Rochester, N.Y. - Next time you get the urge to tell your teenager to put down the controller and go out and get a job consider this: some 300 colleges are now offering video gaming degrees landing high-paying jobs.
Rochester Institute of Technology’s graduate program has been ranked number two in the nation by The Princeton Review. Its undergraduate program is number six. “We’re doing credible work that relevant and contributing things that are defining the field,” says Andrew Phelps, director of the School of Interactive Games and Media.
Nick Bounarota is a junior who started playing video games when he was eight. “My dad got me a Gameboy with a hot wheels game that I played for hours,” he says.
The students working in the lab Wednesday afternoon have been in training for their careers for a decade or more simply by playing video games. “I didn’t think it could be a career,” says Kate Tigue of her childhood fascination with gaming. “But I was definitely curious about how it all worked.”
There are roughly four and a half applicants for every one slot in the program. And don’t think it’s all about play. Even the simplest programming requires creativity, math, and physics.
“It took four of us to write this,” Tigue says pulling up a version of a class project called “Humans versus Zombies.” She points out how there are several lines of computer instruction simply to allow the user to press a key to get to the main menu.
Gaming is a $31 billion-a-year industry- bigger than Hollywood. Yet as the children holding the controllers have grown, so have the games they play with the technology evolving beyond simple entertainment.
“We sometimes use game-like environments for or educational purposes called serious gaming,” says Phelps. Military trainers- disaster and flight simulators are examples of serious applications of gaming skills.
“There’s definitely a lot of places other than the game industry that we can apply the skills,” says Bounarota.
There is a new name for these graduates- “jobbies” – students who seek out careers that marry a job with their hobby. With salaries starting in the six figures gaming is anything but child’s play.
“The folks we’re graduating are going on and kick-starting some amazing careers right out of college,” says Phelps.