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Brighter Future In Video Games

The programming job market may be lackluster, but the gaming industry is still hiring developers
Electronic Arts Inc. last week made a multimillion-dollar donation to the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television to fund an advanced video-design program. The Electronic Arts Interactive Entertainment Program will offer courses in video-game design, writing for video games, and creating games involving multiple players, courses the vendor says aren't part of the curriculum at most university computer-science departments.

The gaming vendor, which reported $2.5 billion in revenue in 2003 and expects 15% to 18% revenue growth in fiscal 2004, says it's trying to develop the next generation of talent in a fast-growing field. And the interactive entertainment field is piquing the interest of some students with hopes for a career in the otherwise hard-hit programming job market.

"Outsourcing is my No. 1 fear, so that's why I want to turn from basic programming to game programming," says Peter Rayson, a 21-year-old computer-science major at Queens College in Flushing, New York. The interrelated infrastructures--programming, design, script writing--that go into building games make those jobs harder to outsource, he says.

But "the gaming industry is extremely competitive in terms of jobs," cautions David Cole, president of DFC Intelligence, a market-research firm. "It's a real advantage to have students coming out of universities with a required skill set."