You can mix fantasy with technology, for the gaming industry is booming and jobs are aplenty.

Imagine yourself in a job involving racing cars through treacherous terrains, destroying the enemy in a fierce gun battle fought in dense forests, rescuing a pretty princess from the clutches of fire-breathing dragons, competing with your colleagues in a tennis match and leading your team to victory in a football match. All this has actually become possible in a virtual world.

The booming gaming industry has also spawned a number of educational institutes offering professional courses in game development that promise exciting career options.

Game development is an industry where fantasy worlds are breathed into existence. It is the unique fusion of art and technology. The industry has come a long way from humble PC games to powerful consoles such as PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii and PlayStation Portable.

According to industry estimates, the Indian gaming industry is projected to grow from a size of around Rs. 5.3 billion in 2009 to an estimated Rs. 19.4 billion by 2014, translating into a cumulative growth of 29.4 per cent over the next five years.

Professional courses in game development consist of two aspects – game art and game programming. Game art deals with designing and developing assets such as environments and characters. Game programming deals with the various platforms. In India, game art has vast scope and professionals in the area are sought by companies such as Microsoft, UB Soft and Electronic Arts.

Joshi Mark Premnath, Art Director of Asian Institute of Gaming and Animation, says, “Game development is a serious business. A developer needs to be driven by passion, be very focused and dedicated. The industry is in its nascent stage and has tremendous potential. There is a dearth of well trained, competent and talented resource persons. An intense academic course will help bridge the gap in resource availability.”

Two streams

Gaming has two streams — entertainment gaming and serious gaming. The former deals with online games, mobile games, PC and console games. The latter consists of developing computer-based training modules that simulate various applications in the fields of education, medicine, defence, aircraft flight training etc.

“People with an artistic inclination and who are open to learning new technologies can look forward to courses that teach game art. Candidates with logical thinking and creative ability, besides the right aptitude, can look forward to a course in the programming area. They need to have an exposure to games to have a better understanding of the subjects,” Mr. Joshi said.

Graduates and students who have passed Standard XII can apply for a diploma in gaming. The diploma offered by leading institutes in India is accepted in many foreign universities for further education. Some open universities in India such as IGNOU, which offers B.Sc. in Animation, accept diplomas from select institutes such as Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC).

Greater awareness

With awareness about the industry gradually gaining momentum, students and parents are slowly warming up to the prospects in this field. Sampad Roy Choudury, a student at Frameboxx, says, “Gaming has offered me a platform to convert my passion into a profession. Initially my parents were reluctant to let me pursue this course, but upon learning more about the industry, they let me chase my dream of becoming a game developer.”

The student community pursuing gaming courses presently comprises not only students with degrees in fine arts, engineering, visual communication and business administration, but also college dropouts. People working in the IT industry, call centres and BPOs also take up these programmes.

“Gaming provides a digital medium to serve as an outlet for the brilliant concepts people have in their minds. It is a competitive, challenging field where an individual thrives on his talent and hard work,” says Vikram Chandra, senior faculty, Frameboxx.

3D game design, simulator graphics, web 3D graphics, interactive product demos, interactive architectural walkthrough, game testing, and game engine asset integration are some of the areas where career opportunities lie. Students completing courses are absorbed by gaming studios such as Dhruva Interactive, Technicolor, Atman Games, FX Labs and Zynga. Depending on the course and their individual talents, candidates start with a salary ranging from Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000.

Mithun Thomas, who quit his plush software job to pursue a career in game art at Dhruva Interactive, says, “Every day is an adventure in the life of a game developer. Imaginations are turned into reality and it is matter of pride to see our virtual creations come alive. The gaming industry is the fastest growing segment in the entertainment industry in India. Mobile gaming will see the most substantial growth of all owing to the advent of 3G.”

Experts needed

With growing competition, the companies are hard pressed to find competent talent with new ideas and upgraded skills. Pradyumna Harish, an ardent gamer, observes, “A game should be free from bugs and glitches for it to be successful in the market. The game developer should be able to understand the level of expectation of an intelligent gamer. In view of this, Indian gaming industry needs some very educated resources.”

Nischal Tontanahal, a first year engineering student, says, “I like anything that has to do with computers. If a course on gaming could be included in our curriculum I would surely take it as it will help me land me a good job.”

Governments are taking small initiatives to promote gaming in the country. Recently, the Union Government set up National Institutes of Gaming on the lines of IITs. The Government of Karnataka has proposed the idea of setting up SEZs for animation companies.

Malathi, Centre Director, MAAC, sums up, “With gaming clearly going to outpace almost every other form of entertainment, movies and music included, students can finally opt for diverse courses such as this and be assured to find success.”