Friday, December 23, 2011

Finding Employment in the Video Game Industry

In another article, we described a great number of educational opportunities that lay hidden in video gaming. This time, we’re going to introduce a few employment opportunities as well.

1. Working as a Video Game Clerk. Working at video game store or rental place – either permanently or temporarily – has got to be a teen gamer’s dream. In a single place, employees have access to the first games and game systems hot off the market and they’re privy to peek inside magazines hot off the press before anyone else. If that wasn’t enough, gaming clerks get a discount on what would otherwise be too expensive (games, game systems, and game accessories) to even think about buying. Sweet!

2. Working as a Game Tester. Before a game hits the market, it has to go through extensive testing and if you think the programmers behind the game test their own material, think again. The gaming industry is extremely sensitive about what it puts out into the public. In an effort to remain competitive, it must make absolutely sure that the games it produces work as intended. This is where testers enter the picture. But it isn’t easy to become a game tester. Becoming a game tester requires a little inside help but once you’re in there, you’ll not only have access to games that no one else knows about, you’ll also have an opportunity to shape the game into an experience that you and your comrades prefer.

3. Working as a Game Designer. Do you have good artistic skills? Can you whip out a character faster than you can say, “I drew that”? If so, you may be able to get a career designing video games. Today’s video games exude some of the most beautiful graphics ever seen and if you have a good imagination, are able to use some of the most advanced graphics software programs available, and can follow instructions, you could see your own artwork in the next popular video game.

4. Working as a Game Critic. The gaming industry is always looking for good content and if you have a flair for writing combined with a love for games, you could write for game magazines like Game Informer or you could write content for a highly popular gaming website.

5. Working as a Game Programmer. Not a career for everyone, a good game programmer is always in demand. As player preferences change and new technology is developed, someone with the right programming skills has to be there to fill the gap between what players want, and what the gaming industry can supply. Becoming a game programmer requires extensive training in several different development languages - so if you don’t have a clue as to what we just said, skip this profession and look into some of the others.

The great news about all of this is that the gaming industry shows no sign of disappearing any time soon. Even colleges are getting in on the gaming craze as they fill their course books with game programming classes and game design curriculums. There will always be an opportunity for you to blend your love for games with a steady paycheck as long as you remain dedicated to looking for these opportunities, and you make an effort to stay abreast of what’s happening in the gaming world.

Check the employment section of your local paper for more, or visit the nearest college to find out what classes and training are available.

Dealing With Teen Video Game Obsession

Games can be addictive – But obsession is something else.

The following article is meant for parents of a teen who might be obsessed with video and/or computer games. While in some of our other articles we may sound as though we encourage obsession, we share a concern over teens who tend to shun other interests in life in favor for gaming activities to the point where they withdraw from society. We would never encourage this kind of behavior, and that’s why we’ve taken time to describe some of the signs of game obsession and offer some advice on how to deal with it.

Recognizing the signs of teen game obsession isn’t as easy as one thinks. It always starts off as first, an interest, and it then starts to grow into an addition. The problem with identifying the beginning stages of game obsession begins with the teen. By the time our children are 15 and up, they’ve learned some rather impressive debating skills. So when we question their motivations for repetitive game play, they may rebut our concerns with logic and even make it a point to question our own flaws as parents.

Since no parent ever really wants to admit a flaw, we can sometimes cave in and convince ourselves that maybe 4 hours in front of a video game isn’t that bad. After all, we spend that much time at the computer, on the phone, or transmitting data back and forth between our Palms, Blackberries, and Cingular cell phones.

Be careful not to fall prey to the logical teen. Video games can be addictive and if the time spent playing them is not carefully monitored, they’ll consume everything that a teen used to care about.

The moment you notice your teen’s grades falling, homework missing, or social life starting to drop off, nip that game time in the bud. If you wait too late to restrict game time, you may experience pre-adult temper tantrums that you aren't prepared to handle correctly (cursing, breaking things, stealing, running away from home, etc.). At this point, the child is obsessed and will do anything to get his or her hands on a game controller.

Another sign of obsession is a behavioral change. A child obsessed with gaming will lose patience with things and with others, be quick to anger, and react to situations without fully thinking of the consequences. If you’ve paid any attention to video and/or computer games, you’ll notice that they require this kind of behavior to win or to advance to a higher level.

It’s unfortunate, but a teen obsessed with this kind of violent gaming is literally being trained to react in the manner described above. That’s why it’s pertinent that as an adult, you restrict access to this kind of entertainment and replace it with activities that slow thinking (such as art, music, theater, etc.) and expose your child to other non-violent pleasures (swimming, dance, skating, etc.).

