Great Careers for Video Game Lovers
Your Mom was Wrong! You can Have a Cool Career !
As with most moms, I really worried about all the time my video game obsessed son spent playing. What good could ever come of it? Will he still be living in our house when he is 35, holed up in the basement rec room glued to computer screens slurping Mountain Dew by the liter?? Help!
So, together we have done a whole lot of research on how he can turn his love (obsession) with gaming into an actual bill-paying career. What I learned was pretty eye-opening. There actually might be a way for him to have a job he loves with a solid future. The video game entertainment industry is huge, and is growing bigger all the time. More money is now made by video games than by movies! Even more important, the video game industry is seen as pretty recession-proof. Even if you spend $50 on a game, it gives many more hours of entertainment than the one shot $11 movie ticket (and adding on the price of a Coke and popcorn makes that movie over $20!).
The expectation is that there will be > 140,000 new job openings in computing in 2012. The Bureau of Labor predicts that the growth of software publishing (of which video games is a part) will expand by 68% between 2002 and 2012. This is the fastest growing industry across all sectors. 68% of all US households play computer or video games - but if you are reading this it is because you already are or know a video game obsessed person! Five of the top 12 fastest growing careers are in computing!
What became obvious is that in the Video game design and creation industry there is a team of people working to make a new game. Here is a list of the actual kinds of jobs available in Video Gaming:
- Art - this includes concept and storyboard artists, character artists, animators, texture artists
- Programming- work on video game engines, artificial intelligence (AI) programming, and everything else to make the game run- are in high demand based on the job sites
- Sound and Audio programmers - audio engineering, sound effects design, voiceovers
- Game designer - often you get into this by working your way up (starting as an artist or programmer). Design includes level design, character design, as well as overall game play design. Requires good spacial abilities, organizational skills.
- Game producer -ensures that the job gets done on budget and on time - project management skills
- Writers - quality communication skills. Documentation in software is needed, as well writing for story design, character scripts
- Quality Assurance (QA) - game testers. Lots of gamers like the idea of playing games for money, but it really is a job. You have to play the same game over and over and record all the bugs and problems, and communicate effectively with the game team.
So how do you get these jobs? I am afraid that like with everything else, it takes persistance and determination. It won't be enough to love gaming - for many of these jobs you need really good math and science grades (like physics) if you are going after the programming side.
When we started searching on Google the degree programs that pop up are mostly for two year associates degrees, or for certificate programs and are centered around the artistic side (especially animation). These colleges like Westwood or ITT tech may be good options for some students -they will no doubt give you specific experience on certain software tools like Maya. However, I am not sure if these degrees will provide a strong base that will get you a great entry level job in the gaming industry. Comments on this are welcome!
Finding out other degree programs has taken a lot of effort and digging. My son has summarized his findings at his website, so please check it out for more specifics on 4 year video game design degrees. Many of these schools are technology focused, as opposed to the more typical art focus of the 2 year programs. What is interesting about these programs is that it became very clear to me that the skills and jobs in video game creation are very applicable to a whole set of new, hot careers.
Here is the list of new fast growing careers I pulled together:
- Simulation engineer
- Mobile Application Developer
- Computer Forensics
- Cyber Security Specialist
What are these careers? Just as the job of a video game designer and programmer is to make a convincing world, there is a "real life" application of these skills - making simulations. Simulations are a growing part of all kinds of industries. At one college they told us about how students and professors has a project to create a surgical simulation program for doctors to get experience before they cut someone open! Beyond medical applications, simulations are being created in aerospace, automotive and of course the military. Some of these 4 year college degree programs have recognized this trend and are adding "Simulations" into their Video Game degree Programs.
Another huge trend is the explosion of applications for all kinds of devices. Just look at the iphone or itouch. What can't these things do? Creating content, software applications and who knows what next for all kinds of mobile devices is hot. So "mobile application developer" is a career that is already here, and colleges and universities are recognizing this too.
The other hot area highlighted by some of the Deans at the technology focused colleges is in computer forensics and cyber security. You only have to listen to the news to appreciate the need for experts in this area - between hackers stealing 135 million credit card numbers to excavating Bernie Madoff's secret stash of cash, it is clear these jobs are useful! We are only going to get more connected in the future, and that makes us even bigger targets.
So, have hope. I know that I am feeling that there are options out there for my video game loving son. He came home from a tech computer camp where he spent hours creating a game (rather than playing one) and realized that he could get paid to do something that he was almost as psyched about as playing!
Check out the links on this hub page and see what your options are. Send your parents to those sites if they don't believe that you can turn your obsession into a career that will get you independent (and maybe even better off than they are - some entry level salaries in video game programming are > $50,000 a year!)
WPI, Ithaca College and RIT Pix
Video Game Design Degree Colleges
Our list of colleges and universities that offer 4 year programs in the art and technology of video game design. For more detailed information and reviews, questions and answers from students and parents, requirements and application checklists, check out Ben's website.
- Champlain University
- Columbia College
- Daniel Webster College
- Ithaca College
- McGill University
- Rensalear Polytechnic Institute
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- Southern Polytechnic State University
- University of Baltimore
- University of California, Santa Cruz
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute