Filipinos have a natural love affair with video games. Ever since Atari and the Nintendo Family Computer made their way to local shores back in the 80s up to the time that PC and console games filled up internet cafes and households, Filipinos could not keep their hands off their gamepads, joysticks, and keyboards.
For quite some time, video games were portrayed by some media entities as a source of many things negative—a bad influence, if you may call it—that pry on the minds of the young, keeping them off from their studies.
But a lot has changed since then. Today, the game industry, also called interactive entertainment, is seen more of a bright spot in the Philippine economy. The sector alone is expected to generate at least 15,000 jobs by 2016, and that is just the conservative projection of industry experts.
Even the Commission on Higher Education is now calling on schools to offer a program on game development, realizing the potential opportunity loss the country stands to sustain if it does not produce more game developers in the years to come.
But more than just having schools coming up with a course on game development, the country needs more people, especially graduating high school students, to take up this highly in-demand field.
Mitch Andaya, pioneering IT educator and Vice President for Academics of iACADEMY, one of the first and perhaps the best school in the Philippines that offer a college degree in game development, said the problem is that many people think game development is all about programming.
He said this misconception discourages potential students from taking up a field that they are interested in, simply because they fear computer languages.
“Game development is not all about programming. In fact, there are three equally important components to it. Apart from programming, game development requires visual design to create the characters and there is the storytelling part, to make the game really engaging,” he said.
Andaya said the mistake that some schools make about game development is the overemphasis on programming. Not only do they create an imbalance on the skillset of Filipino game developers, they also miss out on producing great game creators who are primarily writers and artists.
“That is why whenever we talk to students, we tell them that it does not matter if you are not that good in programming. That’s why you go to our school to train you. But if you are good in visual design or you’re a good writer, we will even hone your skills to let you succeed in game development,” he said.
That is why, unlike other schools, iACADEMY takes pride in providing a more holistic approach to game development. Apart from teaching students the computer languages needed in the field of game development, it also boasts of providing strong foundation on design, animation, and creative writing.
“Sometimes there are students who are strong in one or two aspects only. That’s okay. What’s important is that they have good knowledge on all three components of game development,” Andaya said.
In the end, Andaya said, video games are a form of entertainment. The goal is to let people have fun. In the case of game development, a good sense of what will get people hooked on the game is just as important as technical skill.
And as a nation with decades-old tradition of infatuation with video games, our people may just know what it takes to come up with the next billion dollar game that everyone in the world would love to play over and over.