Why Mobile Game Development is a “Grown-Up” Job
Asking a child “What do you want to be when you grow up?” no longer sparks the typical astronaut or doctor response. And it shouldn’t.
Times have changed, and so have our career paths. So when the 7-year-old son of TechCrunch senior editor Matt Burns was excluded from his school’s career day last week because, according to his teacher, what he wanted to be when he grew up — a game developer — wasn’t a “real job,” Burns (and others on the Internet) took pause. Especially because what the boy wants to be is part of a projected $30 billion dollar global industry that employs 120,000 very real workers in America, alone.
As Burns’ son sat out the day in his Minecraft T-shirt, his dad took to the blogosphere to rebut the teacher’s decision — pointing out the critical need for computer coding education in primary school.
While this was just one short-sighted teacher’s response, it reflects a common misunderstanding I’ve encountered throughout my career in the gaming industry when I’ve had to explain my own job to incredulous friends and family. As founder and CEO at mobile gaming technology platform Chartboost, I know that making video games is a real job — not an unachievable pipe dream — because I work with the creators of more than 150,000 mobile games every day who proudly (and lucratively) list “mobile game developer” on their resumes.
As the jobs market changes, we must make room for less traditional employment opportunities and embrace the fact that technology has allowed for a huge and exciting shift in the job titles we hold. “Mobile game developer” is a career path that teachers and career counselors everywhere should encourage.
Here are three simple reasons why:
1. The Market is Huge
What the teacher didn’t know is that Burns’ son actually chose an excellent career day idol. Markus Persson, the creator of Minecraft, employed 50 full-time employees when he sold his game to Microsoft for a cool $2.5 billion last year.
And he’s just one example: King Digital, maker of mobile game Candy Crush, was valued at $7.08 billion before its IPO last year, and employment site Glassdoor currently lists 2,400 open “mobile game developer” jobs. With 7 billion mobile devices (and counting) in the world, that number will only keep growing.
2. Games Are Core to Human Existence, but They’re Not Easy to Create
Game creation as an occupation will always exist. Playing is part of human nature — just like communicating or eating. Game developers generate valuable, fun experiences every day. Recent studies suggest that people are spending more than two hours per day playing those games on their mobile devices (and that’s just in America). That’s a huge jump from just 20 minutes in 2012.
I saw the impact of mobile games first-hand as one of Tapulous’ first hires. There, I worked with a team of highly talented professionals — artists, engineers, game designers and data analysts — who all worked to create a community of players passionate about our game. Our company was acquired by Disney for millions of dollars not only because what we created was fun, but also because the creation of structured play is incredibly difficult. Rules, balance, design and the idea that you can conjure up that mystical element of “fun” is not easy.
3. Game Development Teaches Business Sense
While the skills are specialized, the technical creativity of mobile gaming is something anyone can learn formally or experientially — and turn into a rewarding career. And at its core, developing a mobile game is no different from starting a small business. Successful game developers quickly become the CEOs of fast-growing businesses that they created themselves.
Persson surely didn’t sell his game without gaining some business expertise. From managing others to creating a monetization strategy, he learned how to be a business leader through being a game developer. I learned the same thing at Tapulous and Disney.
At Chartboost, I see daily proof that developing games is a viable business. It’s inspiring to work with mobile game developers who are pursuing their passion while building creative products, employing others in their communities and generating wealth in their cities. Not to mention taking risks, learning on the fly and bootstrapping their businesses with bravery and ingenuity.
Pardon me, teacher, but isn’t that the American dream?