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Feature Story: State of Play


From Gamer to Game Maker

Video games are hotter than ever --- and it goes way beyond mere entertainment value. We explore what’s driving the growth and how to get a piece of the action.

Obsessed with “Destiny”? Hooked on “Halo”? Mad about “Minecraft”? Channel your gaming ways into a degree with huge potential: the online BS in Game Programming and Development.


Q&A: Students & Faculty Meet two of the students getting their game on at SNHU and the faculty inspiring their work.


Think Outside the STEM Box



The jobs at the forefront of innovation infuse math and science with creativity. Here’s why – and how to be a part of it.

The best STEM jobs in the new creative economy and the degrees to help you land them. Plus: our new Women in STEM corner.

And that’s what makes creative people the best technology people. They can straddle both worlds and shift from one side to the other. They can be artists and geeks. It doesn’t matter which STEM field they go into – video games, environmental science, engineering. The only thing that matters is that they’re being creative.


IS CREATIVITY THE KEY? I come from a long line of analytical people. My father was an electrical engineer. My grandmother was a mathematician and my grandfather, a chemical engineer. But my mom is an artist. So I was pulled in both directions, before realizing the two worlds mesh exceptionally well. That’s because you need both the precise mind of an engineer and the random thinking of an artist to solve problems and innovate.

This issue of STEM is devoted to people whose right brains fire in perfect harmony with their left brains. Like Grace Tay and Torey Stickrath, two students in our online game design programs. You’ll also meet Angie Foss, SNHU’s associate dean of online STEM programs and a killer game developer in her own right. And finally, there’s Curtis George, our faculty lead in undergraduate Information Technology. Together, they personify the art of technology and point the way toward the kind of innovation the world needs – and smart, well-educated human beings are so capable of.

Gwen Britton Bio Dr. Gwen Britton is SNHU’s executive director of online STEM programs. She’s also a software engineer, an expert on math education for kids and a painter. In each issue, she’ll ask (and answer) a question about STEM based on the cover story. Want to ask us a question about this issue’s main feature? Tweet us @SNHU.


The video game industry is growing exponentially — and showing no signs of slowing down

From Scranton to Sydney, the video game industry is booming – and making significant contributions to the global economy in the process. In 2014, over 155 million Americans were playing video games, spending $22.41 billion on video game software and hardware.1 Worldwide, the Global Games Market Report is projecting gaming-related revenues to reach $107 billion next year.2


Video games had humble beginnings, dating as far back as the 1950s, but the precursor to modern-day versions began to gain traction in the 1970s. The Magnavox Odyssey was the first commercial home video game console. Designed by Ralph H. Baer, it was released in 1972 and snatched up by almost 100,000 consumers. The same year, newly formed Atari sold over 8,000

“Pong” coin-operated computer games to bars and arcades.3 “Pong” and the Odyssey kicked off a new era of video gaming, with numerous other competitors starting up as gaming grew in popularity. From there, the industry exploded. Today, there are millions of gamers spanning every age group, gender and socioeconomic class.

Four out of five U.S. households own a device used to play video games, and 51 percent of U.S. households boast a dedicated game console.4

Video games are dominating mainstream pop culture as well. The most popular games have spawned movies like “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil,” with film actors lending their talent as voice-over artists – and even their likeness in game graphics. In the past decade alone, a whole new genre of social and mobile games has emerged. And with virtual reality headsets hitting the consumer market in 2015, gamers and game developers are just starting to explore the possibilities that virtual reality afford. Video game development is relevant for far more than just entertainment, however. There’s strong utilization of this same technology for training and teaching purposes in healthcare, the military, education and many other fields. The ability to create virtual worlds to solve real-world problems – and offer a simulated environment to explore potential paths for resolution – maximizes critical thinking and problem solving in ways never before possible.


The face of gaming has changed, too. The “typical gamers” are no longer teenage boys who play first-person shooter games in their parents’ basement.

Today’s average gamer is 35 years old, and 44 percent of game players are female.5

Not only does the U.S. gaming industry generate billions of dollars in annual sales, but it also creates thousands of jobs. From video game designers and developers to voice-over actors and marketers, the computer and video game industry directly and indirectly employs nearly 150,000 people. The average salary for gaming industry workers is $94,747, resulting in total national compensation of $4 billion.


