A guest post by Dr. Aphra Kerr
How many hours a day do you spend using media technologies? How many hours do you spend where it is simultaneous to other tasks like studying, travelling, shopping or running? Each year I ask my students to fill out a media diary and for some it becomes almost impossible. Our lives have become heavily mediated and most media rely on technologies to produce, share and distribute their content. One area which requires somewhat more technology than most however is digital games. Have you ever thought about working in the games industry?
Most of my research over the past ten years has looked at digital games: who makes them, who plays them and who regulates them. We have had games companies in Ireland since the 1980s when a company called Emerald Software in Waterford produced games to tie into early Arnold Schwarzenegger movies and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker. We also produced arcade cabinets in Tipperary for years while FunCom produced racing games for the PlayStation One in Ireland in the 1990s.
Today there are about 2,000 people employed in the games industry in Ireland in roles that vary from computer programming, software engineering, design and music to localisation and online community support in various European languages. So it is an industry which requires computer science and engineering skills, as well as design, animation and business skills. If we look back over the jobs advertised on gamedevelopers.ie, a website where you will find out more about the industry, most of the jobs we see posted have been in programming and engineering, followed by design. There are also an increasing number of jobs in community support.
The Irish link to popular games
Did you know that World of Warcraft and Star Wars: the Old Republic are both supported from Ireland? In other words a European player who contacts a game master in either of these games is likely to be contacting someone who is located in Ireland. To work in these jobs you need a passion for games and a very good level of competency in certain European languages.
Others are employed in ‘porting’ games from one platform to another, or developing original games for the iPad, Xbox Live, mobile phones and your PC. We also have companies who specialize in ‘middleware’ which means that they develop software that in one instance improves the physics in a game – the car crash is more realistic, or the movement of clothes or water – in another instance improves the networking between gamers. Turn over some of the big games you have at home – do you see a logo for Havok or Demonware? If so, there is some Irish technology inside.
There are a wide range of jobs available in the games industry in Ireland from the very technical to the more artistic but all employees require the ability to work in teams (sometimes with counterparts in other countries) and good communication skills. Increasingly, in small companies they also require good business skills. Over the past two years the industry has bucked wider trends and keeps hiring and growing.
How do I find work in games?
Interested? Some universities and ITs offer specialties in games as an option in their computer science courses, others offer specialist degrees and postgraduate qualitifications e.g. DIT, DCU, TCD, DKIT, Tipp IT and CIT. For the more design orientated and those who want to specialise in animation, there are specialist courses in Ballyfermot, IADT, DCU, NUIM and elsewhere. So go on, see if you can think up a novel game or ask yourself, do you want to design the characters and gameplay or piece the whole thing together and make it work? On the smaller games you might end up doing everything, but in a larger team you would specialize and work as part of the design or programming teams. It is never too early to start playing around with the free tools available online and creating your own portfolio of small projects.
Aphra Kerr is a lecturer in the Sociology Department at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. She set up and helps to run the community website www.gamedevelopers.ie. Her book The Business and Culture of Digital Games: Gamework/gameplay was published in 2006. For more see http://sociology.nuim.ie/people/dr-aphra-kerr
Find out more:
Every November DIT run a games design workshop for secondary school students with well known designer Ernest Adams. Watch out for it next year. If you have a little bit of experience working on small games you might like to participate in Dublin Gamecraft in DIT in February this year.
Each March LIT Tipperary runs an annual 2 day games fleadh in Thurles incorporating talks, workshops and programming competitions for secondary school and third level students. See http://www.gamesfleadh.ie/
Check out information about different courses on Careers Portal.
A useful UK site offering info on jobs in the games industry – See http://www.skillset.org/games/careers/