6 Best Game Design Courses for In-Demand Careers & Hobbies

Game design is a valuable skill in the modern world, with the global video game industry worth $202.7 billion in 2022, and set to reach $343.6 billion by 2028. It’s no wonder, then, that people are flocking to learn how to design and make their own games.

Thanks to this huge demand for those ready to jump into video games, there are thousands of online courses available – ready to teach you the skills you need to succeed. In fact, maybe there are a few too many courses to choose from. So where do you start?

In this article, we’re going to showcase six of the best game design courses you can take to upskill yourself and get ready to apply to any sort of game you want to make!

Let’s get started!

What is game design?

Game design is a broader skill set in the field of game production, referring to the use of creative design to develop engaging video games. Video game designers are tasked with creating worlds, stories, characters, and objectives for the purposes of driving the game forward and making it as entertaining or educational as possible.

Those that work in game design are creative, analytical, and problem-solvers – all transferable skills that are beneficial in other areas of life. To succeed in this constantly evolving industry, game designers need to have a passion for game production, have patience, and be quick learners.

Game designers are rewarded a good income in the US, reflecting the skill needed to get a job in the industry. On average, game designers earn $74,920 per year, with some making well over $100,000 depending on experience.

By learning game design, you’ll develop a number of transferable skills including the ability to problem solve, design skills, teamwork, and independent learning skills.

You’re also easily able to learn game design skills from home, since there are thousands of professional courses you can take online. There’s no need to enroll in university when learning game design, and many professionals in the industry are self-taught.

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What are the best game design courses?

There are thousands of game design courses available online, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Luckily, we’re diving into the top game design and development courses that you can take from the comfort of your home. Whether you’re a beginner or have some experience in coding and game development, there’s something out there for everyone.

Additionally, we’ll also be trying to cover a wide range of tools – so you’ll get plenty of options to choose from!

5 Best Game Design Courses for In-Demand Careers & Hobbies

Unity Game Development Mini-Degree

Unity is a massively popular game engine, responsible for powering over half of all games. It is used in over 190 countries, and it’s also one of the easiest engines to start with in terms of game development.

Why? Unity is basically the ultimate cross-platform machine, being able to make 2D & 3D games, VR games, AR games, mobile games, multiplayer games, console games, and beyond. This has made it hugely popular for both beginners and experienced developers alike, and even among non-developers for things like film.

With Zenva’s Unity Game Development Mini-Degree, students can get hands-on experience with the platform by building a number of topics. This full curriculum covers everything from the fundamentals of using the engine, to making full projects such as action RPGs, FPS games, idle clickers, and more.

While the curriculum skews a lot towards game development, game design is not neglected. Learners also get the opportunity to explore a variety of tools used when designing games, including things such as audio and animations. Beyond this, learners also get the chance to experience the full scope of project management and learn how the entire game-making process works – an important facet to being a successful game designer!

Key topics covered:

  • Coding basics
  • UI systems
  • Audio effects
  • Cinematic cutscenes
  • Special effects
  • Procedural terrain
  • Animation

Skill level: Beginner. This is a comprehensive curriculum, meaning you’ll learn everything you need about Unity to reach an advanced skill level.

Duration: 36h 23m

How to access: Access the curriculum here.

5 Best Game Design Courses for In-Demand Careers & Hobbies

Game Artwork Academy

With the development of advanced digital art tools, game makers are able to create custom assets pretty easily. For independent developers, this means they can work solo without any hiccups. For designers in bigger teams (where the main assets will get delegated out), this can still be a great boon for helping with things like storyboards and similar.

Regardless, art is an important skill to have for game design, since you’ll need to do things like help dictate the art direction and similar. And the smaller your team, well, the more these skills will benefit you to bring the game to life!

With Zenva’s Game Artwork Academy, students will learn the skills needed to start creating 2D and 3D game assets – choosing from a variety of styles including vector art, 3D models, and pixel art.

The curriculum covers popular tools, including Blender, Photoshop, GIMP, MagicaVoxel, and Inkscape, which are used by professional game designers and artists working in the industry. With a balanced approach, learners will master both the tools each program has to offer and the fundamental art skills as they create projects on the go!

Thus, you’re going to build a strong portfolio along the way as well!

Key topics covered:

  • 3D modeling basics
  • Voxel model creation
  • Pixel art painting
  • Vector art techniques
  • Exporting and importing assets

Skill level: Beginner. No prior art skills are expected for these courses and are tailored to work for everyone from soloists to large teams.

Duration: 9h 5m

How to access: Access the curriculum here.

5 Best Game Design Courses for In-Demand Careers & Hobbies

Game Design Academy

Game design involves a lot more than just making the stories or creating various art assets for planning purposes. A lot of game design is focused on understanding the how and why things are constructed the way they are. After all, design is about making specific choices to get a specific effect.

