Videogame industry: Game Designer and Software Engineer


I know that this could be a dumb/obvious question but what is the difference between Game Designer and Software Engineering in terms of what they do/work on?
I’m studying informatics engineering at the Politecnico of Torino. My ambition is to work in the videogames industry but i’m caught by this crucial doubt about wether or not i’m doing the right thing for me. So i wanted to know exactly if one of these roles matches what i dream about to do. Thanks.


If I were to simplify things, I’d say it’s the exact same difference that seperates games from general software.


And if you were to describe complicated things? Lol


My guess is as good as yours because they’re both very large open fields that more or less force you to, at some point in your career, specialize in a specific branch.

Game designer I feel is something people around these forums can probably tell you a lot more about than software engineering.
Eventually you’ll grow to realize you might like the programming aspect more than the animating aspect or vice versa. Same can happen for every different category. Maybe you prefer the drawing of wall textures over sequence scripting. Time will tell.
Point being that you’ll specialize in that category.
Companies have job applications asking for texture artists, programmers, etc.
None of them are looking for people who know “a little bit of everything”.

Software engineering is a wider category that sometimes also targets large businesses instead of gamers (duh).
I honestly don’t think every college and job application even expects you to fill the same requirements because it’s incredibly hard to define what a software engineer does.
Hell, I’ve taken a brief look at local job applications and half of them ask things that I’m actually specialized in as a webdeveloper, not a software engineer.

You make software.
Who knows, next time I’m installing software that’ll help me… idk, connect with other computers, I’ll see a little footer stating “2016, made by Pietro” or something in the installer .exe.

Software engineering is literally saying “I make tech stuff”. It’s too broad for me to even give any reliable description of it.

Don’t confuse it with mediadevelopment though.
A mediadeveloper creates websites and web applications, a software engineer definitely creates actual programs depending on the company you work for.

Let’s say we both work in the porn industry. I, as webdeveloper, created the website with all the shared video files that can be watched by visitors. However, we don’t want people downloading the files individually if they don’t want to watch them online.
That’s why I’ve put up a download link to a .exe file that you, as software engineer, have created for premium members that’ll ask users to log in with their info and will then download any desired porn videos to their computer.


Thanks a lot for your explanation.
Regarding the animation/texture/ecc… vs scripting/programming i prefer the second since i’m not good at all at being an artist xD.
What i want to do is actually “make the game work, make Bob fly, make Sunny slow people instead of boosting, making the AI challenging and other stuff like that”.
I really appreciated what you wrote, no jokes. But i’d like to hear even from the experts who work in these branches.
May i ask @Shaners @MaddCow @SledgePainter or @MacMan to tag here those who may know personally about all this? Or at least tell me their experiences? Thanks :grinning:


Game Designer is literally setting up the framework of the game. What is it about? How will it work? What is involved in the game? What are the rules?

Many software engineers can easily get roles in the gaming industry for coding purposes because being a software engineer means you have recieved professional training in most programming languages.

Don’t take a Game Design degree without looking at the courses involved, most of them you will see are english related courses with very, VERY lite coding if any at all. Most final projects involve creating a fully functional board game with rules and pieces and all that fun stuff.


So informatics/programming engineering is more safe for me if i want to work in the videogame industry?


As has been said before, a game designer is a specialized form of a software engineer. They will use programs like Unreal etc and depending on their role may require a lot of programming. Software engineer is a very vague role and is usually subdivided based on your actual role within a company, web developer, back-end developer, those kinds of things. I would consider most or all game designers to be software engineers. If you pursue a software engineering degree you should be ok to get into the video game industry, just try and get experience with different frameworks like DirectX (you’ll need C++ for that obviously). Microsoft also used to have a fantastic wrapper for DirectX that allowed you to use C# to access the DirectX called XNA, but they’ve since deprecated it. Don’t forget that video games have a lot of moving parts, not everyone works on the engine, so don’t limit yourself, they need people that can make the network, people to design and build the AI, and even web developers.


Sorry I don’t know much in that field. My guess is that Game Designer is just a ‘broad’ term for someone involved on ‘making video games’. As far as I know there is no ‘Game Designer’ title that is used specifically for one person/job.

I found this link, its a bit dated but could help?


So if i didn’t misunderstand, game design is a subdivision of software programming and not something apart from it (obviously i know that programming skills are required, but what i want to know isn’t “oh yeah that job doesn’t require any particular programming skills so i don t have to study”, no, at all, what i want to know is if i get a programming engineer degree also allows me to accomplish what i want)


Thank you, i appreciated that :slight_smile:


I believe you may mean “Game Developer” instead of Game Designer.

The designers, if anything, is more the role of writing up the technical documents, concept arts, etc etc. It’s more about the initial phase of things, not about their hard implementation.

For an analogy, think of making a building. You have an architect, designers, etc that conceptualize the building, and then you have the construction works and engineers that build it.

