The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has partnered with the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine to publish a new study highlighting the gaps between university game development programs and industry recruitment expectations as well as hiring needs.
Principal researchers Nika Nour, a PhD candidate at UC Irvine and former executive director of the IGDA foundation, Dr Constance Steinkuehler, professor of informatics and co-director of the GLS center, and Garrison Wells, a PhD candidate, explored the correlation between game development programs in universities and the prevailing recruitment conditions in the games industry.
Their investigation centred on the evident disparity between industry requirements and student abilities resulting from academic programs.
Through interviews with 21 recruiters and hiring personnel from over 20 games industry employers, including game development studios, startups and major platforms, the researchers discovered significant gaps between the expectations of recruiters and the skill sets possessed by graduates of game programs.
Nour said, “From my experience as both a student and industry executive, I found that the lack of communication between studios and universities makes it difficult for students to gain the necessary skills, particularly on topics of in-demand tools, engines, and programming languages. In turn, game programs often lack a cohesive feedback loop from the video game industry about the necessary skills and competencies to remain competitive as technology advances and new trends emerge in the industry.”
Essential skills beyond degrees
The study shows that the industry-wide problem is further compounded by the fact that there are too many game program graduates attempting to get a job in the industry but with limited job opportunities.
During the interviews with recruiters, several recurring themes surfaced. These included the absence of practical work experience among students, the preference for candidates with high emotional intelligence and strong soft skills, and a shared belief that a candidate’s growth mindset and aptitude could surpass the significance of their academic degree.
Dr. Jakin Vela, executive director of the IGDA commented, “Gaming companies and academic institutions must consider more collaborative initiatives that provide students an opportunity to gain professional-level experience.
“Schools and gaming companies may wish to consider adopting an apprenticeship model of talent training. Apprenticeships support individuals who are entering or transitioning into an industry with paid on-the-job training paired with relevant technical instruction, often leading to reduced talent acquisition costs, higher retention rates, and a more diverse pool of candidates for employers,” added Vela.
This study provides insights for industry recruiters and academics, offering important considerations to address the gaps impacting one of the largest talent pipelines in the industry and you can read the full report here.