The world of gaming has come a long way since Atari (1972). Video games are so advanced that it’s tough to tell whether the characters and landscapes are real or computer generated. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Grand Theft Auto V, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Battlefield 4 are just a few examples. Gaming is no longer for just little boys either. Today, around 67 percent of U.S. households play video games, the average gamer is 34 and the most frequent game purchaser is around 39 years old, around 49 percent of gamers are 18-49 years of age and twenty-six percent are over 50, and two out of every five out gamers are female.
Because the industry has changed so dramatically over the decades, today’s game companies are searching for more than creativity. They look for superior programming skills, an awareness of game platforms and technologies, advanced information design and user interface designs skills, storytelling and narrative development skills, and fluency in a range of 2D and 3D graphics and animation packages such as 3D Studio Max, Nuke, and Maya. It doesn’t stop here. You’ll need to have good drawing, visual design, communication, presentation, and written and verbal communication skills, the ability to work in collaboration with multidisciplinary teams, and a thorough understanding of game play theory and your audience.
Because these positons are so demanding and the industry is ever-changing, colleges have to constantly reinvent their game design and development programs just to keep up. In addition to offering curriculums that cover all of the skills listed earlier, these programs must teach students about the game design business, project management skills, entrepreneurship, and more. Fortunately, Florida is home to several schools that offer programs that cover all bases. Before we discuss Florida’s game development schools, take a look at what the state has to offer game developers.
Florida hosts a number of gaming conventions annually or several times a year. Florida Supercon is one of the largest video game, anime, animation, comic book, fantasy, and Sci-Fi conventions in the U.S. It takes place over four days and usually in Miami at the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC). Other popular Florida-based cons include Megacon (Orlando), Hurricon (Miami) and Otronicon—presented by the Orlando Science Center.
Many areas throughout the state host multiple gaming tournaments throughout the year such as Halo Wars, Street Fighter, Starcraft, Black Ops and More. Although the gaming scene is alive and well across the state, some of the liveliest scenes can be found in the following cities with a population over 200,000: Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, and Hialeah. Other cities worth considering include Tallahassee, Port St. Lucie, Cape Coral, and Pembroke Pines. These cities have a population over 160,000 but less than 200,000.
Florida Game Development Schools
Florida is now home to 223 Title IV Degree-Granting colleges and universities with more than one million students enrolled. The state is among the top five states with the highest number of colleges and universities and thousands are enrolled in art, design, and computer science programs. Just a few common degree paths for aspiring game developers are a BS Computer Science with a focus in Game Development, Game Design + Development or Game Development, Interactive Entertainment, Computer Science and Game Design, or Computer Games Development, to name a few. Continue reading to learn more about Florida’s game development schools.
Florida Atlantic University – Degrees Offered: BS Computer Science. Among the principal areas within this degree are Video Game Development and Human-Computer Interaction.
Keiser University – Degrees Offered: AS Video Game Design. Also offered at the Pembroke Pines and Port St. Lucie campuses.
Florida Polytechnic University, College of Innovation & Technology– Degrees Offered: BS in Computer Science with a Cyber Gaming Concentration.
Florida Southern College – Degrees Offered: BS Computer Science. This multidisciplinary program includes Computer Game Design.
Florida Institute of Technology – Degrees Offered: BS Computer Science with a Focus in Graphics or Human-Computer Interaction
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (The DAVE School) – Degrees Offered: Diploma in Game Production. This intensive, 15-month program covers Modeling & Sculpting, Game Production, Game Engine Fundamentals, Game Asset Production, and Animation Fundamentals.
University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) – Degrees Offered: BA Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design, MFA Emerging Media with a Digital Media Track, MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media
Ringling College of Art and Design – Degrees Offered: BFA Game Art & Design, BFA Computer Animation, Illustration, and Motion Design, BA and a Minor in the Business of Art & Design
Full Sail University - Degrees Offered: BS Game Art, BS Game Development, MS Game Design, MS Mobile Gaming
More Florida Schools with Game related programs:
- Atlanta, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Lacoste, France; and SCAD eLearning
Employment and Salary Trends for Florida Game Developers
Game designers and developers are both talented artists and skilled software developers. However, figures for software developers are closer to what aspiring game designers can expect in the areas of employment outlook and salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the U.S. is home to more than 1.1 million software developers averaging $95,510 to $102,880 per year. The lowest 10 percent of software developers earn less than $56,310, and the top 10 percent earn more than $149,480. Florida is home to nearly 39,000 software developers averaging $84,650 to $94,760 per year. In 2008, the state was home to 30,750 software developers averaging $79,340 to $83,280 per year.
Several other sources offer salary information for game designers and developers. According to Gamasutra’s latest released Game Developer Salary Survey (2014), game developers nationwide averaged $83,060 in 2013. It is important to note that salaries for game designers and developers vary based on location (city), company, experience, employer, and more. For example, according to Indeed, Tallahassee-based game designers and developers average $123,000 per year, while Miami and Orlando-based designers and developers average around $98,000 and $91,000 per year, respectively.
In addition to much higher than average salaries, the software development industry is expected to enjoy an impressive amount of employment growth in the coming years. Overall employment growth for this industry is 14 percent for the 2014-2024 decade, which is much faster than average for all occupations.
Awesome Animation Fact: The Best Animation Feature Film category started in 2001 due to the influx of 3D Animation films exploding into the mainstream film industry. Pixar Animation Studios won in almost every year they released a film with the exception of 2 years where they lost to DreamWorks’ Shrek in 2001 and Animal Logic’s Happy Feet in 2006. –Animation Mentor, The Online Animation School