A software engineer is more like the engineer helping build the building, making sure it’s stable, doesn’t fall, the right materials and structural concerns. ‘The Game designer’, if it was a person, is like the architect who drew up the initial plans for the building, and the ‘game designers’ as a more wide term would be the architect, designers, etc who think the building up, say what the building should do, look like, etc.


Basically first ask yourself: Do you decide whether or not Bob should fly, or do you want someone to tell you he should and you make it happen.

//Speaking as someone with a Bachelors in computer science, Software engineering awards, a specialization in computer game design from Concordia university and currently working as a Software Developer.


@ArPharazon would be the guy to talk to.


Some roles in game development require programming and others less so, but having a software base is probably a safe bet for what you want.

Here are a couple of things that might give you a bit more insight into two different roles in game development.

(Don’t let this scare you off, it’s super technical and intimidating, but you have to remember the person that wrote it has been doing it for a long while)

Hope that gives you a bit more context as far as what different roles might. Honestly school will only get you so far, you’re just getting a base to work from while you’re in school.


I can’t say much about software developers that hasn’t already been said, but I did go to a college that focused on graphic design and multimedia.

How it worked was everyone got the basic graphic design courses (associate’s degree) and if you wanted to go for your bachelor’s, it got more specific. Animators got more exposure to 3D programs and drawing classes, web designers got more exposure to coding and game design had it’s own classes, etc.

I would think that there would be a lot of overlap between the two degrees your talking about. I think the auestion you need to ask yourself is what do you want to do in gaming? Character design, QA testing, etc. I think which degree you choose will be based on what you wanna do.


Game Design is not in anyway shape or form related to the programming aspect of the gaming industry. As was previously said, a Game Designer creates the framework to a game. If we are talking about monopoly for instance, a Game Designer will say that everyone has one piece and moves to the roll of die, when they land on a space they can purchase property and if someone lands on purchased property they have to pay rent for staying there for a turn.

This is Full Sails definition of a Game Design degree. You will see that they have basic programming concepts but nothing at all in depth enough to honestly program a game. Most of it is english.


Sincerely i want to be both: first because i’m plenty of ideas, the second because i love programming.


Game design is a broad term. I’ve been studying it for a while now. Having a broad range of knowledge can help you, but it’s not essential.

Some things to keep in mind:
Don’t go for game design degrees until you take a look at the curriculum and find out what you want to do. Some questions to ask yourself:
What do I enjoy doing?
Will I make money with it?
Do I have the patience to make it?
Do I have the skills to back it up?

If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s likely that program isn’t for you. The best approach is a hybrid (minor in something else related to the topic of your interest and a primary in your subject of choice).

The artists make more money than the programming side (so I’ve heard - programmers make more money doing big business or running networks and the like; this is my specialization).
You need excellent people skills, you can’t do everything yourself.

As for a serious answer: what’s the difference?

Software is a broad term,
On the one hand you may be making improvements to the UI on a program like MS Word.
On another you could be programming a new virus detection software.
On yet another, you could be making a robot interact with the real world.

With gaming you could be doing all of these things save for a new virus detection software (and the AI would be interacting with a level instead of the real world).

What it comes down to is money; often times you’ll make more doing programming a new crawl bot for a network in a cyber security firm (that’s where the most money is in the next 5-10 years) than doing game design. There could be other cases, but without something to compare them to, it’s best to take a look at the trends.

If you really want to go into game design, watch the platforms you want to integrate with, Xbox has a different code base from PC and the PS. Mobile is where the money in the gaming industry is atm, but it’s starting to phase back out.

If you’re really serious about this, I would recommend studying the following languages in depth:
C++ (this is the current industry standard), C# (shifting toward this and Java SE), Java SE, Java ME, and plausibly some other languages you can get a hold of. You should also familiarize yourself with the basics of Level design and how an AI will interact with objects inside of the environment as well as how a 3d model interacts with the terrain as well (some programming challenges can be made easier if you know how it works to a certain extent), do you have any idea how complex the code is to make a monster in Evolve work and interact with the environment properly? A lot.

TL;DR: You’ll make less money doing Game Design, but if you’re serious, learn the languages and take a look at the curriculum of their degrees, if it doesn’t go in-depth for a single language, don’t bother and go with a hybrid course based off of the curriculum, a specialization, and pick one of the 3 big engines (Cry, Unreal, and one other, I don’t know) and familiarize yourself with it.

As to answer your question: There’s not much difference, just specializations.


Playing videogames, think about how they work and the number behind them.

I’m not worrying about money, i know it sounds kinda idealistic/utopic, but nothing else matters (with some limits) when i want to accomplish my dreams/passion.

Yes, sir.

I don’t think i understood the question, but if you are asking me if i have the right skills for it (except the knowledge, since i just started studying), then yes.