UAlbany embraces gaming industry growth with new courses

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FILE – In this July 28, 2018, file photo, London Spitfire fan Rick Ybarra, of Plainfield, Ind., reacts after London won the second game against the Philadelphia Fusion during the Overwatch League Grand Finals competition at Barclays Center in New York. A new venture backed by many of video gaming’s biggest publishers is unveiling a network that hopes to be to esports what ESPN has been to traditional sports. VENN is set to launch in 2020 and aims to give the fragmented esports scene a home base for content with higher production value than gamers are used to with online streaming. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As businesses and industries in the Capital Region try to claw their way back from the COVID pandemic, many became financially stressed. While some found it difficult to keep their doors open, the gaming industry flourished.

The majority of both large and independent gaming studios, as well as college gaming communities, reported increased business during 2020, according to a survey released in March by the Center for Economic Growth (CEG).

Growth in the gaming industry transcends to the national and international level as well, which has prompted a change at UAlbany. Game Design and Development will be offered as a concentration for Informatics students at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity (CEHC) beginning in the fall.

“It is hard to imagine the gaming industry not continuing to grow, especially as technology and opportunities in this space advance. Emerging technologies such as 5G, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and hardware/software advancements will create new segments of the industry that have never before existed,” said CEHC professor, Michael Leczinsky.

Leczinsky is also the program director for UAlbany’s esports team. He said advances in technology—coupled with growing interest in competitive/social gaming and the use of gaming technology for training simulations—represent an opportunity for the college and its students:

This concentration is designed to provide students with a pathway to a wide variety of careers in the digital gaming industry. Not only will they develop a comprehensive overview of the industry, but also create hands-on projects utilizing industry standard tools and employ practices modeled on those found at leading design and development studios.

MICHAEL LECZINSKY
CEHC professor and UALBany esports program directoR

CEG’s survey shows the number of positions within the region’s gaming industry has expanded in the last three years. Locally, 24 game studios employ 507 people, up from 352 in 2018 and 455 in 2019, according to CEG’s survey.

Vicarious Visions (VV) is the area’s largest studio, started by Karthik and Guha Bala who eventually formed Velan Studios in 2016. In 2005 VV was acquired by Activision, and it merged into Blizzard Entertainment in early 2021.

Available positions exist outside of programming, too, Leczinksy said. “The digital gaming industry is comprised not only of programmers, but professionals across a wide variety of disciplines across the STEM/STEAM ecosystem.”

New York is home to many gamers. A recent report from GetCenturyLink listed New York as No. 11 in the U.S. for most gamers per capita. The state ranked No. 1 for most meetup gaming groups.

The UAlbany esports team was started in the fall of 2019 and has recruited over 100 students to represent the college in the Eastern College Athletic Conference’s Esport division, according to Senior Communications Specialist, Mike Nolan.

Courses for the Game Design and Development concentration will include eSports & the Digital Gaming Ecosystem, Digital Design, Digital Game Design, and Development. Additional information about CEHC’s Informatics program can be found online.

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