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The Texas video game industry directly employs about 5,000 people. It also creates hundreds more jobs that depend on transporting and selling the technology.
Dallas, San Antonio and Austin are the hubs of innovation. Big games like “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” came from Texas game studios: Aspyr and Blizzard.
But gaming isn’t just about gaming anymore.
Jennifer Bullard directs the two year-old Captivate Conference for professionals in the gaming industry. “The game industry is pretty wide and diversified – there’s console developers, there’s mobile developers, there’s education game development here, there’s people who work in what we call real-world games, training simulations,” she says.
Bullard has been designing games like “Heroes of Might & Magic” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” for 17 years. She says the country’s second biggest gaming industry is always hunting for new recruits.
“There’s more education institutions for game development,” Bullard says. “When I first got started people didn’t even have bachelor’s degrees and frankly didn’t care about it. Now, of course, if you want to get into the game industry you need a bachelor’s degree.”
Texas universities are stepping up to keep the industry supplied. Campuses from Abilene to Victoria have established gaming departments. At UT-Dallas there’s the Center for Modeling and Simulation. Marge Zielke is the director.
Director Marge Zielke says the program “emphasizes 21st century media as an extension of its degree plan.” The curriculum is based on critical thinking, research projects, and learning how to appeal to a wide audience.
“One of the things that we try to teach students in all of our classes is that it’s one thing to be able to use the technology that we have available to us today,” Zielke says, “but students of media really have to think about how to conceptualize and develop media that doesn’t exist yet.”
Some of that conceptualizing is likely to take place at next month’s SXSW. Developers, manufacturers and fans from all over the country will show off their stuff at the SXSW Gaming expo next week. No matter what happens, you can be sure the next big thing in gaming will be revealed in Texas.