Learn . . . and earn!

Not Just a Game

Video games are a $27.5 billion dollar industry, and it’s an industry that keeps on growing. The first video game was created in the 1970s by a young engineer named Al Alcorn. In just 40 years, the industry has grown $7.4 billion in annual sales, just short of the $9.49 billion that films brought in. Making a video game is not a one-person job any more, however. Modern video games take hundreds of professionals months to create, not to mention the amount of money invested in them. With the industry growing at such a fast pace and the amount of manpower needed to create these video games, employment opportunity is bright. Some jobs available are designers, story builders, artists, composers, producers, production technicians, production assistants, simulation programmers, graphic artists, animators, designers, screenwriters, editors, clay modelers, and more.

For the people interested in entering the video game career field, there are two main ways to do this: learning in the job or learning in school. Few people have a way to simply walk into the job and get hired, so most people who want to learn the industry go to college. Two typical areas of study for video games are programming and graphics.

Graphics artists deal with how things look, the texture of a character’s skin or the glint off a car window. They create how everything looks. Programmers are math and science people. They deal with programming languages used to write the source code for the program. They are responsible not just for the actions the player controls but also for the actions of the non-players, the characters that wander around in the game.

Like with any career, the salary depends on location, years of experience, education level, specialty within the video game design industry, and the company. In 2007, the median salary for a programmer with less than three years’ experience was $57,665. For programmers with three to six years of experience, that number increases to $75,070, and for a programmer with more than six years experience, the average income earned was $94,525, according to Came Career Guide.

For the artists and animators, the average salary for an artist with less than three years’ experience was $43,657. For three to six years of experience, the average was $58,652 and for more than six years, the average earned in 2007 was $74,335.

The difference in the salary earned between the two is there is a greater need for programmers than artists. Companies are having a difficult time finding programmers to hire. Both of these jobs however, can expect other benefits such as annual bonuses, medical and dental benefits, stock options and 401K retirement. Another thing to keep in mind is salaries vary from state to state. The top three states with the highest earnings are California, Washington, and Texas.

A great way to get a foot in the door before graduation is through internships. These internships are a great way for students to see what it is involved in creating games, and they can often lead to jobs after graduation. Another important benefit to getting one of the highly sought-after internships is it gives the student enough experience to know whether or not this is the kind of career they want to have. Game programmers and artists tend to put in more than a 40-hour week and when it comes close to a deadline, they can be put under a lot of pressure. Even while they are not officially working, game programmers and artists are talking with colleagues and other professionals, reading industry news, writing for industry publication, and working on their own ideas. They are always trying to keep up with the latest technology and program systems.

For those who have the necessary skills to be a game programmer or an artist, this can be both an exciting and a demanding field to work in. The individual must be able to work on their own and with a team, be organized, and be truly passionate about what they’re doing. However, they are also there with some of the most talented people in the field, keeping up with cutting-edge technology and being a part of something that affects millions.


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