Panel will prove gaming jobs exist

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Finding a job in the video game industry has long been thought to be an extremely difficult task with success limited to a few lucky computer science majors. A panel on finding a career in video games sought to dispel this myth and others to UT students on Wednesday.

High school fitness coaches and parents often tell teenagers that getting a job in video game development is a pipe dream. Karen Weems and Joel Driver, career counselors at the Sanger Learning and Career Center, have talked to many kids over the years who have been told the same.

“A lot of times we are talking and I’ll ask, ‘What’s your interest?’ and they say, ‘I like to play video games, but that’s not a career,’” Weems said. “So we are doing this panel to show that, yeah, there really are careers associated with that interest that could be viable.”

Weems develops iPhone apps when she isn’t on campus, and Driver plays video games with old classmates as a way to keep in touch, but putting together the panel has been a learning experience for both of them, Weems said. Through a partnership with International Game Developers Association’s Austin chapter, the career center will bring five local game designers representing different aspects of game design to speak to UT students about a career that is open to them, “more so then the ones people usually think of,” according to career center assistant Matthew Seymour.

“Considering the market right now with the way the recession is going, I think a lot of people would probably be interested just to see if there is another field,” Seymour said. He has been running around the past week posting flyers and letting students know about the event. “I don’t think video games instantly comes to mind.”

Driver admits to not knowing the average salary of a video game designer ($75,573 according to Game Developer Research’s 2009 report), but he says there are still commitments to be made, as with any competitive industry.

“If it’s going to take you four more years, are you willing to commit to that? If it’s going to take an internship, are you willing to commit to that?” Driver said. “At the end of the day, it’s really your decision. We are just lucky enough to be facilitators of that conversation.”

Tess Snider, a programmer who has worked in the industry for nearly a decade, will be one of the panelists to join the conversation. She has worked for three Austin game developers, but now does contract work and runs her independent studio Pixelsea Entertainment.

“There is enough game development and support activity in Austin at any given point in time that there are always jobs for people with the right skills,” Snider said.

The event will be organized into two sections. The first will be a panel with four questions posed by the moderators, followed by audience questions. Afterward, the panelists will invite audience members to converse with them, giving students a rare opportunity to network with Austin game industry professionals.

“It’s one of those careers that I think that if you lived in any other city, probably getting six people who work in video game design wouldn’t be possible,” Driver said. “I can tell you right now, back in Florida I couldn’t have done it.”

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WHAT: Video Game Career Panel
WHERE: UTC 2.102A
WHEN: Wednesday 3:30 - 6 p.m.
WEB: lifelearning.utexas.edu