Direct employment for the industry grew at an annual rate more than 13 times the growth of the overall U.S. labor market from 2009 to 2012.6

For game designers and developers, the gaming business is highly competitive. Technology is constantly changing, so mastering the latest software and hardware is paramount, as are a college degree and a stellar portfolio. There are challenges, such as long work hours, shifting business models and tough competition.7

But for diehard gamers who crave creativity and competition, the hard work it takes to break into and stay relevant in the industry is worth it.

10 BEST-SELLING GAMES OF 2015 The video game industry shows no signs of slowing down in the next few decades. Based on the amount of innovation from the last 50 years, gaming will continue to reinvent itself and prove to be one of the most innovative sectors of the global economy.

Sources: 1,4,5ESA TechCrunch 6ESA 7Gamasutra

Here are the top-selling video and computer games of 2015, according to The NPD Group.


Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3, PC)


Madden NFL 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)


Fallout 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)


Star Wars: Battlefront (Xbox One, PS4, PC)


Grand Theft Auto V (PS4, Xbox One) 360, PS3, PC)


NBA 2K16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)


Minecraft (360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4)


FIFA 16 (PS4, Xbox One, 360, PS3)


Mortal Kombat X (PS4, Xbox One)


Note: Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and other industry sources is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot


Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Xbox One, PS4, 360, PS3, PC)

Sources: Venture Beat


Video gaming’s march into the mainstream grows every year, with major developments in digital entertainment and practical application. For anyone who loves to bounce through Mario’s fanciful worlds, raid tombs or tackle alien hordes in “Halo” and “Destiny,” this represents an immense opportunity. Video game development is now a multibillion-dollar industry and growing, providing solid career paths for game developers and designers. It’s not just big-budget AAA games like “Call of Duty” and “Mass Effect,” either. Smaller studios, and those focused on mobile apps, are actually some of the fastest-growing sectors of the industry. According to data from market research firm NPD Group, even something as simple as “Candy Crush” generates over $1 million every single day.1


The category has also expanded broadly – gaming technology is being utilized for training and teaching purposes in healthcare, the military, education and many other fields. At Southern New Hampshire University, gamers can gain the technology skills they need to break into or advance within the game development industry with the online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development program. “SNHU’s online game development program teaches students to design and develop games for entertainment value as well as simulations for solving problems,” said Dr. Gwen Britton, executive director of online STEM programs at SNHU. “The beautiful part of this program is that it’s really going to position students to do what they really want to do. If they want to be game developers and play with the big kids out in the game world, it will position them to do video game development or simulation development because they are learning so many different things.” The video game development program provides the fundamentals

of computer science in the field of video games. Students learn essential computer programming languages and scripting, including C++, C# and Java, and master game engine development and deployment using the Unreal game engine. They also gain exposure to 3D modeling and techniques for building robust artificial intelligence. Online coursework focuses on the disciplines of information technology, mathematics, game design and graphic design, with courses such as Digital Multimedia Development, Applied Linear Algebra and Scripting for Games. “Most people don’t think of the game development program as an engineering program,” said Britton. “But if you look under the covers, it has a lot of engineering flair. You have to know how to do physics. You have to know how to do math. You have to be able to write programs. Think about it: If you’ve got an animal coming at you and it’s coming at a certain velocity, you have to know how to make its arms wrap around you, you have to know how to make it go fast – velocity and force and all of that.”

Today’s games are far more complex than earlier renditions. The industry has come a long way from arcade classics like “Asteroids” and “Centipede.” Those games are so simple by comparison that they’re sometimes programmed into contemporary games as Easter eggs – hid d den objects th a t game develope r s inc l ud e i n gam e s for savvy players to find for fun. Many STEM disciplines intersect when creating a virtual world. The most obvious is computer engineering – the knowledge of hardware and software that allows developers to create engines that can display everything from a cave troll to an entire galaxy. Courses like Foundation in Application Development and Digital Game Development teach students how to work from the ground up to construct these programs at the most fundamental levels.


The objects here are not physical ones, of course – they’re virtual objects contained within a development environment. Learning how to manipulate these pieces of data and teaching them how to interact with each other to create a believable world represents the core of video game development. Artificial intelligence (AI) is another element of video game development, which brings a sense of realism to the virtual world you experience behind the screen. It isn’t just the characters you see, either – it’s the other cars on the road avoiding you during a driving game or virtual fish scattering when you dive into a digital sea. There’s also the visual aspect. Every single object in a digital world needs to be created from scratch with the aid of 2D- and 3D-design tools. In some ways, it’s like a theater production – some people are behind the scenes creating props and scenery, others program the lights and sound for the theater, and some bring the characters to life, with a director leading the whole show.


