Careers in the Games Industry Have Moved Beyond Entertainment

It is no secret that careers in the technology sector have grown faster than any other field over the past couple of decades. Tech is a wide-ranging industry and many different areas have created new career paths. One of the most explosive growth areas in the technology and software realm is careers in the video game industry. As an emerging—and rapidly-growing—sector, the trajectory for a career in games is varied.

The video game industry currently generates more than $100 billion in revenue each year, with the United States making up more than $36 billion of that total. “Video Game Designer” was listed as one of CNN Money’s Best Jobs in America, reporting a median salary of $81,600 and a 10-year job growth of 13 percent.

Accordingly, schools like Azusa Pacific University have come to recognize the segmentation and specialization within software and technology, and now offer multiple degrees to help graduates hone their skills and stand out in the growing pool of qualified applicants. Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to pursue a career in the game industry.

The Beginning of Video Games

Video games have come a long way from when the industry began, back in the early ‘80s when home PCs became widely available. Games were far less complex than they are today; some of the best-selling games were text-based, with no graphics at all! Because of this, game development companies could be fairly small and operate on very little money. Those businesses typically published and marketed their own games, giving early video games a unique “underground” feel.

“Game companies in the ‘80s were a lot like those that are a part of the indie game scene of today,” said Tim Samoff, program director of the games and interactive media program at APU. “As games grew more and more complex, game development companies had to grow as well. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see a hundred or more people work on a major $200 million release.”

The Evolution of the Game Industry

Since the industry’s inception, it has proven remarkably resilient to periods of economic distress and continues to enjoy upward growth. Like any industry, it has been through trends of major growth and seen corrections, but the overarching theme is one of consistent demand for constantly-improving games as a source of entertainment and even professional development.

“It’s actually a great time to get into the industry right now,” Samoff noted. “Companies are looking for individuals who have unique skill sets, people who can fulfill multiple functions on a team, and who are trained to start working right away.”

New market sectors like eSports, theme parks, health care, military, and other applications for realistic simulations have dramatically widened the reach of the video game industry. This means that video game development is more resistant to changes in trends or discretionary spending habits than ever before.

Careers in the Game Industry

Video game development can be both a dream job for avid video game fans and a practical career path that provides ample opportunity for the dynamic future of technology. Roles range from video game designers and programmers to digital artists and creative directors. Because the industry is relatively new, each graduating class brings new skills based on the rapidly evolving curriculum and unique life experiences. The industry favors creative and flexible applicants—as well as people who are passionate about games!

Samoff has some decidedly entertaining advice for individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in game development. “Those who want to work in the industry should start playing any game they can get their hands on, regardless of whether it’s the type of game they like or the game genre they prefer,” he said. “Mobile devices and app stores make this easy now because so many games are free to play or provided as free demos. People need to understand the trends and know what others in the industry are doing.”

Much like other software-based industries, many of the skills and tools related to developing video games are available online. Most of the industry standard game engines (like Unity and Unreal Engine) are free to use. There are also thousands of tutorials on the game engine sites as well as other outlets like YouTube. Samoff noted that if a person wants to work in the industry, “they should start learning how to make games on their own now.”

Getting a Games Education at APU

While the software revolution allows anyone with internet access to learn about—and participate in—the digital economy, the focused rigors and portfolio requirements of an academic setting can help graduates stand out amid the competitive tech landscape. Earning a degree can better prepare individuals for success and career advancement in their chosen fields.

“Azusa Pacific University’s program is geared towards getting students to be highly productive, learn the value of iteration and failure, and ultimately produce polished, industry-level games,” Samoff said. “Similarly, the games and interactive media program was created with an openness that will allow students to focus in a minor such as computer science, art, music, business, or whatever it is that they want to do within (or outside of) the industry.”

The game industry offers many opportunities for career advancement, stability, and continued growth. From surgical simulations to entertaining role-playing games to educational platforms, the video game industry today covers ground in a wide variety of sectors. Students who graduate from the games and interactive media program at APU will have a deep understanding of how to make engaging, playable games from scratch, how the industry works, and how to apply it all to their current and future career goals.

Are you interested in learning more about the video game industry and how you can pursue an innovative degree in a promising and dynamic career path? Take some time to check out the games and interactive media program at Azusa Pacific University.

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