Pandemic video game boom promotes Bay Area job creation, economic benefits

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Friday, December 4, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Have you been trying to land a PS5 or X-Box for Christmas? Good luck. That demand is part of an overall boom for the video game industry, whether you're a player or a behind-the-scenes developer.

It's a good time to be into gaming. Demand is growing for video game designers, developers, artists and programmers. Video game systems are in high demand for holiday gifts. Game playing also provides pandemic stress relief.

"It creates like an imaginative world that you could just immerse in and forget about all the troubles, and I think that that's the fun in it," said Shawn Liu, a game design student in San Francisco.

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Videos show crowds waiting in long lines for the new Playstation 5, although many shoppers bought gifts safely online.

The $26 billion dollar video game market keeps growing. California is home to 213 video game companies. That's over four times more than second place New York state.

"We are an industry that not only creates jobs and economic outputs for our industry, but adjacent industries as well, which means for us 143,000 jobs with 218,000 of those in the state of California," said Stanley Pierre-Louis, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association.

That gives hope to Shawn Liu, who's working on her master's degree in game design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She's a lifelong video game player and part of a new generation for whom storytelling is a big focus.

"A lot of my inspirations came from games that talk about deeper meanings like depression or grief, or even like the state of the world," she said.

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Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are making video games more immersive, too. That's blurring the line between games and the movie industry.

"It used to be really glaring between film and games," said David Goodwine, executive director of the School of Game Development at Academy of Art University. "That line is going away. We have students right now that have gone through our program, and some of them are working at ILM, and they're working on films."

ILM is Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects company that is part of Lucasfilm, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios.

Analysts project gaming is halfway through a 10-year growth spurt expected to create 31,000 jobs for game designers.

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