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Plugged into gaming in the Finger Lakes

Video games are a big business, and world-renowned consulting firms are predicting major growth in the coming years.

Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, for example, project that within the next five years, total video game revenue is expected to grow by 4.5 percent in the U.S., reaching an estimated $29.2 billion by 2022.

Given the rosy forecasts, several local colleges are meeting the demand for students interested in working in the growing industry, although educators said their first goal is putting parents at ease.

“Ask someone to define the word ‘play’ or define the word ‘game,’ and it turns out to be very challenging,” said David Schwartz, director of RIT’s School for Interactive Games and Media. Having studied the field of video games since 1999, Schwartz finds the easiest way to get students and parents to think of game development and play is by breaking down the simple game of Tic-Tac-Toe.

“Someone has to come up with the rules for Tic-Tac-Toe. Now you have the game design. The visual design, and the look, the characters, the expression, is the artistic design,” Schwartz said. Additional components include code design for software to play the game and the development of each element, from art to audio effects and narrative.

“And the narrative — this always gets a laugh from the parents — where I’ll say, ‘What’s the narrative for Tic-Tac-Toe?’” Schwartz said. “The futility of the quest for global domination.”

The results of this discussion allow gaming newcomers to understand the different disciplines involved in the development and creation of a game.

Aside from understanding conceptual elements, students who choose game design as their major often encounter coursework primarily made up of programming and design, according to Finger Lakes Community College professor Will McLaughlin.

While some of the coursework is foundational, many classes focus on computing, with students gaining access to industry-standard software such as the computer animation software Maya or the development engine GameMaker Studio.

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