By Nola Payne, Head of Faculty of ICT., The IIE Vega School
Video gaming is one of the world’s fastest growing global industries, and subsequently a booming career option. As a $21 billion industry, it is soon expected to earn more money than Hollywood. According to an industry report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) the South African video games industry will grow from R1.6 billion in 2010 to R3.6 billion by 2019, having already reached R2.6 billion in 2014.
In South Africa, the gaming industry is driven by the corporate market, with its need for gamification as the foundation of many company’s in-game branding, loyalty schemes and business’ increased use of gamification for marketing or promotional purposes. The application of elements of game playing such as point scoring or rules of play have become the basis of many loyalty schemes or as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service. In South Africa there are currently more than 120 independent gaming companies employing up to 20 people each.
This all suggests that gaming is not only an exciting new career prospect but a financially rewarding one. Until now, people have tended to enter the industry firstly as a hobby and only then recognise it as a serious profession with great commerce opportunities.
In response to the need for a bespoke qualification, Vega School, an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), launched an IIE gaming degree, which is wildly popular. The IIE Bachelor of Computer and Information Sciences in Game Design and Development degree, is considered to be the leading qualification in the local video-gaming industry. It uniquely combines both game design and development, which includes the programming behind the game.
Since the launch of the qualification last year, Vega has seen an increase in interest. However, nothing prepared us for the level of interest shown at this year’s rAge expo where our stand, which we jointly hosted with our fellow school, the Design School of Southern Africa (DSSA), was one of the more popular at the event. rAge is the leading annual video gaming, computer technology and geek culture exhibitions in South Africa.
Career interest is driven by the nature of gaming as an industry with low barriers to entry. You don’t tend to see jobs advertised, though that is starting to change. Instead, this is an industry of fanatics, with programmers typically starting out part-time in the gaming entertainment sector and subsequently moving fulltime into the commercial space. Social platforms such as Steam allow aspirant game developers to release early versions of their games cheaply, where users can play them and thereby iron out the bugs. Thereafter, it can be released commercially.
One of the more exciting characteristics of a gaming career is that it is international. While few South African gaming programmers have made the leap to the international market, it is likely to be a matter of time. However, some local gaming companies have made that leap by linking up with international game developers – something which can be done remotely from South Africa, unlike many other careers.
Our degree now offers a new route into this industry. It equips students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in creating gaming content for everything from home consoles and computers, to emerging platforms like mobile phones and other hand-held devices. The degree is simultaneously structured to give graduates sufficient general IT overview to become a traditional software developer. It was developed in collaboration with the sector, an essential requirement in this dynamic industry to enable graduates to be immediately employable as developers for gamification applications, business applications and mobile apps.
As with all qualifications available at Vega, students graduate with an industry-ready portfolio exhibited at the annual student showcase..
At the moment, the job satisfaction, innovation and financial opportunities in the gaming industry appear endless, and illustrate why learners assessing their study options for next year should look beyond the old-fashioned mainstreams of study.