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Playing games with the future

Posted by Michael Warshaw  August 7, 2013 03:25 PM

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By Timothy Loew, executive director, Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI)

There were no careers in video game development 20 years ago; not in the way we understand gamedev today. The idea that thousands and thousands of students would dedicate their academic careers - and their futures - to studying game-making would have been viewed as farfetched.

Hampshire College and Berklee College of Music students with Elicia Basoli, game industry PR mentor. Photo: MassDiGI

massdigi image.jpg

But today, according to the Entertainment Software Association, about 400 US colleges, universities, art and trade schools in all 50 states now offer courses, certificates, and degrees in those fields with more programs coming online each year. And there is a good chance many of these passionate students took part in a game jam, went to one of nearly 700 programs at more than 100 summer game camps, or even published an indie game when they were in high school.

In a multi-billion dollar, highly competitive, fast-moving yet spiky industry driven by talent, this pipeline presents tremendous opportunities and challenges, both in the region and across the nation.

Recently, MassDiGI conducted an informal survey of a sampling of public and private schools in New England and upstate New York, an area that The Princeton Review says is home to several of the top undergraduate and graduate game programs in the US, in order to get a better of understanding of our region’s role in the future of the video game industry.

Eighteen survey respondents, from community colleges to research institutions, reported a total of 3,752 students working towards an undergraduate or graduate degree with a major, minor, or concentration in game design, game programming, game production, game art, game music/audio, animation, media studies, or computer science; 2,407 of those students were reported by the twelve participating institutions in Massachusetts.

Given that the total number of direct game industry employees in our state is just over 2,000, what do local organizations and individuals need to do to ensure our ecosystem can draw, absorb, and retain a healthy share of these young, skilled students after graduation—so necessary if we want to capture their energy to grow our innovation and creative industries?

At MassDiGI, we think about that question every day. And based on our own experiences with students from many institutions, we have a few ideas, some of which are noted below. We certainly could use yours as well; please send them our way.

• Increase access, quantity, and quality of game internship programs for students. In such a rapidly moving industry, connecting students with real-world experience is critical.
• Expand mentorship initiatives for game students and young game entrepreneurs, particularly in areas that complement disciplines such as marketing and analytics.
• Advance the public understanding of what valuable skills these game students have and where those skills can be applied across a broad array of sectors beyond games, including education, training, simulation, publishing, planning, healthcare, advertising, data/scientific visualization, and user interface and experience design.
• Develop targeted policies such as incentives that help game startups and established game companies compete, grow, and expand.
• Play more games!

Clearly, our state and our region have an opportunity to put the amazing skills of these talented young people to work right here. Sit ludos incipiunt!

The State of Play blog, organized by MassDiGI, features posts by digital and video game industry insiders writing about creativity, innovation, research, and development in the Massachusetts digital entertainment and apps sectors. MassDiGI, based at Becker College, is a statewide center for academic cooperation, entrepreneurship, and economic development across the local games ecosystem. Follow along @Mass_DiGI

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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MassDiGI 8-24 287w872.jpgThe State of Play, organized by MassDiGI, features stories by digital and video game developers and business insiders. Follow along @mass_digi.

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