“Our job as designers is to make the experience smooth and transition as much information about our game as we can, in the most visually enjoyable way possible,” Yeretsian said.

At the heart of video game development firms are its developers – the people who work with programming languages and game engines to construct the digital nuts and bolts of a virtual world. This is a challenging, but lucrative and growing, career path. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that overall, software developer positions will increase 22 percent by 2022. Those who land jobs in the field can expect a median salary of $93,350.* Designers and artists bring video games to life. Some work in purely 2D media, drawing what a game world will look like or sketching out the curves of a starship. Others go into the real world to film and digitize actual objects like cars in a racing game or even the streets of real cities. 3D designers build models and then stretch textures over them, so that wireframe models look like real people, animals and buildings. Araxie Yeretsian is a fulltime video game designer, a freelance web designer and illustrator, and a full-time student at SNHU. She’s learned that the beauty of design in any game is the availability to allow players to discover and survey spaces that elaborate the story and message of the game.

A number of other opportunities exist within the industry, including marketing and publicity, quality assurance (QA) and testing. Many people in the field today got their start in quality assurance, playing through game levels over and over to identify and help iron out all the bugs and quirks. In fact, QA is an unsung hero within the world of video game development. Without this critical role, games would be infested with bugs, glitches and other problems.

One of the incredible things about video game development is how its principles can be applied in other fields. After all, it’s fundamentally about engineering and managing systems. A simulated world might be used to entertain, but it can also be used to solve problems in business, finance, health, law enforcement and the military. SNHU graduate and Army veteran Derald Wise was fortunate to get in on the ground level when the military

began using a first-person shooter video game to help train soldiers and Marines for combat. While it was still a relatively new concept, he began creating scenarios for the military as a game developer. “The application of gaming technology has grown within the Department of Defense (DOD), military personnel and other government agencies and first responders,” Wise said. “The utilization of simulations has grown exponentially as the cost of traditional methods of training has increased.” Wise knew he needed to further his education if he wanted to advance his career. After earning his bachelor’s in video game development and design, he was able to get more visibility in the job market and received multiple job offers from companies engaged in simulation. “Jobs in this field are diverse and varied, so whatever your talents are, there’s probably an opportunity out there waiting for you,” Wise added. “But remember, the game design industry is competitive, and you’ll be facing some stiff competition to land that job. Anything and everything you can do to enhance your skills and resume will certainly help you land that job in game design.” Learn more about the online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development program.

SNHU offers online bachelor’s and master’s in IT degrees for a wide variety of interests and career paths. Here are five technology programs that allow you to explore your creative side.

BS in Information Technologies/Game Design and Development What you’ll get: A strong foundation in IT and insight into the creation and business of video games What you’ll gain: An introduction to programming languages, gaming editors and the process of building a digital game from concept to prototype BS in Information Technologies/Web Design and Development What you’ll get: A focused IT degree that dives into web design and development What you’ll gain: An understanding of the technical aspects of the web and how to leverage applications and data to create compelling online user experiences BS in Information Technologies/Robotics and Artificial Intelligence What you’ll get: Specialized training in how to merge robotics with artificial intelligence to create innovative software and cutting-edge products. What you’ll gain: A foundation in areas like database design and management and computer platform technologies, plus deeper insight into the principles, tools and resources of robotics and AI MS in Information Technology/Game Design and Development What you’ll get: A degree that’s recognized by the Professional Science Master’s (PSM) national office as a Professional Science Master’s program What you’ll gain: The credentials to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics and develop workplace skills highly valued by employers MS in Information Technology/Web Design What you’ll get: The chance to design and develop the behind-thescenes code and programming of a wide variety of websites and web-based services, plus methods for driving traffic to websites What you’ll gain: Recognition by the Professional Science Master’s (PSM) national office as a Professional Science Master’s degree candidate

Sources: 1CNBC *Note: Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.


Q = First off, why did you decide to

pursue game design?

A > It was kind of an

GRACE TAY The connection between sociology and game design might seem a little obscure, but not for Columbus, Ohio’s Grace Tay. As she nears completion of her BS in Game Design and Development, it’s clearer than ever that these two disciplines are the fuel that drive her. We recently spoke with Grace about the intersection of art and science, success with SNHU and the Joss Whedon quote that inspired her to put her best foot forward.


accident, actually. In my previous school I studied sociology and criminology, but left for medical reasons. I wanted to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. My boyfriend and his friend were starting up a mobile game company, and they asked me to make some concept art. I did it and decided to go a step further. So I taught myself how to use Photoshop and wanted to do more. That’s when I contacted SNHU.

