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How to Become a Video Game Programmer

How to Become a Video Game Programmer

Video game programmers work on multiple aspects of games including the hardware, network, engine, etc. It’s common for programmers’ work to be very focused on one aspect. Below is a breakdown of the most common types of video game programmers.

Video Game Programmer Salary*

Video game programmers receive on average a higher salary than other gaming industry jobs. With new, more advanced game consoles hitting the market every few years, C++ programmers (the most commonly used game programming language) are in high demand. The average salary for game programmers is $96,000 per year.

*According to

Artificial Intelligence Programmer

Common and necessary for tactical games, artificial intelligence programmers’ focus on the overall strategy of the game. They’re charged with creating artificial intelligence in game characters and enemies. A larger feat than it sounds, it typically takes a strong team of 3 or more developers to complete the video game programming.

Game Engine Programmer / Graphics Engine Programmer / Physics Engine Programmer

Game engine video game programmers provide the framework of the game via libraries of images, sounds, characters, etc., that can be easily altered and used for a multitude of games. Their job is important because it allows more time to be spent on unique game elements rather than general video game programming.

General Programmer

Typically the entry-level programming position, a general video game programmer assists the programming team as needed. They get exposure to each video game programming niche, and are often used to track down and fix bugs in the game.

Lead Game Programmer

A senior position, the lead video game programmer is responsible for managing each programming niche. Most lead video game programmers have ample experience programming multiple assets of the game. More of a business role, they do not spend much time writing code but instead are more focused on planning, tracking and managing the programming development of the game.

Network Programmer

One of the largest appeals of modern video games is the ability to play with or against other players. It’s a network video game programmer’s job to program the games to be able to run through a LAN or internet network. Considered to be one of the most technically challenging positions, it’s often the most stressful as well. Because networking is one of the last video game programming steps, there are often serious time constrictions, forcing network programmers to work long hours.

Sound Programmer / Audio Programmer

Although not always realized by the user, audio is a large part of game design and plays a vital role in evoking targeted emotions. Certain sounds are associated with certain characters, levels, etc. Sound programmers work with musicians and composers to incorporate advanced audio into the game.

Tools Programmer

Although 3rd party tools such as Photoshop and IDE’s are useful and powerful tools, most games need similar tools built specifically for the development of that particular game. It is the tool programmer’s responsibility to code and build these specialized tools. Since many of the developers and other video game programmers will use these tools, it’s important that they’re well-written and bug-free.

User Interface Programmer

Specializing in the interaction between the user and the game, user interface (UI) programmers focus on effective operation. They make sure users are able to easily control everything they need to. Because 3D technology is gaining popularity in the gaming industry and user interfaces specifically, UI programmers often have advanced math skills.

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