Many kids today spend thousands of hours playing video games. Progressing from GameBoys (TM), to GameCubes (TM), Wii (TM) and XBox (TM), to the final frontier of the Massive Multiplayer Online games, it looks to have taken over their life. Is there a way to capitalize on this obsession and find a career that is equally (or at least almost) as appealing? Take up the quest and discover a brave new world of future jobs that video game geeks might really love.
Video Game Designer
First and foremost, of course, is the job of creating video games themselves. The facts are these: the video game industry has surpassed movies in terms of the dollar value generated. Amazing! Not only is this industry continuing to expand, but it also appears to be relatively recession proof. What does it take to have a career in video game creation? First, you need to understand that there is not just one kind of video game job out there, but many. It takes a team of people with multiple talents to pull off the creation of an exciting new game. The jobs and skills involved include artists
– storyboard artist, character artist, animator, texture artists, programmers, including sound and audio engineers, game designers
– character design, level design, overall design, game producers –
project management skills, and writers
– software documentation, storytelling, character scripts.
There has been a recent explosion in colleges, technical institutes and certificate programs to help you get the skills you need to get into this industry. While I was researching this industry, though, I found out that there are a lot of other up and coming careers that use a lot of the same skills and may be equally appealing.
Just as the job of the video game designer and programmer is to make a convincing virtual world, there is a "real life" application of this for a number of industries-simulations. At one college they talked about how some students were using electrical impulses from the heart to render 3 dimensional images of the heart in real time to help doctors examine what could be wrong. At RPI they are working on creating a simulation of a surgical procedure for doctors to get practice before they cut someone open! Beyond medical applications, simulations are gaining ground in aerospace, automotive engineering, and many other industries. Of course, the military has been interested in simulation for a very long time. Some of the college video game degree programs are recognizing this trend and have added "simulation" into the title of their program (for example, Daniel Webster Colleges' "Gaming, Simulation and Robotics" BS degree or the University of Baltimore's "Simulation and Digital" Entertainment "degree). Scientists, engineers, defense planners and educators all use simulation to facilitate their jobs.
Mobile Application Developer
Another huge career trend is the explosion of applications for all kinds of other devices. Just look at the iPhone or the iTouch. What can't these things do? Creating content, software applications and who knows what else for all kinds of mobile devices is hot. So "Mobile Application Developer" is a career that is here now and will expand in the future. This is also a career that colleges and universities are already recognizing. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute offers a degree in "Electronic Media Arts and Communication"; Worcester Polytechnic Institute offers "Interactive Media and Game Development". Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has a BS in "New Media and Interactive Development"; Champlain College offers a degree in "Software Engineering for Emergent Technologies".
Computer Forensics and Cyber Security
The other really hot area highlighted at colleges like RIT is computer forensics and cyber security specialists. You only have to listen to the latest news about hackers stealing 135 million credit card numbers to see why these are hot job areas. Computer forensic specialists work with criminal justice folks to dig into all the computerized records and data associated with criminal cases. We are only going to get more connected in the future, making us even bigger targets. If you like figuring out how to get around what someone else made, why not consider putting your talents to good use for everyone's benefit? DePaul University offers a degree in "Information Assurance and Security Engineer"; RIT has "Information Security and Forensics", while Champlain college offers "Computer and Digital Forensics".
These careers are real, growing, and educational resources are available now! If you are a gamer, or if you know a gamer, there are cool careers to get into. The US Department of Labor predicts that IT jobs will be among the fastest growing and highest paying over the next decade. These jobs will be critical to the nation's economy and security, and offer the highest entry level salaries with a bachelor's degree of any out there. Check them out, and look into the schools and programs that most excite you.