Q You’ve done everything from animation to artificial intelligence as part of your SNHU education. How has this program prepared you for your creative and professional pursuits?


A > I think if you’re going into any sort of technology field, you need to be able to talk the talk, and the [SNHU] curriculum is so diverse, it gives you a well-rounded perspective. You learn programming, graphic design, 3D modeling, everything. I plan to take courses on C# and C++, too.

Q = What was the most challenging

course for you?

A > I’m going to say 3D modeling animation. You have eight weeks to figure out how to use 3D effects, and you go in there as a beginner. I had no idea how to use this program. I had to figure out how to model a character, then fully animate it for a 30- second video. I’m happy with how it turned out, but it was a lot of work.

*30-second video, “The Lonely Robot”


Q = Has SNHU helped open doors for you,

outside of the classes you’ve taken?


Q What advice would you give other women who are interested in pursuing careers in game design?

A > SNHU’s online art show

A > So, there’s this quote

really opened doors for me. I’d finished COM 230 (Graphics and Layout in Print Media), which taught me Adobe Illustrator, and I wanted to push myself to see what I could do. I ended up creating a piece that combined the characters from “Land Before Time” with the TARDIS from “Doctor Who”. Originally, I wanted to submit it to a t-shirt company. That didn’t work, but then I won the competition. That’s how I earned a membership with American Institute of Graphic Arts.

from [filmmaker] Joss Whedon. Somebody asks him why he portrays women as these strong female leads, and he says, “because you’re still asking me that question.” We need to get to a point where, if a woman is leading in a video game, it’s normal. The only way we’re going to do that is if women see themselves in these positions. So my advice is: Don’t let statistics discourage you, use them as fuel. If you are passionate about this field, and you apply yourself, you can do it.

How do art and science relate in game design?



A > The two go hand in hand. With a scientific background, you can observe how a person will respond to a game, the interface, the art and the story. Even on the programming side – when you look at quality code in Sublime Text editor, for example, lines of coding will appear in different colors to indicate when variables are working. It’s actually really beautiful from a design perspective.



Q = Why did you decide on SNHU? A > I chose SNHU because it was one of the only schools that had something I was interested in, and the potential to go for my MS in IT shortly after graduating REALLY appealed to me. I’m still not sure if I’m going to go for it yet, but I’m heavily considering it.

Q Has SNHU helped open doors for you outside of the classes you’ve taken?


TOREY STICKRATH Torey Stickrath has been gaming since he was two years old. It started with the original Nintendo Entertainment System, but became a passion when he discovered the complex worlds of role-playing games (RPGs) like “Mystic Quest” and “Final Fantasy”. Over the years, he’s engaged in just about every angle of IT and gaming, from computer repair to network administration, before finally enrolling in the BS in Game Design and Development program at SNHU. Now married and based in Maine, Torey took some time to talk to us about the past and present of games, along with where he might fit into its future.

A > I would say it has. I was able to learn 3D modeling and rendering with 3DS Max at SNHU. My degree has actually increased my possibilities in other fields that may or may not be related to gaming, such as 3D animation, programming, and even fiction and nonfiction writing.


Writing is not something most people would think of when they think about game design and development. How did that come into play?



*Torey’s IT-135 course project, “Zombie Escape”. Displayed are screenshots of level 2 & 4 files.

A > A major component for my degree was writing. While we learned how to make the usual pitch and design documents, we also covered writing scripts and narratives for gaming. For example, one of my projects was coming up with a story for a small game my group developed. Together, we asked questions like: “Why was the character in this place and what was their motivation? What might they encounter and how might they act?”


Q How do art and science relate in game design?


included. It was my mother and father that got me interested in the Nintendo to begin with.

A > Arts and Sciences have always

There’s been one particular change that’s interested me though: How we view games. We went from it being a simple pastime to a multibilliondollar industry within the span of maybe a decade or two. There’s been a conversation about whether games can be considered art or just entertainment. That said, gaming is able to convey emotion to a player in a way unlike paintings, sculptures and audio alone can. We don’t simply play a game, we experience it.

been a major aspect of gaming. People tend to think about the physics first. Along with that, games are slowly being repurposed for medical science, such as the treatment of PTSD in soldiers and simulated training for doctors. Art, on the other hand, is just as much of a major consideration. In game dev, we rely on concept art to help us give life to the worlds and characters. Character sketches can be turned into pixel art or 3D renderings. Concept art can make sure we’re hitting the right feel graphically.

