As a new academic year begins, a record number of colleges, universities and other institutions of higher learning are offering courses and degrees in video game design, programming, and art.
From certificate programs in 3D Animation & Interactive Media (Boston University) to master's degrees in Computer Graphics and Game Technology (University of Pennsylvania), the programs reflect the growing importance of video games on the economy and culture of the United States. More than 200 colleges and universities around the country have added video game courses and degrees to their respective bulletins.
"Video games are not just a mainstream entertainment medium, they are increasingly being used in education and business," said Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, which represents U.S. computer and video game publishers. "Our industry is going to be creating new opportunities and jobs for years to come, and the new college programs underscore the significance and seriousness of the games."
Despite uncertain economic times, the video game industry continues to thrive. Over the past 12 years, annual U.S. software sales have nearly quadrupled, with 2007 generating a record $9.5 billion in revenue. Global growth, meanwhile, is expected to reach double digits in the next four years, leading to approximately $68 billion in revenue by 2012, according to a recent study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers. New data shows that current 2008 sales are up 30 percent over last year.
Because of such sales, the video game industry supports a rapidly increasing number of American jobs. According to economist Stephen E. Siwek, game companies in 2006 directly and indirectly employed more than 80,000 people across 31 states, with total compensation totaling $2.2 billion. By next year, the industry will employ more than 250,000 Americans, project Brookings Institution senior fellow Robert W. Crandall and Georgetown University Law Center professor J. Gregory Sidak.
Long a source of entertainment, video games are now also being used for more serious pursuits. A recent study conducted by KRC Research revealed that seventy percent of major employers utilize interactive software and games to train employees. Among this group, seventy-five percent plan to expand their usage within the next three to five years. Even most of the businesses and non-profit organizations not already utilizing the technology are likely to offer it by 2013, the study found.
As video games extend their reach into more facets of American society, academic institutions at all levels are responding. Over the next decade, even more art schools, community colleges and traditional universities are expected to expand their course offerings in game design and development, further demonstrating that video games are more than just play.