Colleges Now Embracing Video Game Development

It use to be that video game developers were geeks in their basements crunching code for hours on end until their eyes bled, with hardly a business plan behind them, never mind a justifiable business case that would support making a career out of their artform.  In fact, gaming itself only really took off in the mass market as recent as the past ten years or so.  Let's face it, back then, with a customer base of predominantly kids in their teens or less, the average PC or Console game consumer just didn't have the disposable income to support anything more than a niche' market.  Likewise, if you were a gifted computer programmer, cinematographer or the like, you probably wouldn't have thought of devoting your career to something as trivial as a "video game".  It's almost hard to believe how insignificant the computer gaming industry was back then and how times certainly have changed now.

These days, there is obviously big money in the video game industry and with a market opportuntity in the tens of billions of dollars, brand-name universities are sitting up and taking notice. Investing in this relatively new form of entertainment that now spans generations with a customer and fan base that easily rivals professional sports and the movie industry, makes perfect business sense and more than a few of the big schools now have big programs.  Take USC Viterbi School of Engineering's GamePipe Lab for example and you'll know higher education has seen the light (and the green) with respect to the legitimacy of the video game development industry.  Perhaps a Master of Science in Game Development is in your future?

University of Southern California Viterbi GamePipe Lab
Image, courtesy: USC

Carnegie Mellon's ETC
Entertainment Technology Center

And don't think for a minute that it's all fun and games.  From 3D Graphics Rendering, to Analysis of Algorithms and Artificial Intelligence, you can bet the cirriculum is challenging, exhausting and requires the usual herculean acts of caffeine-infused cram-a-thons in the lab and library.  A team-based approach, Carnegie Mellon's Jesse Schell, a Professor in Game Design notes game design is, "...mind-bending technology, combined with clever game design, combined with glorious artwork, combined with beautiful audio,"...  "There's no one person on the team who can do it all. We think of it like team inventing."

According to the LA Times, "About one-third of Carnegie Mellon's graduates go directly to work at EA (Electronic Arts), said Cindy Nicola, the company's vice president of talent acquisition. The Redwood City, Calif., company soaks up close to 300 new graduates each year from various universities."

Alas it certainly does appear that the "age of the geek" has arrived.  Just ask game developer rock stars like John Carmack, driving his Ferrari to work, if they made the right career decision.  That's right kids, stay in school, get good grades, and maybe you too can play games for a living -- or better yet, create them.