There are a lot of debates circulating around about the impact that video games have on today’s youth and some of it might warrant paying closer attention to. As a mother or father of a teen, you will do well with your teen’s desire to “get his game on” by keeping a close eye out for undesirable changes.

Becoming a Video Game Expert

You’ve Got The Skills, So Why Not?

If you find yourself playing video games day-in and day-out, you might be a prime candidate for establishing yourself as a gaming expert. All you need is a good knowledge of a wide range of games and gaming systems, and of course, a lot of patience. The rewards are phenomenal and in the end, you’ll be a better person for it.

So what is an expert anyway? Just what is it that qualifies anyone to be an expert on anything? Since there aren't any colleges that offer degrees in this genre, we can qualify any gamer as an expert who has the qualities described above. So if you have the knowledge or ability to play a game skillfully – and you enjoy solving problems, you could probably claim the rights to an expert status.

Just be sure that you ensure your own growth in the gaming industry. Part of being an expert is admitting that there’s always more to learn and in the gaming industry, this should never be a hard thing to pull off. By exposing yourself to new games and new game systems, you can turn every opportunity to play with one into an opportunity to learn more than what you already know. In doing so, you’ll learn tons of new strategies and widen your resourcefulness as a point of help to others.

You could also make multiple efforts to collaborate with others involved with video games. Get off the game and get out into the public so that you can network and discuss your discoveries with others. Networking gives you the wonderful opportunities to share or swap secrets, teach others, and learn a little something new at the same time. And the relationships that you build as a result are simply invaluable. There’s probably no other way you could gain access to little known gaming secrets than to network among the best gamers around.

If you’re completely dedicated toward becoming a gaming expert, consider taking some classes in game programming. Seek out and apprenticeship and find training programs that are offered in both your local area and the gaming industry as a whole. This is an excellent way to learn everything anyone would ever want to know about gaming, and its a good entrance into the gaming industry if you aren’t too crazy about making a commitment to a full time gaming career.

You could also subscribe to gaming magazines, participate in online discussion boards, or sign up for book clubs that focus on gaming material.

Take note that your status as a gaming expert may not always be appreciated. Strong criticisms - whether right or wrong – come with the glory of being perceived as the “answer to everything.” As an example, you may be rejected for an opportunity that you feel you’re perfect for, or you may experience the spew of a less-than-experienced heckler. The first rule of thumb is to not take rejection or spew personally. People may be jealous of your position, or they may want to test you just to see how much you really do (or don’t) know. The reasons behind these reactions to your assistance don’t really matter as long as you’re confident about the quality and value behind your help. A true expert looks past these things and they constantly look for ways to improve themselves.

A Video Game Environment of Your Own

Have you ever fantasized about building a video game environment of your own? A place where you and your friends could spend hours and hours playing your favorite games without interruption? Or how about a place that really shows off your game fetish? It's really pretty simple to create such a place and you don’t need to rent out a video game hall to do it. This article will introduce a few ideas you can use to build the ultimate gaming center.

The first thing that you want to do is maintain a happy household if you’re family member. Trying to play a mean game of Super Mario Tetris or Halo 2 can be impossible with kids running around the house and screaming bloody murder. You won’t be able to enjoy the latest role-playing game when the wife’s nagging you about bills or undone chores too. Keep a happy home, keep a happy marriage, and your time spent playing video games is heaven away from heaven.

It’s no secret that some games require as much concentration and focus as when studying for a calculus exam - and there’s nothing more frustrating than when you can’t figure out how to get through to “the next level” of a game. This is no time to be distracted and if home life isn't what it could be, you’ll never be able to concentrate on your game. Strive to make home a place to unwind first – then work on enjoying your games.

You can next dedicate a place in your home as your exclusive game room. This will not only emphasis the importance that gaming is to you (and to your family members), it will also become conducive to the mentality that you need to play a fun and relaxing (albeit, serious game). Budget permitting, decorate the room with all the amenities that you want. You could add a recliner (or two for your friends), a small stand to hold snacks, a bookcase for your games, and you could even add a small refrigerator and microwave (just in case). Your intent here is to declare the space as yours and that it serves only one purpose: pure gaming pleasure.

What you're after is a place that's completely and totally pleasing to you, both aesthetically and functionally so that you’ll enjoy your time there.

