How do you get (or work towards) a promotion as a game designer?

Getting a promotion in the game industry usually requires the designer to take two steps.

The first step is to level up one's skill set to the next level. This means taking on more difficult responsibilities and tasks, the sort that the mid or senior level devs are doing. In order to do this, one needs to increase her understanding of the way the systems and content interact by guarding against future possible edge cases and issues that she foresees others on the team bringing up, and being able to articulate all of the elements needed to craft the experience she's trying to create. I gauge the level of my ability by predicting the kind of feedback that I will get from my design work from the experienced designers and then going through the reviews to see how accurate my predictions were. I figured I was ready to move up when my predictions were right most of the time.

The second step is to find an opportunity and go for it - usually by taking a new job at another studio. If you want to try to get an internal promotion, you need to talk to your supervisor during your one-on-one meetings and make sure she knows what you want and will take steps to help you realize your career goals. If your supervisor can't or won't help you do that, you should consider looking for employment elsewhere instead of waiting. In career terms, waiting is stagnating.

In my experience, most promotions in a game design career don't happen internally. I've never had an internal title change during my career. All of my title promotions (e.g. junior to mid-level, mid-level to senior) came from finding a new job at a new employer, by showing that I could shoulder the responsibilities of the new role. Many of my industry friends and compatriots have similar stories - getting promoted internally is a lot harder than finding a new job elsewhere that starts you in the role you wanted to grow into. Even if you really like your current employer, leaving on good terms to level up elsewhere means you'll be welcomed back later with a better title with more responsibility and pay.

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