Game Programming vs. Game Design

A game is created with teams of both game designers and game programmers working closely together from start to final product. Game designers are responsible for the overall creative vision of the game while programmers have the technical skills required to bring to life the game design ideas using computer code.

Here we look at the other differences between game programming and game design.

Game Programming

Game programming takes the design specifications from the game designers, integrates the art and sound requested, and translates it all into a playable game through the use of computer programming languages, scripting languages and APIs (application programming interfaces). This requires a number of employees with sub-specialities within game programming including graphics, networks and AI.

The programming of a game involves a number of steps, including:

  • Mapping the terrain of the game environment
  • Implementing artificial intelligence for non-player characters
  • Connecting player input via the controller to the events happening on screen

Becoming a Game Programmer

Like other software engineers, game programming usually requires a bachelor’s degree or higher degree in computer science, software engineering or similar. It is essential that those responsible for game programming are highly skilled and proficient with at least one of the major game programming languages. Familiarity with the game industry is a bonus.

Game Design

Game design is a more holistic and creative career than a game programming career.

Game designers may be tasked with a single focus on level design or object placement in the game, but overall they are responsible for the following:

  • Create the structure of the game, how it will be played and what its rules will be
  • Collaborate with all members of the team to successfully bring the game to market
  • Develop the game’s layout, concept and game-play
  • Create and manage product documentation

Becoming a Game Designer

Traditionally game designers earn a bachelor’s degree in game production or game art and design to gain an entry level post in the field. When hiring game designer roles, game developers usually look for candidates with a genuine passion for gaming, good problem-solving abilities, analytical skills, and willingness to work well within a team.


Competition for software programmer and design professionals in the game industry is intense. As a technically skilled occupation, game programmers are often among the highest-paid professionals in the game production industry. Game designers work closely with developers and may report to them on the job.

Generally, game programming professionals earn one-third more than a game designer, though there is variation based on specialisation, location, experience and other factors. Game programming is predicted to continue to grow over the next several years.