Developing a new major: the Video Game Career Development program

The Video Game Career Development program began as a student grassroots movement to help UCSD students interested in the video game industry find jobs. As it finishes out its first year, the program seeks to expand into a major of its own.
Developing a new major: the Video Game Career Development program
Image by Justin Lu for The UCSD Guardian

On April 12, UC San Diego’s Video Game Career Development program marked a major accomplishment: an island, or server, dedicated to UCSD students building their own work in a full-on video game engine. 

This accomplishment is a major step for the VG Career Dev program. Despite only beginning in July 2023, the program’s strong support network based around student support and interest has propelled it to success.

The program is a collaboration between the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, the Center for Career Development, and Triton Gaming, created as part of the “Design and Innovate Yourself” program. DIY seeks to provide learning and entrepreneurship opportunities to underserved communities on campus.

The VG Career Dev program currently centers around hosting events, whether it be their gaming exposition Winter Wonderland or speaker events designed to offer advice to video game career hopefuls.

Chris Kreins, a sophomore from Eleanor Roosevelt College who works as a marketer and producer for VG Career Dev, described the video game industry as “not very accessible.” The program seeks to help prepare students for job applications in the field.

“If you don’t have someone watching out for you and trying to give you the beginning steps, that’s kind of what the program is aiming to do,” they said.

Paul Shockley, an entrepreneurial consultant hired by UCSD to help create unique learning opportunities, described a promising partnership with Epic Games: the use of their Unreal Fortnite engine to teach students how to build their own programs.

Shockley described the UEFN as an “entry level way” for students to learn the skills they’ll need in the workplace.

“It’s like basketball,” Shockley explained. “A lot of kids are like, ‘hey it’s really cool,’ but the only way to learn about video game development is to go out and build. Just like, if you want to learn to play basketball, you gotta go dribble the ball and you gotta go shoot.”

The island that VG Career Dev launched on Friday is based in UEFN and is a perfect opportunity for students to show off what they’re learning.

“If you want a job in the video game industry, people want to see what you’ve made. They want to see that you’ve worked on something — that you know what you’re doing,” Shockley said.

Kreins said that the program has already helped hundreds of aspiring video game developers move towards their careers — the main objective of the program. However, the potential of video game development expands beyond just jobs in the video game industry. 

Both Kreins and Shockley discussed a new possibility: the incorporation of video game engines into research conducted in labs at the university level.

Video game engines are designed to portray detailed and immersive situations. Several professors at UCSD, encouraged by VG Career Dev, have begun experimenting with Unreal engine to simulate key, real-world situations.

“They use Unreal Engine to render basically simulations of, like, how climate change affects the world and how you could utilize certain things to tackle climate change,” Kreins explained. “And they’ll use these in those research labs and these coding labs to basically give an example of how we can use this game-aligned technology to fight big world problems.”

These simulations and real world applications are called “serious games,” in comparison to the “casual games” that are played for entertainment. Whether it be climate research, a flight simulator or an interactive surgery practice session, these serious games have major potential.

“The dream is that we get enough faculty that are doing research and running classes to start using it,” Shockley said, “and then it becomes something that just becomes part of the UCSD ecosystem, and then it makes sense to start focusing on.” 

Kreins mentioned that the program has received support from major video game companies, such as Epic Games and Sony San Diego, as well as from education companies like the Arts and Entertainment Institute. Still, they haven’t received any formal support from the university itself.

Kreins explained that, despite UCSD having a larger collegiate gaming space, many other universities, including other UC campuses, have game labs. 

“We beat every other college numbers wise, but we don’t have any academic offerings,” Kreins said. 

The VG Career Dev program hopes to eventually make its way into a full-on major, starting with graduate school and eventually moving into undergraduate education as well. Currently, they hope to have a graduate major within the next year and an undergraduate major in the next three.

“We need to make sure the administration recognizes what we do,” Kreins said.

With limited time and funding, it can be difficult for VG Career Dev to balance the needs of the students with the interests of the university. Still, they try their best to accomplish all of their goals for the sake of the program they believe in.

“I grew up in the Central Valley as a queer kid,” Kreins explained. “I didn’t have places to go. I didn’t have a community to rely on as a whole.” 

The gaming community at UCSD gave Kreins the community and space they were looking for. Now, they work as a central force in the community outreach of VG Career Dev.

The program is heavily student-run. Shockley said that, while he has helped appeal to the university and plan events, the entire process of promoting events and spreading the word has occurred through students, whether it be through their Discord server, word of mouth, or other clubs on campus. Still, the program grows, and Kreins is confident that they’re gaining momentum.

“This program is acting as a way to tell students who are incoming to UCSD, ‘this is what you can do. This is what our community looks like. And if you wanna find a place for yourself, like, you can come here and do that,’” Kreins said. 

The future of the VG Career Dev program is unknown. Still, they hope to find a place in the university’s plans to move forwards as a certified program. 

 

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About the Contributors
Miriya Huie
Miriya Huie, Staff Writer
Exploring different styles of writing to find a better world.
Justin Lu
Justin Lu, Photographer
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Justin finds time to compile KR&B playlists and enjoy good food whenever he's not covering events. Other interests include mechanical keyboards, macOS keyboard shortcuts, software development projects, and esports.
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