April 23, 2012
Joshua Wilson of Saginaw started playing Super Mario Brothers when he was 7 or 8 and later advanced to more challenging games such as the Elder Scrolls series and Halo.
Now, as a 24-year-old visual communications major at the University of Texas at Arlington, he wants to be in the business end of the industry that gave him joy as a kid.
He’s in the right place to achieve that goal. Texas, which long ago diversified beyond its stereotypical image as the land of cotton, cattle and oil, is fast emerging as a leading producer of video games. It is giving the world an outpouring of increasingly sophisticated game products translated into more than a dozen languages.
The Lone Star State now has the second biggest concentration of game producers after California, with at least 167 companies that provide up to 4,500 full-time jobs, according to Gov. Rick Perry’s office. At least 21 Texas colleges and universities, including the UT-Arlington and Southern Methodist University, offer varying levels of study in game design and production. . .
The most advanced academic program in Texas – and perhaps in the world – is SMU’s master’s degree program known as The Guildhall, which is located on the university’s Plano campus. Peter Raad, a mechanical engineering professor, founded the program in 2002 at SMU’s Hart eCenter, which was funded with donations from Dallas philanthropists Linda and Mitch Hart.
“It became clear to me that this was a booming new industry,” Raad said, recalling his efforts to establish the program.
Enrollment in the two-year program typically runs about 150 students each semester. About 430 students have graduated from The Guildhall, taking jobs in more than 140 studios around the world, Raad said.
The rewards for a video-game career path can be substantial. Salaries frequently top $90,000 and employers often award bonuses and other benefits for the completion of successful games. Video-game entrepreneurs have the potential to make billions of dollars in a country where a vast segment of the population plays video games, often obsessively.
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