Video Game Developers Seek Higher Learning
If you have some artistic ability and computer aptitude, consider
a career in 3D animation, design or programming in the video game industry.
But talent alone may not be enough to get you the job of your dreams. Increasingly,
employers are looking for developers with some higher education.
The experts agree that video game development is a very competitive field.
But there is room for newcomers with talent and a strong work ethic.
"The video game industry continues to grow at a strong rate annually,"
says Graeme Gish. He is the director of curriculum and instructional delivery
at a film school.
"No one knows how far it will go. But it has continued to grow every single
year with a strong growth rate, and everyone feels it will continue to grow."
Gish says the video game industry is the second strongest industry in North
America after the entertainment industry. "What I have heard a number of times
is the revenues of the video gaming industry actually outstrips Hollywood,"
"There is a need for students trained in this field of game-related art,"
says Dan Soine. He is the director of public relations for an arts institute.
Video gaming is a lot more mainstream now than it was in the past, Gish
says. "It is considered to be a career, whereas two or three years ago, it
wasn't trumpeted really, at least by mainstream education," he says. "There
are a lot of people interested in getting into it."
From Gish's perspective, it is important to get a post-secondary degree
to find work in this field. His school's program in 3D animation and digital
effects is a one-year intensive immersion diploma program. Students get the
equivalent of a two-year education in one year, according to Gish.
"In order to break into the field, you need an education," Gish says. "There
is no question about it. That is a given unless you are one out of 100 gifted
hackers who occasionally get hired."
Raymond Yan is vice-president of art for Nintendo Software Technology.
He is also the acting department chair for animation for the associate's degree
program of applied arts in 3D computer animation at a technology institute.
When Yan is reviewing resumes for Nintendo, the first thing he looks at
is candidates' work experience and the quality of their portfolio. Then he
will look at their educational background.
Yan agrees that a post-secondary education is necessary to learn not only
the digital tools of the trade, but also how to use them to create quality
"They need to know 3D animation, software [and] the 2D digital tools like
Photoshop," he says. "You need to know these things, but more importantly,
you need to know how to apply them to make something that looks good."
Yan adds that most people trying to get into this field are straight out
of high school. At that level, he believes, they don't have the content skills
to create programs that would be marketable.
"[Post-secondary] programs that are one, two or four years provide these
students with the necessary practical training," he says. "They learn the
fundamentals of animation itself, looking at the digital tools plus production.
"There are a lot of people who know how to use Photoshop. But to actually
make an image that looks good requires you to understand color, composition,
lighting, timing and proportion. All of these things have nothing to do with
the software," he says.
"The software helps to create the image faster, but ultimately you need
to understand content skills."
Yan says high school students should study art. "The reality is that anyone
can learn to draw. It is just practice and knowing the principles," he says.
"Creativity, I really don't think you are just born with it. It can come
from your life experience, from your interest, how open-minded you are to
try new things. Study the content courses -- study art history, study literature,
A background in fine arts is important, agrees Gish. "It is important to
combine that with some production training to make it in the industry. You
need to have that foundation, the art component, and you need to have that
commercial production component, so you can focus those general arts skills
in on creating commercial art," he says.
Jason Chu is the chief operating officer of a technology institute. He
says it takes a range of skills to make it in this field.
"For someone to become an expert in 3D graphics or animation, one needs
to be able to tell a story, have artistic abilities, master the techniques
of 3D modeling and texture mapping, understand the concepts of lighting and
camera manipulation and have a good grasp of motion," he says.
"In order to become a qualified video game programmer, one must master
topics in math, physics and computer science," Chu adds. "The math and physics
are needed to solve problems relating to computer simulation and graphics
Another area one can focus on is game designing, Gish says. But it's not
easy to get training for that area.
"You need to have a sensibility for what makes a good game, and it is hard
to train people for that," he says. He adds that some schools have game designing
programs, but those who go into designing tend to simply have an aptitude
Animation seems to be one of the more popular tracks for students to take.
Graduates can find work in other fields, such as the entertainment industry.
Starting salaries in the field for video games can range from $30,000 to
$45,000 a year. With experience and talent, you can make six figures or more.
The cost of any post-secondary education can be daunting. But the skills
you learn in such programs can put you at the top of your game in a competitive
and exciting field.
International Game Developers Association
This site offers information about breaking into the field
Checking in on America's First Video Game College
Back to Career Cluster
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