As someone who has literally grown up with video games, what do you think has changed about them since you were a kid?




What part of game design do you personally find most exciting?


I find it all exciting! Everything from writing out the code to the documentation, creating the characters in 2D or 3D and even marketing – it all gets me excited about working in the industry.

A > There’s been a LOT of changes. We’ve seen the hardware become more and more powerful, going from simple 8-bit era of the Nintendo Entertainment System to the polygonal era of the PlayStation and N64. We’ve seen consoles become all-inone entertainment solutions, and families are even bonding around game systems, mine



What started you down the path to becoming a video game developer? I’ve always loved art, math and computers. When I was a kid, my older brother and I would get really competitive playing video

Arizona native Angela Foss is the associate dean of online STEM programs at Southern New Hampshire University. A former video game developer, Angela’s technical expertise and love of gaming made her the perfect fit to head up development of SNHU’s online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development program.

games. He’d always kick me out of his room so he could play Zelda. I remember thinking, “One day, I’m going to make my own video games.” I ended up going to the University of Arizona for my computer engineering degree. While I was a student, I worked at Intel and IBM. At IBM, my role was to support the developers who designed user interfaces. I realized I needed to do something a little more fun and collaborative, so I ended up quitting IBM and working as a game developer at a startup video game company in Tucson. We did contracts for The Game Show Network, and the game I worked on was called “Lingo.” I loved working on that game. That’s when I realized, “I’m making video games. I always said I was going to do this.” It was so exciting.



programs, managed online curriculum

You were one of the only female game developers at your company. What was that experience like?

and then eventually came to SNHU. What I discovered is that I’m really drawn to teaching, helping adult students change

I think for everyone starting out in a

their lives and really supporting them. I’m

field, you naturally suffer from imposter

also a lifelong learner. I like to constantly

syndrome. You could be the most

know what’s new.

confident woman, but there’s that fear that you don’t belong there. For women, especially if you’re outnumbered, you’re afraid that if you say something, you’re all of a sudden representing all women.


At the video game company, I was always nervous the guys were going to shred my code and say, “See? We shouldn’t hire these girls.” That’s a challenge, because


What do you love about your role at Southern New Hampshire University?

Right now, the online Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development

you’re always dealing with natural feelings

program is a strong focus of my current

around thoughts like: “Can I be here? Can

role and what I do. It’s allowing me to

I be technical? Are they going to judge me

work closely not only with our students

because I’m a woman?”

and faculty, but also with the gaming industry. Our students are going to

It’s important to remind yourself that it’s

be immersed in the latest trends and

okay to be who you are – and that goes

technology, which is really exciting.

beyond gender. The online game programming and development program is a very technical,


What led you to pursue a career in higher education?


I never planned on being an educator,

hands-on degree. I don’t think everyone realizes that. There’s such satisfaction in working so hard on something — creating it, developing it, seeing it in action and testing it.

but I decided to go back to the University of Arizona to work as the

Game development is definitely a fun

athletic department student advisor

field. I feel really lucky to be able to come

and technology specialist. From there, I

back to gaming in this way and to help

continued to work in higher education,

our students do some cool things within

where I ran first-year experience

the field.



What’s the future of the video gaming industry? This past March, I went to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. It’s a seven-day conference with two expo floors and over 30,000 people. There were so many fascinating people there – students, producers, designers, developers and artists. Virtual reality was a huge part of the conference this year, which I, of course, was fascinated by. I was able to test out some of the headsets in the VR Lounge. I had one of the headsets on and was looking all around. When I looked to my right, I jumped. This guy was literally sitting right next to me, but not literally — virtually! There was also an Everest VR game. Can you imagine virtually climbing Mount Everest? All I could think about — this is super-nerdy — was “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It was like being transported to Everest from the Holodeck. The gaming industry has accomplished a lot in terms of video graphics. Now, VR is really going to be the center of attention for a while. The room for growth and improvement now is actually in the engine and the things that they can do with real, live gameplay.


