SCAD Hosts GamingFest for Next Generation of Video Game Designers

SCAD Inset Paul Wallace - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Sunshine Sachs; Chia Chong

SCAD president Paula Wallace talks the growing interest in game design programs, e-sports (the college has its own e-sports team) and the intersection of gaming with film and television.

As the video game industry continues to grow, an influx of students is currently learning the trade of games production to develop the titles of tomorrow.

Video game design and production programs are now offered at various universities across the country, such as USC, Carnegie Mellon and Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). For an industry that generated over $43 billion in 2018, what was once a niche career has now become an attractive job prospect for the next generation.

This weekend, SCAD will host GamingFest, a three-day festival that welcomes industry professionals to its campus for panel discussions, presentations, exclusive sneak peeks, live demonstrations and more. SCAD president Paula Wallace spoke with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of this year's festival and the growing interest in game design programs, e-sports (SCAD has its own collegiate e-sports team) and the intersection of gaming with film and television.

How has game design grown at SCAD?

Exponentially! SCAD launched our first game-design degree program in 2003 — that’s even before the first World of Warcraft or Call of Duty. Sixteen years later, SCAD has nearly 10,000 students and alumni working in gaming-related industries, not to mention the tens of thousands of SCAD grads in every other creative profession.

Are more students gravitating to game-making as a viable career?

Absolutely. A lot of people think of gaming in terms of the players, but you also have to consider all of the creative talent involved in making, producing and promoting games. Gaming is far more than just the players. In 2019, game development is unquestionably a top career choice. The gaming industry is projected to generate $180 billion dollars within the next two years. Not only is that more revenue power than film and television combined, it means more career opportunities.

What’s behind the growth of this industry?

More than 150 million Americans play video games, but interactive design and game development go so far beyond gameplay. Health care, hospitality, advertising, transportation — you find applications of gaming everywhere. SCAD students recently designed an interactive tool to help rehabilitate stroke victims. Everything is gamified.

How does the gaming program differ from other programs at SCAD?

All SCAD programs equip students for in-demand professions. Our interactive design and game development BA, BFA, MA and MFA programs are highly specialized and prepare graduates to lead gamification in all industries. (And to create spectacular games, of course).

How do you differentiate yourself, set SCAD apart, as more universities and schools around the country have begun offering gaming programs?

The precision with which this university prepares students is exclusive to SCAD. We offer 66 courses in Interactive Design and Game Development alone, and more than 300 additional courses that touch the very heart of the gaming industry (e.g., dramatic writing, animation, sound design and more). SCAD has the advantage of refining our curriculum for nearly two decades to suit the needs of the hundreds of employers who recruit at all our campuses each year.

This festival seems to be an intersection of film and gaming, in terms of its presentations. Do you find those industries link? Why or why not?

Film and gaming are both about stories told in a digital medium. The fundamentals are the same, and the skills are transferable. Both film and game design intend to invoke emotional, immersive connections for their audiences. And just look at all the film franchises based on video games — they’ve produced literally billions at the box office. The relationship between film and gaming is more than just symbiotic. They are increasingly one and the same.

What types of partnerships does SCAD have in the gaming industry?

SCAD created SCADpro, which takes high-stakes research assignments from many of the world’s most prominent brands. Students learn firsthand how to incorporate gaming in every aspect of design. Past SCADpro clients include GE, Google, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and more. For example, students from interactive design and game development have teamed up with interior design, graphic design, animation and motion media design majors to incorporate augmented and virtual reality into GE Transportation’s workspace of the future.

SCAD has a collegiate e-sports program. That area has been growing immensely in recent years, why do you think that is? Why is it important for SCAD to have an e-sports team?

Shortly after SCAD began 40 years ago, students asked the university to form a soccer team. In fact, all sports at SCAD have been requested by students — eSports is no different. And they follow quite a legacy. SCAD bowling, swimming and equestrian teams won national championships this very year! It’s clear that the skills student-artist-athletes learn through their sports benefit them in their careers. When I look at former SCAD athletes who have gone on to highly successful careers, I see that their time-management, perseverance and grit have helped ensure their success. eSports prepares SCAD’s student athletes to enter into the near billion-dollar industry.