The gaming industry levels up during pandemic

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

by Krista Henry

Various students and young employees working at Behaviour Interactive

Amidst the global pandemic, the video game industry has grown. This growth has provided a boost in jobs and driving the need for new talent.

During lockdowns and travel restrictions, people turned to gaming for entertainment and relaxation. Last year, a 20 per cent boost in gaming sales globally created almost 20,000 jobs. Today, the game industry is worth an estimated $180 billion. According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, the outlook is positive with:

Illustration of the Canadian flag692 active Canadian studios

16% increase since 2017.

Illustration of the global economy and GDP$4.5 billion added to Canada's GDP

20% increase since 2017.

Illustration of a video game console23 million Canadian gamers

The average age of a Canadian gamer is 34 years old.

Canada is a game development hub with Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto at the helm. The industry attracts talent such as artists, animators, community managers, sound designers, composers, influencer managers, game designers, programmers and data analysts. With continued industry financial growth expected this year, industry experts anticipate a 9.3% talent surge with many being tech-related.

Tech advancements drive the industry

Gaming has evolved beyond consoles to social platforms, online gaming and smart devices. Experiences are now tech-driven including virtual and altered reality. More than ever, Montreal-based Behaviour Interactive, one of North America’s biggest independent gaming company, needs talent with a spectrum of technological skills in their workforce.

Developers of the award-winning Dead by Daylight series, Behaviour Interactive hires more than 850 team members, several of which have strong technical skills. “When developing games, we need programmers and developers,” says Fadi Beyrouti, head of technology at Behaviour Interactive.

“We need talent that are capable of solving complex problems, computing a lot of math and software development that leads to more advanced features. In terms of specialties, knowledge of programming languages like C++, C# are a big plus,” adds Beyrouti.

For Vancouver-based Eden Industries, creators of Waveform, the gaming industry is an interesting mix of culture and technology on multiple platforms. Founder Ryan Vandendyck (BMath’08) entered the industry as a co-op student. “I came from a background of math and computer science, which is the backbone and foundation of games – programming,” he says.

There is a spot for many technical skills in game development. “There's artificial intelligence (AI), advancement of rendering technology and VR development. Networking involves communicating with machines across the world,” Vandendyck says. “If you love optimizing, memory management, the efficiency of algorithms or building tools to support the artists— there’s a spot for you.”

Gen Z brings passion to game development

Passion is what the industry is looking for in talent. For Vandendyck generation Z bring a new hunger to the industry.

“The successful person is passionate about gaming, they want to eat, sleep and breathe it,” he adds. “Co-op students are great because they are hungry, they want to learn, apply their skills and do something cool.”

At Behaviour Interactive, co-op students are treated like full-time staff and inject enthusiasm into each project. “They help us develop great games and in many cases their names are in the credits of the game, which shows how much we value them,” Beyrouti adds.

As a project-based business, hiring co-op students makes sense for studios who don’t need full-time talent every day like Eden Industries. “The industry is cyclical, we have a big project, often on a time crunch, complete it and wait on the next big thing,” Vandendyck says. “Having students come on brings down the cost as they can contribute to the bulk of the game and then return to school.”

Why hire co-ops for gaming?

Eden industries and Behaviour Interactive give their takeaways on why hiring co-op students is vital to the business:

1) Developing long-term talent strategy

“We want to put Behavior Interactive in a good position for the future to convert some of these students to full-time employees. At some point, today's juniors will be tomorrow's seniors.  It is a very important long-term strategy for us to have a good co-op program and we take it very, very seriously,” says Beyrouti.

2) Increasing productivity

“You always need new workers to help the industry. There are tasks that are well suited to junior staff. You don't need your senior programming staff handling every programming task, for example, when you can hand it off and have them learn,” says Vandendyck. “Co-op students are very productive. We give them interesting work to do like any junior programmer for example. We want to keep them interested in our company,” says Beyrouti.

3) Infusing energy and passion

“The energy students bring to a company is amazing. They have ideas. You can’t have the same people pushing things forward or it gets stale,” says Vandendyck.

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