With your own space dedicated to gaming, you’ll want to do what’s necessary to maintain it and keep it in a condition that’s inviting not only for yourself, but for others as well. Keep your equipment and games clean. Take care to keep wires from tangling and organize your magazine subscriptions, books, or Internet cheatsheet printouts. Maintenance is a task that doesn’t have to burden you as long as you make a daily routine of it. The advantages of keeping a regular maintenance schedule shows that this space is important to you and that you have a right to keep it that way.

But take special care not to alienate yourself from the rest of your family. We all can have a favorite hobby and we can even dedicate a special area of the home to that hobby. However it’s extremely important to regard this place as a haven – not a hide out. It’s not an area to hide from the kids, it’s not a place to shun home responsibilities, and it’s not a place to live. If this special space is approached in the latter manner, you’ll soon discover it as a place of resentment, uncontrollable habit, or even depression. Be careful, schedule time with the family, and enter your playroom at appropriate times. Cooperation from others will then come naturally.

Online Gaming For Mom and Dad...

Have you ever wondered what your child was rambling on about at the dinner table when he or she started saying things like “VR” or “RPG”? If so, you’re not alone. “VR” and “RPG” aren’t new text messaging acronyms – they’re acronyms for gaming and this article is going to introduce you to some of the more common forms.

If you at least thought of the Internet when you heard “VR” or “RPG” however, you’re on the right track. Exclusive to the online environment, “VR” or “RPG” – which consequently stands for virtual reality gaming and role playing games – are just two aspects of a gaming world gone wild. The days of playing scrabble in front of the fireplace are over in today’s generation, but we don’t believe you’ll hear too many people complaining about it. Today’s generation is fascinated with online gaming – an opportunity to play games over the Internet with hundreds of people at a time.

Available to anyone with a computer and fast Internet connection, there are thousands of online games available to play by anyone... sometimes free and sometimes for a fee. They range from the familiar family board games to strange and more complicated games which require a hundred page manual to understand. One thing that they all have in common however is that they’re fun to play.

The most common type of online game you’ll probably run into is the Flash game - usually located on educational sites or Yahoo! for Kids for example. These games may or may not involve other players, but they’re always full of color, they’re fast to download, and they’re fun to play. Since they run inside the web browser, no special equipment is needed. These are the simple games – more intriguing than checkers, but no more difficult to play than chess.

Another type of online gaming is more violent than the ones we described above and it’s similar to the “shoot-em-up” type games found on the first Nintendo and Playstation systems. Designed from the first person’s point of view, the player typically maneuvers around the screen as a weapon-clad hand – periodically changing weapons as the game’s scenario permits. The violence in these games vary from mild to offensive, and as a parent, you’re cautioned to monitor your children’s access to them – especially since these games are played online with other people.

Next, in terms of complication or violence, comes the virtual reality gaming and role playing games that we introduced earlier. These types of games require an extensive amount of time spent online since players assume the role of a game character in play. Players work hard to build up an inventory of weapons or skills – none of which can be accomplished in a period of thirty minutes or less. They then go on to interact with other characters which extends game time even longer (if it even stops). Both virtual reality gaming and role playing games require and encourage strategic thinking, but as parents, you may not be comfortable with the violence that’s prominent in some of these games. Nor may you be comfortable with the amount of time that playing these kinds of games can consume. Depending on the complexity of the game, any one person could spend at least six months at a game and having access to thousands of other players simultaneously doesn’t exactly make them easy to walk away from.

Our best advice is to learn about these games right along with your child and make the decision to play them (or not play them) together. You can find some helpful advice about making computer decisions with children in our article entitled, “Protecting Children Online.”

Educational Opportunities in Video Games There’s Lessons in Them That Games!

Who would have ever thought that video games - a form of entertainment – could improve the minds of those that play them! The truth is that amid all the cool graphics, the fantastic music, and the intriguing plots, educational opportunities are abound - and to find them, one only needs to look at them a little closer.

1. Video games improve strategic thinking. Rare is the video game that doesn’t require its player to make a decision two or three steps ahead of a current situation. With constant play, players quickly learn the advantage of strategic thinking and they start to apply it to actual world opportunities.

2. Video games improve problem solving. Although the same could be said about any game, video games have proven in study after study to improve problem-solving skills. This is because most (if not all) games are centered around a problem and then challenge the player to solve it. In just one game, a player may solve anywhere from three to a hundred or more different problems.

3. Video games improve hand and eye coordination. If you find this hard to believe, pick up a game controller and try to maneuver around the game. Manipulating a game controller demands the same skills that it takes to maneuver a mouse around a computer screen.

4. Video games facilitate quick decision-making. One quality of video games that lends to quick decision making is its impromptu situations. The element of surprise is always around the corner and it’s what makes games exciting to play. To win however, players must be able to make smart decisions within a very short amount of time.