In the case of video games, it centers around some specific questions, such as: Are my mechanics fun? Are players able to navigate my levels easily? Are my characters engaging?

These questions are at the heart of all design – from the biggest AAA game to the smallest indie project.

In Zenva’ Game Design Academy, you’ll be taught all these core design principles and learn how to balance the creative and technical aspects of your project. Learners will not only master how to conceptualize gameplay and characters, but also create engaging stories that build a cohesive theme throughout the video game.

As you learn, you’ll also get to see how these design principles apply to real-life games – as these design techniques are the same ones used by industry professionals. In so doing, learners can gain a new understanding how these choices influence the overall engagement games possess. Plus, you’ll get to see how they work for just about any genre – whether we’re talking about an action-packed FPS game or a calming walking simulator.

Key topics covered:

  • Core game loop setup
  • How to guide players
  • Game feel
  • Level design foundations
  • Storytelling techniques

Skill level: Beginner. The entire curriculum is designed for complete novices.

Duration: 3h 5m

How to access: Access the curriculum here.

Learn Unity – Beginner’s Game Development Tutorial

Sometimes, learning game design is simply about learning development and making your own games as an indie creator. Not only does this give you useful knowledge of the tools available, but the approach challenges you to put design principles into action up front.

FreeCodeCamp.org’s Learn Unity – Beginner’s Game Development Tutorial is a free course designed to give learners everything they need to develop games using the Unity game engine. The course covers everything from UIs to C# coding to working with player characters. It’s also beginner-friendly for those who have never even touched Unity before in their life.

This said, it is a bit lighter on the design aspects than other choices on this list (such as the courses from Zenva above) – so something to keep in mind when diving in. However, the skills here can still be immensely valuable as you explore the world of video game development in general.

Key topics covered:

  • Introduction to Unity’s Interface
  • Starting with Unity’s Basics
  • Rigid Bodies and Colliders
  • Audio Source and UI Elements
  • Moving our Character with Code
  • Introduction to Variables & Operations With Variables
  • Functions, Conditional Statements & Loops
  • Coroutines & Classes
  • Accessibility Modifiers (Data Encapsulation) & Inheritance
  • Getting Components & Importing Assets. Sorting Layers And Order In Layer
  • Creating The Game Background
  • Player Movement & Animating The Player Via Code, Player Jumping & Camera Follow Player
  • Enemy Animations, Scripts, Enemy Spawner, Enemy Collision
  • The Collector Script & Unity’s UI System
  • Creating Main Menu & Navigating Between Scenes
  • Selecting A Character & Creating Player Animations
  • Static Variables & Singleton Pattern
  • Events And Delegates & Instantiating The Selected Character
  • Finishing Our Game

Skill level: Beginner.

Duration: 7h 20m.

How to access: Access the course here.

5 Best Game Design Courses for In-Demand Careers & Hobbies

Unit: Advanced JS: Games & Visualizations

While engines like Unity or Unreal are very popular, you can still make games with plenty of other coding languages. This includes JavaScript – one of the three pillars that make up all web development. Though JavaScript isn’t the typical choice, it still makes a great backbone for web-hosted games and is used in popular game frameworks like Phaser.

The Advanced JS: Games & Visualizations course, hosted by the nonprofit Khan Academy, offers learners the chance to undertake an advanced understanding of game visualizations, demonstrated through practical learning using design programs. Users can learn how to change between multiple scenes, create clickable buttons, implement side scrollers, and learn how to use features such as translate, rotate, and scale for better manipulation of program shapes.

These principles both challenge you to think about how you design your games – such as how buttons look or similar – but teaches you the skills to unlock JavaScript for game development.

As a catch though, and as the title suggests, this is for more advanced users who have prior experience coding with JavaScript. So if you’re a novice, best to stick with some of the earlier entries such as the ones from Zenva.

Key topics covered:

  • Intro to Games & Visualizations
  • Scene management
  • Buttons
  • Making a side scroller: Hoppy Beaver
  • Making a memory game
  • Transformations
  • 3D shapes
  • Advanced development tools

Skill level: Advanced.

Duration: Taken at own pace.

How to access: Access the course here.

Best Game Design Courses Wrap Up

And that wraps up our post on the best game design courses. Now, of course, there are definitely more courses out there. Plus, what’s the “best” does come up a bit down to you, reader. What aspects of game design do you want to learn? How do you learn? There’s a lot to think about.

Nevertheless, we hope this list helps and we hope you try a variety of things out. Part of learning game design is about experimentation, as it’s the best way to find out what does and doesn’t work for games. You’ll also want to experiment on whether you work best with free courses that are totally independent, or paid services like Zenva that offer more support and supplemental learning materials to help you master the topics.

Regardless of your choice, we wish you the best of luck with your game design journey!

Did you come across any errors in this tutorial? Please let us know by completing this form and we’ll look into it!

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