Today, 64% of Americans reportedly play video games, a number indicating that the once derided pastime has reached a level of social acceptance never before seen.  Video games as both a form of recreation and possibly as a medium for artistic expression is on the rise, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. With large video game studios producing increasingly refined games, they are coming to need correspondingly larger flotillas of programmers. Add in the growing market for mobile games, numerous students are finding out how learning to create video games can lead to a better career than you may think.

Despite the economic downturn, demand for video games has not been slackened. While other entertainment industries continue to post losses, video games are now everywhere, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t playing a game in some form or another. Resultantly, the United States is currently largest market for video games in the world, and the industry has consistently remained profitable. In 2011, combined sales of all video game related products and content in the United States was between $16.3 and $16.6 billion.

As a result of its resilience in the face of recession, the video game industry has grown consistently, with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) reporting that between 2005 and 2009, the job growth rate exceeded 10% while the annual growth rate of the entire US economy remained at less than 2%. Even in the last three months alone, over 4,000 new jobs have been posted for digital animators. Average salaries now typically range anywhere between $45,000 and $80,000, with some programmers making over $100,000 due to the high demand for their skills.

Understanding the increased feasibility of video game as a career, colleges, universities and online institutions are taking notice and responding in turn. The ESA reports that over 200 institutions currently offer video game related majors, and that number also shows no sign of going down soon, either.

The reason for this indefatigable growth seems at first seems obvious: video games keep getting better. As the technology for creating more realistic graphics improve, the number of people required to animate a video game rises. While this may be true, the increased dissemination of video game production software and knowledge on a large scale has allowed for small startups to be given chances never before allowed in any entertainment field. Now only a few people working out of an office the size of a bathroom can produce a game, sell it online, and make it a hit.

Although 2012 has seen a slump in sales of big-budget video game sales so far, numerous analysts attribute this as a response to this upsurge in independent studios producing new, cheap or free ways for consumers to play video games. Online social games like Farmville, mobile games, and low-cost independent games focusing more on gameplay than graphics are steadily becoming more commonplace and are shifting the paradigm of market into the hands of the progammers.
While some may still guffaw at the idea, its certain that of a career in video games is now, surprisingly, one of the best bets for employment in the Digital Age.

By: Tyler Mangrum