Video games major player in Seattle job market



Posted on November 21, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 21 at 7:00 PM

SEATTLE -- Instead of reading Facebook threads on an iPad, Karyn McCullough is stitching sock monsters before history class. When it comes to the gamer generation, she's pretty old school.

"I still have my old Game Boy," she said. "It's older than some of the other students here!" 

"Here" is the DigiPen Institute of Technology, one of three DigiPen campuses around the world where students receive degrees in nine different game development fields. It's what Karyn feels she was designed for.

"I used to play "Legend of Zelda" on my Game Boy. There was no stopping," she said on her Redmond campus. "It was like, Karyn, stop. Go do homework!"

Nearly 400 American schools now offer courses, certificates, or degrees related to computer and video game design. Karyn recently won a scholarship from the Entertainment Software Association Foundation and insists the slacker stereotype is pure fantasy.

"People look at video game school and think since they like to play video games they can go make them. Then they realize what it takes to make them and they realize it isn't what they thought it was."

Right now, the global gaming industry alone is bigger than box office and music combined. Revenues are projected to hit $82 billion by 2017, according to Forbes. It's an economic engine that many at DigiPen believe is just getting started. Gaming via phones and tablets is in its infancy. And even if gaming should one day completely disappear?

DigiPen's vice president of software production, Ben Ellinger says, "If all of a sudden commercial video games are no longer viable in any way, people would ask, what about all our graduates who are trained in video games? They're doomed! No. They immediately go into software in other areas, and they'd be excellent at it."

The International Game Developers Association lists the entry level starting salary for a video game designer at between 50,000 and 80,000 dollars. Karyn McCollough is looking forward to an 80% to 90% employment rate when she graduates and starts the job hunting game.

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