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Video Game Degrees at All-Time High in US

Published: Monday, September 10, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 16:09

Video Game

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Most industries are facing hardships during this economic downturn, but the video game industry has continued to grow with a bright future, said a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association.

Universities have jumped on the bandwagon and now every state in the United States has a degree or certificate program for video game design, development or programming, according to an ESA press release.

Arizona State University offers a Bachelor of Science in graphic information technology, a Bachelor of Science in software engineering and a games certificate program.

These programs teach game engineering – developing images, textures and the interface. The software side of the programs teach how to engage and motivate a player through the mechanics of the game, said Ashish Amresh, an assistant professor at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation.

In 2011 consumers spent a little less than $25 billion on video games, hardware and accessories and the average household has one game console, PC or smartphone, according to the ESA website.

ESA spokesman Rich Taylor attributes different reasons to this rising trend – this generation has grown up loving and playing video games and wants to contribute to creating them. Plus, children are exposed to video games at a younger age than youth were15 to 20 years ago.

Games Certificate Program Instructor Jeremy Mone said the video game industry boom is a result of smartphones. Before smartphones it was difficult to get a game published. When smartphones came out, the companies wanted people to develop software for them but didn’t have the workforce to do it on their own, so they took away the hurdles and made it easy to publish games.

Amresh thinks video game education has reached a stable point. Colleges will realize that they’ve surpassed the industry’s demand and will stay at equilibrium.

The increase in the amount of video game degrees and certificates has also been propelled by the growth of the industry, which led to the need of a ready work force, Amresh said. The other side is that this generation has grown up with video games and is searching for a degree they’re familiar with.

Freshman Digital Culture Design major Colin Garttmeier said, “It’s your passion. What better way to live your life than get paid for what you love to do?”

Taylor believes the future for the video game industry is extremely bright.

“The industry is healthy and poised for growth,” he said. “We have jobs available in many studios for talented trained folks. Consumers around the world love what we create.”

While the video game industry seems to have a positive future, the job market is like a roller coaster.

“Companies bulk up for a project, but when they’re done with a project they let people go,” Mone said. “It’s cyclical in a sense.”

While most courses are focused on game design and programming, the industry also has a need for those who have studied computer engineering, musical scoring and marketing, Taylor said. With such a variety of jobs in one industry, there are lots of opportunities.

The industry used to be exclusive and limited to positions with big time game companies but the field has transcended. The game industry has expanded into health, military, business training and education.Video games have expanded beyond entertainment to help people with neurological disorders, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical rehabilitations.

The average starting salary for people from these programs in the Phoenix area is $50,000 to $60,000.

Some of the places with the most job opportunities for graduates from these programs are on the California coast, Mone said.

While the industry has been doing well it has still faced some trouble in the economic downturn.

“The economy has had a hard few years and we’ve had to weather some storms as well, but we have a huge amount of consumers playing these games and who will continue playing these games,” Taylor said. “You’re not going to automatically walk out and have a job, but you’re going to be pointed in a direction of growth.”

The video game industry doesn’t really follow the rest of the economy, Mone said. When things start to get hard, people turn to entertainment more.

“Video games are not a fad; they’re not going to go away,” Mone said. “The industry is expanding as more people try to find more places to put these games. The future is pretty bright.”

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