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Video games may have started out as little more than amusements, but they've become big business in the nearly 40 years since the first commercially available titles hit the market. New game studios are popping up all over the globe, and universities have begun offering video game development degree programs to help keep up with demand for skills in this growing field.

The tasks involved in video game production are as varied as the games themselves. Duties a developer might handle include:

  • Devising gameplay features and programming parameters to implement them
  • Determining appropriate physics for the game world and building an engine around them
  • Developing simulations of lifelike human behavior for artificial intelligence systems
  • Scripting communication protocols for various input devices
  • Crafting missions, puzzles, obstacles and other player challenges

Video Game Development: Educational Requirements

According to data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), while it may be possible to find entry-level work in video game design and development without a college degree, employers are likely to prefer candidates who have completed a formal education program. The majority of positions require candidates to possess a bachelor's degree. Some employers may also accept degrees in computer science or software engineering, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.

Video game design and development is a relatively new field, and due the changing demands of industry, curriculum may differ from program to program. However, many programs do share core concepts. Students pursuing game development degrees can typically expect to study some form of the following:

  • Video game programming
  • Game engine techniques
  • Game architectures
  • Programming for 3D graphics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Art asset design and implementation
  • Sound programming
  • Network protocols
  • Games in society

Degree program in technology in Video game development are mainly available at the bachelor's level, but some institutions also offer associate or master's degrees in the field. Students should contact prospective schools directly for information on specific degree programs and enrollment requirements.

Career Outlook for Video Game Developers

The BLS has not produced specific statistics on the employment outlook for careers in video game design and development, but it does have information on related careers. Software development careers, for example, are expected to grow 22 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022, largely due to a significant increase in computer software demand. Employment opportunities for computer programmers should see an 8 percent rise nationwide over the same period.

Sources:
"Computer Programmers," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-programmers.htm
"New Reports Forecast Global Video Game Industry Will Reach $82 Billion By 2017," Forbes, John Gaudiosi, July 18, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/johngaudiosi/2012/07/18/new-reports-forecasts-global-video-game-industry-will-reach-82-billion-by-2017/
Software Developers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Software-developers.htm
Video Game Designers Summary Report, Occupational Information Network, 2013, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1199.11

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