For Those Who Love to Play and Don’t Want to Work at Anything Else

By Sam Rosensohn

Do you happen to know a student who would prefer to play an electronic game than crack a physics, history or math book?

You say you know a couple dozen. Well then, I’d like you to introduce them to Tom Sloper, who provides career guidance (free and electronic) to students who want to explore making a living at gaming.

Tom, a game industry veteran writes a terrific online column for the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and takes and answers questions from students at http://www.igda.org/columns/gamesgame/.

Larson Mandeville, a student at Woodlands High School in Texas who is interested in pursuing a career in game design and development, recently sought answers to the following questions:

1)    What colleges or universities in the U.S. are recognized by the industry for being leaders in the game design and development?

2)    What Bachelor Degree plan will best prepare me for a career in the industry;    Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Computer Science?

“The educational institutions of the world have not yet created a curriculum equal to the kind of ‘must-have’ status that you assume exists. In other words, no school has yet created a program that churns out guaranteed winners, who will unquestionably get jobs in the game industry immediately upon graduation,” wrote Tom whose column is a lot like the informative, cornball radio talk show, Car Talk.

“But there’s good news! And it’s not about my auto insurance,” writes Tom. “The good news is there is a very long list of schools that you can attend.”

If you go to http://www.igda.org/breakingin/resource_schools.php you’ll find a list of over 200 schools with direct links to the technical programs those technical schools, colleges and universities offer.

IGDA, which compiled that long list of schools, encourages students to identify the fields in gaming that interest them most before they start to surf the schools.

Pursuing a position in the gaming business is somewhat like pursuing a position in the movie business. People in the movie industry eventually decide to specialize in special effects, makeup, costumes, camera work, sets, acting, directing, writing or producing. Eventually gamers specialize in one area as well.

Familiarize yourself with the programs that different schools offer and try to identify the schools that provide the widest array of gaming courses.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the more prominent fields in the gaming business, according to IGDA, that might be of interest to you:      
Audio
get ready for the game audio revolution. For years game audio has been neglected, overlooked, under budgeted, and otherwise given short shrift. With the most recent wave of gaming platforms, audio capabilities are more closely matching visual power, allowing for improved sonic standards that have long been enjoyed in other media. Game audio is an exciting and under explored field ripe for new talent.

Designquite possibly the industry’s most desired and most misunderstood role. Being a designer is not about sitting around thinking up cool ideas and getting paid. As game genres expand and diversify, the designer’s role is becoming ever more specialized. From level architecture to fiction writing, you’ll want to explore the basic elements of design.
Production
producer is one of the most difficult roles to describe accurately, because there are at least as many definitions of producer as there are game companies. At the core, the producer simultaneously leads and supports the project. It’s a difficult role with some big challenges and even bigger rewards, if you’re prepared to lead. Along with producers, game testers ensure the quality of the games, and are vital to getting the product shipped.
Programming
when you think of game developers, chances are good you think of a programmer. No surprise there, since code is the core stuff of games. But long gone are the days when a single programmer created an entire game, from code to music and everything in between. In fact, no single programmer could write just the code for today’s typical commercial game. Specialization is the way of this maturing industry, and you’ll want to prepare in advance for your chosen specialty.
Visual Arts
looking for a great way to put your digital art skills to use? You’ve picked a good field. Along with the film industry, the games industry is one of the fastest growing places to build a career as an artist. Traditional hand skills and digital know-how are both in demand. Artists who want challenging creative work that’s fast-paced, collaborative, and fun, should give this a look.

Biz & Misc. – if you love games but are looking for a more traditional business career, you can have both. Game developers and publishers always need talented administrators, brainy business minds, and support staff.

Now if you go to this website http://www.igda.org/academia/ offered by IGDA you’ll find answers to an array of general questions about gaming, including where to find scholarships, and the money to be made in the industry.

To get a look at what people are earning in this multi-billion dollar market go to

http://gamedeveloper.com and take a look at the Game Developers Annual Salary Survey.

Sam Rosensohn is the founder of College Planning Partnerships, which offers prep classes for the SAT and helps students to prepare for college and write college essays. He can be reached in Clinton at 860-664-9857 or at sam@satprepct.com