No Man’s Sky is not the limit: The infinite possibilities of a career in game development

The recent release of No Man’s Sky has changed the way we think about game design and the gaming industry. The modest seven-man team at Hello Games in the U.K. created a procedurally generated universe so large no one player could ever hope to explore it all.

While the game has been received with mixed reviews, and no little controversy, the fact that a small, indie game studio could develop one of the most-anticipated titles of the year has opened up a whole new paradigm of possibilities for would-be game developers.

Whether you want to be a part of the next AAA blockbuster, or do something truly innovative at an indie studio, the world of game design has never been more open to emerging talent.

In short, the industry is huge. Market research firm Newzoo revealed earlier this year that it expects the global gaming market to be worth US$99.6 billion in 2016, up 8 percent from last year. This growth is expected to continue in the coming years, growing to an estimated US$118.6 billion by 2019.

Image courtesy of the Dave School

Depending on who you listen to – and how you crunch the numbers – the gaming industry is estimated to now be worth significantly more than the film and TV industries combined. The upshot of this for game design students is a wealth of employment opportunities when they graduate. In 2014, the gaming industry in the U.S. directly and indirectly employed more than 146,000 people, and was growing at an annual rate more than 13 times the growth of the overall U.S. labor market.

The game development industry also draws on an often mind-boggling range of skills to produce modern games. The production of a typical AAA game will require a team hundreds of people from across a vast range of disciplines – artists, programmers, animators, level designers, writers, actors, musicians, to name a few.

Colleges and universities around the world have recognized the growing need for graduates ready to enter the industry with specific skill sets, and are now offering a diverse range of game design-related programs (more on that below).

Graduates from the best game design schools that show a flair for their chosen specialization can expect to find employment quickly and enter the industry with at a good salary level. According to a report by the Entertainment Software Association, the average wage paid to game developers in the United States in 2012 was $79,800.

Image courtesy of Glasgow Caledonian University

Meanwhile, a recent poll of nearly 2,000 game developers in Japan (via Kotaku) found that average salaries within the industry there to be around 4,451,000 yen (US$44,400) for artists, rising to 9,098,000 yen ($90,800) to those working in executive and management positions.

Aside from the competitive salaries and excellent employment prospects, many are drawn to game development because it is the most dynamic and exciting entertainment sector in the world today. Fast-changing and ever more powerful technologies are opening up exciting new possibilities in gaming at a sometimes astonishing rate.

So, if you know your RPGs from your roguelikes, your Minecrafts from your metroidvanias, and you want to be part of something truly cutting-edge, a career in game development could be the perfect fit. The possibilities truly are infinite.

Below are four schools around the world that are leading the way in game development education….


Staffordshire University is at the cutting edge of game development education in the U.K. Much of Staffordshire’s strength in gaming education lies in the diverse, specialized and award-winning programs on offer, many focusing on emerging technologies. Do you want to focus on virtual reality? No problem. Interested in a career in concept art? Absolutely. Envisage a future in the indie games industry? That’s covered too. 

Staffordshire’s graduates have gone on to work at leading game design studios like Naughty Dog (Uncharted, The Last of Us), Ubisoft Shanghai (Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed), Rockstar North (Grand Theft Auto) and Codemasters (F1 2016). Even before graduation, Staffordshire students benefit from the university’s excellent links with the gaming industry. Students are regularly treated to exciting guest lectures by industry experts, while taking part in exciting partnerships that place them at the leading edge of game design education.


Regularly ranked among the U.K.’s top 10 modern universities, Glasgow Caledonian University is widely recognized as one of Scotland’s top game development schools. It offers a range of BSc degree programs aimed specifically at those looking for a career in game development, including Design; Software Development; Art & Animation; and Indie DevelopmentThe department also offers 3D Animation & Visualisation programs suited for careers in broadcast media, simulation, motion graphics visual effects or games as well as in other sectors.

Led by a vibrant community of researchers and advanced practitioners, the Department of Computer Communication and Interactive Systems (CCIS) enjoys excellent links with industry and public sector institutions. The CCIS regularly undertakes commercial activity, where students and faculty apply their game development knowledge to real-world problems, such as the use of games in music education, or using games-based learning to support young careers. 


Located on the back lot of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, the Digital Animation & Visual Effects (DAVE) School made the move into game development education with the launch of its Game Production Program in 2014. This 15-month program has already received plaudits from the industry, with graduates offered the opportunity to showcase their achievements to employers, and many going on to work at big-name companies like Bioware, Activision, EA, and Naughty Dog.

The Game Production Program provides students with solid training in core competencies before placing them in a simulated production environment. During their time in the program, students will learn digital modeling and sculpting; computer animation; video game production; game project development, and more. Using Unreal and Unity, students learn how to integrate their animation and modeling work into the game engine. The last 12 weeks are spent putting this knowledge to practical use as students work together to create a final project.


Since the introduction of its first computer game design major 10 years ago, the University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz) has grown to become one of the leading game development schools on the West Coast of the United States. In 2014, the Princeton Review ranked UC Santa Cruz as the 7th best game design school for postgraduate study and 21st for undergraduate game design study.

Ten years on, UC Santa Cruz’s B.S. Computer Game Design continues to be recognized as one of the top game development programs in the United States, if not the world. After a first-year introduction to the technical, artistic and narrative aspects of video game design, students move on to focus on game programming and digital media skills. In senior year, students work in teams to produce a “substantial” video game.

Feature image via BagoGames / Hello Games – No Man’s Sky