5. Video games feed the imagination. We don’t really understand the argument against things like television, videos, and gaming where people use the lack of imagination to support their part of the debate. Some people claim that video games take away from the imagination because games supply the mind with things instead of encouraging the mind to come up with these things on their own. Bear in mind that these are the same people who say a stack of blocks is sufficient to grow a child’s imagination. Of course we couldn’t disagree more. The imagery in video games only fuels the imagination and gives it a spring board to form new possibilities that might not have occurred otherwise.

6. Video games encourage exploration. In role-playing games, players must venture off the beaten path and explore the unknown. They have to open doors without knowing what’s behind them. They have to enter areas of the game without knowing the consequence. And they have to interact with characters that they’ve never met before. Inside these particular kinds of games, the opportunity to gather up the courage to explorer unknown territory isn’t just available, it’s required.

7. Video games enforce memorization. Another feature of video games is its strong influence on memorization. The terrain portrayed inside some of these games is huge, yet accessing the maps can be cumbersome and disruptive to the game. To compensate, gamers will not only memorize a large portion of the terrain, they’ll remember the tasks required to get to specific areas.

8. Video games teach consequence. All computer and video games operate off of an “action – reaction” principle. Do something, and the game will react. This is a great opportunity to learn about consequence - whether this opportunity is experienced from a gamer’s point of view or a programmer’s point of view.

9. Video games teach patience, dedication, and endurance. No great game can be conquered in a day. In fact, some of the best and most popular games take weeks or months to finish.

These are just some of the educational opportunities hidden inside video and computer games. After closer investigation, we’re sure you can find more in addition to hours of fun and amazement.

Buying Video Games for a Gaming Total

A Quick How To

Visit any video game outlet and you’re bound to get overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices available – especially if you’re new to gaming. Interestingly, children and teens seem to know their way around these places as if they were their second home. But for the adult, the typical video store looks like some sort of color paint explosion and sooner or later, all the games start to look the same. This guide is for the adult who’s buying a game for a younger person perhaps as a birthday gift or as a bribe. Whatever the reason, you’re going to appreciate the following tips.

1. Research this strange phenomenon before setting foot inside a video store. There’s plenty of information available about video games online, so to reduce frustration offline, fire up your web browser and do a little homework. Visit the website of the gaming outlet nearest you and then look for a link to the games section of the system that your youngster plays. Here’s a helpful chart to explain what all those strange letters mean.

Wii = Nintendo’s Wii System
EA Sports = Entertainment Arts System
PS3 = Playstation 3 System
XBOX 360 = Microsoft’s XBOX 360 System
PC = Personal Computer
PS2 = Playstation 2 System
PSP = Playstation Portable System
DS = Nintendo’s DS System

The key is to locate the system on the store’s website first. The system, it’s accessories, and all of the games that work on that system will follow. If not, you may need to use the website’s internal search engine.

2. After locating the appropriate games section for your youngster’s machine, check out the ratings of each game and create a temporary shopping list of age appropriate material. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gives each game a rating in an effort to inform parents what their children are playing. Here’s a handy reference to what the ratings mean:

C = Appropriate for Early childhood
E = Appropriate for Everyone
E 10+ = Appropriate for Everyone aged 10 and older
T = Appropriate for Teens
M = Appropriate for Mature Adults

3. Within your temporary shopping list, try find a game that’s built from the latest movie release. Little people love the new animated movies put out by Disney and Pixar, and they really enjoy re-living precious moments in the movie in a video game. That’s why when these movies come out on DVD, their producers put a few games in the “Special Features section” of the CDs.

4. If you can’t find a game that’s built from a movie that the child likes, try to find a game that centers around a popular cartoon character or one that attempts to educate.

5. If you still can’t find one that resembles something that you’ve heard this particular person rambling on about, first give yourself a slight slap on the hand. You should pay better attention. Then point your browser to the nearest Blockbuster or Hollywood Video website. Follow the same procedure outlined in steps 1 – 3 only this time, elect to rent 5 or 6 games that look appealing. This will give your tot a chance to play some games and select one to keep forever while you return the others.

6. If on the other hand, you did find a game in step 3 or 4, you can either check out online, or drive up to the store and buy it there.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but the illustrations on the both video and pc game cases do a pretty good job of representing the game’s content. So if you see an illustration of fighting warriors, chances are the game will be more violent than you prefer. If on the other hand, you see an illustration that resembles what you’d see on the cover of an interesting children’s book, the game should be age appropriate.