Interest in studying the degree in Video Games skyrockets after practicing in the pandemic | Universities

A character who travels through an uninhabited municipality to find mobile coverage or one who distributes offerings in an underground headquarters. Digital natives take advantage of the opportunity offered by Spanish universities to turn their hobby into their job. Video game enthusiasts develop their own strategies, characters and digital environments in the classroom. The rise of this industry and the increase in the time invested in this virtual leisure activity have increased the demand for the Video Game Design and Development degree. The number of students enrolled in this degree in Spain has tripled in the last seven years. In 2015 there were 669, now there are more than 1,760, according to data from the Spanish University System (SUE). “During the pandemic they have played much more, but there was already a strong interest before,” says Dan Casas, coordinator of the degree at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

In Spain there are 13 careers related to the creation and design of video games in four autonomous communities. Catalonia is the epicenter of this training, the degree is taught in five universities. Madrid follows with two. And at the bottom are Galicia and the Valencian Community with one degree each. Cut-off notes were up slightly last year vs. prior. In some up to almost a point, as in the Polytechnic of Catalonia (7.16 in Spanish and 7.88 in English), or half a point, as in the Jaume I of Castellón (10.02).

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The cut-off marks increase and other universities join in offering the degree. “As there is more supply, the grades would have to go down. However, they do not stop rising. It’s outrageous”, explains Raúl Montoliu, deputy director of the degree at the Jaume I University of Castellón, the first to teach these studies in Spain a decade ago.

consumption of games on-line increased by 75% during the quarantine in Spain, according to a study on eSports by the specialized group AcuityAds. University student Alejandro Alonso, 21, signs it: “When we were all locked up, I spent every afternoon with my friends connected, playing. We opened a server in a game and we did not stop. Two years later, he is preparing for the 3D animation class at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid. “We young people have spent more hours playing video games, which is why interest in them has increased,” assumes Alejandro Asensio, 20, who says that those interested have little room to choose degrees dedicated professionally to it.

In this URJC center, students test their prototypes through virtual reality glasses that cost 400 euros per unit. The faculties have to make large financial outlays to update the techniques of learning in class. “This career is a little more artistic and creative than computer engineering,” says Alonso. But his partner, Juan Gradolph, 20, complains about the lack of models in the classroom: “I read many reviews of how to make a video game so that it is good, but here we see little of that, because it is a career very young and there are almost no professors who have dedicated themselves to the industry”.

Students and professors of the degree in Videogames at the Jaume I University of Castellón.Students and professors of the degree in Videogames at the Jaume I University of Castellón. ANGEL SANCHEZ

During the class, the students learn to program a code to create a tool that allows the mobility of the objects of a game. They program a code and choose the parameters so that the object can be deformed. While they practice with the computers, Miguel Otaduy, teacher and computer scientist, explains: “They create tools from the programming so that the designer or artist can later use them to make the video game.”

Although the bulk of the four-year training is usually computer programming, an overview of the video game creation process is established. On the one hand, the visual design of the characters and the environments with subjects such as drawing or illustration. On the other hand, the creation of the mechanics and rules of the game through digital narrative classes. It is proposed as an adaptation to the Computer Engineering degree, but it focuses on content oriented towards the creation of video games: computer science, digital arts and visual culture. Mathematics, 3D design, animation techniques, robotics and composition are some of the subjects taught.

Marta Fernández, degree coordinator at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, also attributes the increase in demand to the fact that, according to her, video games have experienced a progressive legitimation: “Although it is still a bit stigmatized, because under certain conditions it can cause addiction or problems with violence, this thought has been relativized”. The professor assures that the tools that are taught to students are not only for designing entertainment video games, but are also oriented towards education, health, communication, mobile applications or the metaverse.

More competition in the world of work

Many of the students have a very strong inclination towards the culture of video games and their references. More than computer scientists, many consider themselves artists. Like Ana Bolumar, 25, who has been looking for a job for several months: “As a programmer there are many more offers for young people. But, in the artistic branch, companies look for people with experience”. The Valencian comments that now there are more people who study Video Games and, therefore, more competition. From a very young age she has been passionate about drawing and she saw in video games the opportunity to dedicate herself to art in an increasingly digital and interactive world of work that requires computer skills. But specializing is a privilege that not all young people can afford, since most master’s degrees are private and expensive: “When I finished my degree, I decided to learn video game illustration by myself by watching videos and tutorials on the internet.”

As a creator in search of qualified personnel, David Rodríguez, 31, explains that in his studio they are receiving many resumes from students who have just finished their studies. The businessman, who belongs to the first graduating class in Spain, agrees that there is more competition than before because the sector is growing. During his second year at university, the idea of ​​designing a video game led to the creation of a creative studio together with one of his classmates. “It was difficult for us to start, but the race gave us a base and, above all, we made contacts with people who could help us develop it,” he recalls eight years later. And he highlights that during the pandemic they have noticed an exponential rise in work: “We received almost twice as many projects. Before we were three people in the office and now 15”.

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