Producer - Computer Games The Project Manager is responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of a game, on time and within budget. They control the financial and other resources needed for a project and co-ordinate the work of the production team, making sure that the quality and vision of the game is maintained, whatever problems may arise. The Project Manager has to know the value of everybody’s contribution to a game and keep an overview of the entire process from start to finish. This is an increasingly important role as production schedules lengthen and development costs increase. Game development is a highly complex process often lasting up to 2 years and requiring teams of programmers, designers, artists, writers, musicians, and even actors. A typical development team might start off small but by the end of the project could involve 30 people or more, and game projects increasingly require investment in excess of £2 million. Managing this is a big job which carries considerable financial responsibility. Project Managers are employed by development studios and within publisher’s in-house development teams. The work can involve long hours and might be stressful, particularly as launch dates approach.
  11. Assistant Producer - Computer Games The Assistant (or Junior) Producer works with a game's production staff to ensure the timely delivery of the highest quality project possible. Typically, they will focus on specific areas of the development process. This could involve handling the communications between the publisher and developer, or coordinating work on some of the project's key processes such as managing the outsourcing of art assets. Assistant Producers are employed by publishers as well as development studios. Working within a development studio often involves managing communications between different teams such as design, art and programming. In a publisher environment, Assistant Producers will focus on liaising between sales and marketing departments and the developer, and supporting the work of the publisher's external producer. Game development is a highly complex process sometimes lasting three years or more, involving teams of up to 100 people and budgets over £5 million. Helping to managing this is a big job. Hence the work can involve long hours and might be stressful, particularly as a game's launch approaches.
  12. External Producer - Computer Games As the job title suggest, the External Producer is responsible for ensuring the successful delivery of a game, while working externally from the development team. External Producers are almost always employed by a game publisher. Working out of the publisher's head office, they will liaise between the publisher's sales and marketing departments and the game developer, which may be located hundreds of miles away. Large developers may also employ External Producers; for example, if they are subcontracting projects to smaller developers. Most External Producers handle more than one project and work with more than one development studio. For this reason, the job can involve travel, and plans that change at short notice. Game development is a highly complex process often lasting two years or more, involving teams of up to 100 people and budgets over £5 million. Helping to managing this is a big job, which involves a lot of responsibility, as well as the requirement to work long hours and deal with high levels of stress, particularly during the final stages of production.
  13. Creative Director - Computer Games The Creative Director is the key person during the game development process, overseeing any high level decisions that affect how the game plays, looks or sounds. Creative Directors are employed by development studios, both publisher-owned and independent, but not all game companies employ Creative Directors. However, some companies prefer to continue to split the duties between a game's lead artists, programmers, designers and producers. Where the position is used, each game development team has its own Creative Director, although some particularly experienced and talented practitioners oversee multiple projects. As a highly paid and senior role, it involves a lot of responsibility, as well as the requirement to work long hours and deal with high levels of stress, particularly during the final stages of production.
  14. QA Tester - Computer Games Quality Assurance Technicians, or Testers, perform a vital role, testing, tuning, debugging, and suggesting the detailed refinements that ensure the quality and playability of the finished game. Their job involves play-testing the game in a systematic way, analysing the game’s performance against the designer’s intentions, identifying problems and suggesting improvements. They test for bugs in the software, from complete crashes to minor glitches in the programme. They also act as the game’s first audience, reporting on its playability, and identifying any aspects which could be improved. Testers are employed by design studios and publishers. They might have to work long hours, under pressure, depending on the release schedule for a game, and at times the work can be hectic and stressful.
  15. Product (Brand) Manager – Computer Games The Product Manager's role is to help create and implement marketing campaigns to maximise the sales of the games they are working on. Operating as a part of a marketing team, they support the senior marketing managers who organise international or global campaigns. The Product Manager may also work with a Brand Manager, who is responsible for developing long-term plans for individual game franchises and provides a strategic overview of how a game brand should change over time. Product Managers typically work for game publishers or independent marketing companies who work with publishers. Only the largest game developers require internal Product Managers. The work can involve long hours and might be stressful, particularly as deadlines and launch dates approach.
  16. Job Roles in the Games Industry