Leveling Up

Be a Boston-based video-game developer
By MADDY MYERS  |  August 8, 2010

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Are you unemployed? Have you spent the last two weeks playing Red Dead Redemption and seeing how far you can run your horse around the map before the game stops you? (Here's a hint: it's forever.) Are you worried about how you are going to afford your World of Warcraft subsciption next month? Have you pawned your child's shoes in order to do so?

We think you have a problem. But we have a solution for you: turn your sad obsession with video and computer games into a career.

If you want to work in games, you're in the right town. There are over 60 video-game developers in greater Boston, including Rockstar Games, the creators of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption — and did we mention they're currently seeking programmers for their Andover location? Harmonix Music Systems, the developers of those Rock Band games that even your non-gamer friends enjoy, have their main offices in Cambridge; they're looking for programmers, too, plus some other positions. Also, Irrational Games — developers of the BioShock series and System Shock 2 — needs programmers and level designers. Not to mention the plethora of smaller companies in Boston, like Twitchy Thumbs Entertainment, Mecha Software, Arcane Journeys, and others.

Or you could always start your own independent gaming company and be your own boss — but before you do anything, you'll need to learn some tools of the trade.

Get schooled
A decade or so ago, if you told people you were getting a degree in video games, they'd have laughed in your face. No longer. Game design and development majors are mainstream – perhaps not quite as much as majors in literature or film, but enough that it's no longer shocking to see colleges offering comprehensive degree and certificate programs.

Gamecareerguide.com attempts to document every institution in America that offers video-game education programs, and lots of schools in Massachusetts are on their list. Many local colleges offer programs and degrees in computer science, graphic design, animation, and sound editing; however, a few offer programs specifically for would-be game designers.

BECKER COLLEGE in Worcester offers two different degree programs; the first is an arts-based degree in game design, and the other is a programming-based game-development degree. Both are four-year programs with a little breathing room for electives. According to Becker's website, both promise to give students "the right technical skills, a firm theoretical base, opportunities for career internships, and a strong portfolio as solid evidence of their abilities."

A bevy of Becker grads are making a name for themselves in the gaming world. Jimmy Beals, '08 grad of Becker College's game-design program, currently works as a quality-assurance specialist at Seven45 Studios, after stints at Blue Fang Games and Demiurge Studios, and working on games like Zoo Tycoon, Lord of the Rings Online, and Dungeons & Dragons Online. Nicholas Allain, an '09 Becker grad, also works for Demiurge. Andrew Silvernail — also a 2009 graduate. has been on the winning team at the Massachusetts Game Challenge two years in a row.

The Princeton Review recently released a list of their top picks of game-design schools in the US, with Becker College at fourth place out of 50 schools surveyed. That makes them the top-rated New England school — not too shabby. And by the way, Worcester Polytech and MIT are seventh and eighth place on that list, so let's get to them next.

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Related: Review: Left 4 Dead 2, Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, 2009: Year in video games, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Technology, Video Games, Boston University,  More more >
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