Sunday, April 05, 2009

Can I get paid to game?

"You'll never make a living doing that."

I don't honestly know if parents still say that. Do they? My parents said that to me when I became obsessed with martial arts. This was back in the day when kung fu movies had just hit the United States and martial arts were still a relatively unknown activity. But if parents still say that –and about video games–I might beg to differ, slightly.

My kids, their cousins, and their friends grew up with video games, from the early days of Atari with a buddy sitting side-by-side to the now global-spanning MMPORPG sessions that can easily involve players from a bunch of different cities or countries, let alone the gamer sitting in the next chair. And are any of them making a living at it? Well, let me tell you about my nephew.

Games are his life and competition is in his blood. He was the kind of kid who would happily change the rules of a game if he started losing too badly. Since this usually happened at his house, his word tended to be law. He played board games, tried football, martial arts, and hockey, and he still loves skateboarding, but video games were his real love. Fortunately for him, though not the most outstanding student in high school (between you, me and the hall monitor, I think he was bored most of the time), he did have an innate ability for math and for physics.

When he graduated high school, he set his sights on a vocational school that promised a software engineer degree in 18 months (that's right, 18: count 'em) and tough as it was, he finished. (It's called Full Sail. Check it out!) Upon graduation he was hired as a programmer for audio at one of the biggest game companies in the country. This suited him for a whole number of reasons. For one thing, it was about games. He was surrounded by like-minded individuals. For another, because the game was the thing, to borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, other things he might consider unimportant were also deemed unimportant by his employer. Like a working dress code. My nephew goes to work in a hoodie, his sweatpants, and his flip-flops, and it doesn’t matter because he knows his job and he's darn good at it. Not only that, the first company he worked for was the kind of place that closed shop and sent all the employees to see the first Spiderman movie on opening day because Spiderman was going to become a game. And to top it all off, he makes more in a year than I ever will unless I wake up one morning and find I've morphed into JK Rowling. Well, okay, he doesn't make as much as all that. But he can certainly hold his own against all his former classmates who commute downtown and wear suits and ties. Especially since he recently allowed himself to be hired away to another company at still a higher salary rate.

Am I preaching here that everyone can make a living in video gaming? Of course not. But I have a feeling if you really love games and are willing to work for it, you'll stand a better chance at earning a living doing that than I would have at becoming a female Bruce Lee.

Talk about gaming for a living.

*Click on Riddick to Pre-order the new Atari Game

Ophelia Julien is a Young Adult author who currently lives in Illinois. Her short story, HUNTING SPIRITS, will be released from Quake in April 2009.


Pam Ripling said...

Ophelia, this is an awesome story. My own son looked into Full Sail at one time (we still get solicitations from them). Glad to know that this path is a valid one for some, with the talent and initiative to follow their dream. My sons would be envious!


Martin Bartloff said...

Great story Ophelia. Your Nephew set a great sample.


Norm Cowie said...

Dernit, I'm too old, too unmotivated and too ... um, something else change career paths and interests now.


drey said...

In another life, I'd give a left leg to be your nephew... Not a left arm, 'cuz I'd need it to type (i.e. code) with. =)

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