In 2014, Robert Morris University-Illinois made League of Legends a varsity sport. It was the first school in the U.S. to place eSports in the same league as basketball, football, and hockey. To those who are familiar with the booming gaming industry, RMU’s move isn’t surprising. For everyone else, this came as quite a surprise. Just so the next big thing to happen in gaming won’t surprise you, here’s why academic institutions (and everyone else) are jumping on the gameplay bandwagon.
Around 67 percent of U.S. households play video games and most of these gamers are not kids. According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the average age of a gamer is 34 and the most frequent game purchaser is often around 39. In 2010, 49 percent of gamers were 18-49 years of age and twenty-six percent were over 50. Just 25 percent of gamers were under 18. Even more amazing is, around two out of every five players are female.
To keep up with the diverse and ever-changing demographics of the video game industry, education programs have evolved in amazing ways, which is why many of the nation’s top game design schools produce some of the world’s leading designers. These programs go beyond teaching the ABC’s of technique. They teach aspiring game designers how to run their own businesses, market their ideas, and manage teams. Not surprisingly, a number of these top programs are offered at schools in the State of California—the entertainment capital of the world.
In addition to being a hub for aspiring game designers, California is home to a number of gaming conventions such as:
- BlizzCon, Anaheim
- Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Los Angeles
- Gamex, Los Angeles
- Gateway, Los Angeles
- Kublacon, Burlingame
- OrCon, Los Angeles
E3 is the world's premier tradeshow for computer and video games and related products. E3 is one of the largest game expo in the country. It is owned and operated by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which is “the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of the companies, publishing interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the Internet.”
In addition to game design schools and conventions galore, California is home to so many major game design companies, you’ll lost count. Just a few include Activision, Electronic Arts/EA Games, and Sony Computer Entertainment America.
California Game Design Schools
California is home to the largest number of independent art schools in the U.S. and the state’s 450+ accredited four-year colleges and universities also offer the largest variety of art degree programs in the nation. Browse the list below to review some of California’s best options for aspiring game designers and what they have to offer.
Woodbury University – Degrees Offered: BFA Game Art & Design
Ex’pression College for Digital Arts - Degrees Offered: BAS Game Art and Design
Gnomon School of Visual Effects - Degrees Offered: Entertainment Design (One-Year Track), Digital Production for Entertainment (Two-Year Program), Entertainment Design and Digital Production (Three-Year Program), and Maya Fast Track (10-Week Program)
University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) – Degrees Offered: BS Computer Game Science (CGS)
Laguna College of Art and Design – Degrees Offered: BFA/Emphasis in Game Art, 3D Character or 3D Environment, MFA Art of Game
New York Film Academy (NYFA) – Degrees Offered: AFA, BFA, MFA Game Design, One-Year non-degree Game Design program
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) - Degrees Offered: BA in Digital Media with a Game & Entertainment Design Major and a Minor in Digital Media
The Art Institute of California - Los Angeles – Degrees Offered: BS Game Art & Design, BS Game Programming
University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) – Degrees Offered: BA in Design Media Arts
University of Southern California (USC) - Degrees Offered: BA Interactive Entertainment, BS Computer Science – CSCI (Games), MFA Interactive Media, MS Computer Science (Game Development), PhD in Computer Science (Game Design and Development). Minor in Computer Science, Game Design, Game Entrepreneurism and a Progressive Degree Program (PDP).
Academy of Art University - Degrees Offered: AA, BS, BFA, MFA Game Development, Online Award of Completion (OAC) Game Development
University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) - Degrees Offered: BS Computer Science: Computer Game Design, MS Games & Playable Media, MS and PhD Computer Science with a (research) focus in Computer Games, MFA Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) with a Playable Media research option
More California schools with Game Design and related programs:
- Orlando, Florida (Online Programs Available)
Employment and Salary Trends for California Game Designers
The gaming industry is expected to generate $91.5 billion worldwide in 2015 and $107 billion worldwide in 2017, according to the Global Games Market Report. With hundreds of thousands of game designers and developers at work and billions in revenue, the U.S. gaming market is the largest in the world. The population increase of gamers and game designers is expected to continue, with the number of designers increasing anywhere from three to six percent, according to some reports. Others predict an even higher increase.
Game designers and developers are talented artists and skilled software developers. However, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) figures for software developers will give aspiring game designers a better idea of what to expect in the areas of employment and salaries. According to the Bureau, the U.S. is home to more than 1 million software developers, averaging $90,060 to $99,000 per year. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $55,190, and the top 10 percent earn more than $138,880. California is home to nearly 190,000 salaried software developers averaging anywhere from $119,970 to $124,070 per year.
Several other sources offer salary information for game designers and developers. According to Gamasutra’s latest Game Developer Salary Survey (2014), game developers nationwide averaged $83,060 in 2013.
Head to the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area or the San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City metro areas for the most job opportunities. If you're aiming for a higher salary, look no further than the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area where the average salary for game designers is $145,000 per year, according to Indeed. Just a few major California gaming companies include:
- Activision, Santa Monica
- Electronic Arts/EA Games, Redwood City
- Inc., Obsidian Entertainment, Santa Ana
- Insomniac Games, Burbank
- Legacy Interactive, Los Angeles
- LucasArts, San Francisco
- Mattel, El Segundo
- NVIDIA Corporation, Santa Clara
- PlayFirst, San Francisco
- Sony Computer Entertainment America, San Mateo
- THQ, Agoura Hills
A few others include Trion Worlds, Inc. in Redwood City, GREE International in San Francisco, LeapFrog Enterprises in Emeryville, and Tango in Mountain View.
Awesome Animation Fact: Did you know that some of Pixar’s 3D animation films are so complex that it can take up to ninety hours for a single computer to translate all the information on a single finished image? –By “3danimation”