Search String: “how much do game designers make per hour”
Another answer in my continuing series on search strings that people use to find my blog.
The answer to this isn’t a simple number. The numbers depend on several things:
- Your experience or lack there of
- The quality of your portfolio (or your last few published games)
- Your design role (i.e. level design vs. content design)
- Your geographic location
According to the 2006 Salary Survey done by Game Developer magazine and covered in this article over on Gamasutra, “The game designers’ average was $61,538, with salaries scaling within a $5,000 range over the last 3 years over all experience levels.”
Remember, though, that’s an average. For very experienced individuals or industry rockstars, the figure can easily be $100K+. The average newbie designer starting salary – and take note that this is based on offers I’ve heard about – is about $40-50K on the east coast and $60-65K on the west coast. Others report east coast designer salaries in the $30-35K range. Bear in mind that living costs on the west coast are significantly higher than most places on the east coast, with Boston and NYC being possible exceptions.
Once you get some experience under your belt – a shipped product – your worth goes up. It’s that trial period that gets you.
Contract game designers – that’s a little more difficult to pin down. Like me, many contract game designers that I know don’t usually charge by the hour, since design doesn’t really work like that. I could do an hour’s worth of work on an existing project that I’d been working on, but I arrive at the beginning of that hour with a head full of pre-existing info on the project already in my head. I’ve done design reviews, but even that was quoted at the project level, and took a few days.