However, in the 1990s, the gaming entertainment industry shifted its focus to the Internet and its many possibilities, while virtual reality continued to be explored by the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and NASA.2

Virtual reality is taking the video game industry to a whole new level. After virtual-reality headsets hit the consumer market in 2015, it didn’t take long for virtual reality to emerge as the next trend in gaming. With a price point on par with smartwatches, the VR industry expects over 1.2 billion gamers worldwide to embrace virtual reality gameplay within the next five years. According to a report from BI Intelligence, VR shipments will create a $2.8 billion hardware market by 2020 – valued at $37 million in 2015.1 Why is virtual reality so popular? Video game engines and graphics have made huge strides in the past two decades, becoming as smooth and seamless as movie graphics. Now, with the addition of VR technology, gamers can be fully immersed in gameplay.

*VPL DataGlove VR replicates real or imagined environments, creating a sensory experience through sights, sounds and, in some cases, smell and touch. Just think: With VR, you can hang from a mountain ledge in the Alps, dogfight from the cockpit of a spacecraft or explore vivid underwater worlds. The concept of virtual reality has been around for decades, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that VR technology went from science fiction to tangible technology. In 1985, Thomas Zimmerman and Jaron Lanier developed the VPL DataGlove for the consumer market.

Today, the gaming industry has refocused its attention on virtual reality and is bringing the VR experience to gameplaying households. Consumers can now get their hands on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive in addition to Sony’s PlayStation VR and Samsung’s GearVR headsets. Meanwhile, video game studios are rushing to partner with VR companies to develop virtual reality games, including Sony and Microsoft and Insomniac Games and Oculus Studios.3 The hope is that VR will become a whole new genre of game play, catapulting the gaming industry into a bold new era of innovation. Source: 1Business Insider 2Britannica Academic 3Gamasutra



So you work remotely. Where do you live now, and where were you prior to SNHU?


Currently, I live in West Virginia. Before I joined SNHU, I worked in software engineering for many years, developing and programming software for everything from military aircraft to radio networks. Following that, I worked for Global Science and Technology, Inc as a senior software engineer for the CLASS Project, where I collaborated with NASA and NOAA to build software that collected satellite data to more accurately predict hazardous

CURTIS GEORGE Curtis George is living proof that virtual games can make a real difference. In an eventful career spanning decades, he’s worked with NASA to create software for predicting hazardous weather

weather. The satellite dishes are located in Fairmont, WV, where I live now, but I’m actually in the process of moving to my farm in North Carolina.


Tell us about your relationship with the gaming industry.


When I developed software for the government with my business, Leviathon Technologies, I was given a contract to

patterns, developed a role-

develop an RPG for the State Department

playing game (RPG) to acclimate

that would train international students

international students to American

to survive on US campuses. That was my

campuses and even created

first experience developing games. From

an award-winning Spanish verb

there, I went on to create a mobile app

conjugation mobile app. He brings

called Verb Champion, which won About.

that wealth of knowledge to SNHU,

com’s Reader’s Choice award for “Best

where he serves as Faculty Lead

Android App for People Learning Spanish”

in undergraduate Information

in 2013.

Technology and subject matter expert in various game design and development courses. We spoke with Curtis about his life, career and how nothing beats the simple pleasures of old-school gaming.



You joined SNHU as the Faculty Lead of IT, but you do so much more. Can you tell us about that?


As a faculty lead, I help develop

SNHU helps by offering

courses for the new computer

courses designed to teach

science program. I also assume

the students everything they

roles as team lead, adjunct

need to know about game

professor and subject matter

development, including inside

expert (SME) for some of the

industry stuff. We’ve also begun

new game courses. We’re

teaching students how to use

actually early launching one of

the Unreal Engine, which is

those courses right now.

widely considered the standard


What’s your favorite game? Are there any particular games that make you nostalgic?


I’m embarrassed to say I’m still stuck in the ’80s. I love retro games and can play them all day. My favorite is still “Galaga,” although “Tron” is a close second. The charm of older games is that you don’t have to think, you just play and have fun.

industry tool for programming.


For students considering these programs, what can they expect from your courses?


Students can expect a topnotch learning experience. We


How do you keep up with industry trends?


Keeping up with the latest industry trends means constantly reading about

work hard to create innovative

I’m also fortunate enough

subject matter experts in the

to be able to connect with

field. Ultimately, the aim is to

game industry leaders who

help build skills that can be

can clue me in on what’s next.

applied not only to game design,

Following market analysis is

but also to the interview and

another great way to learn the

job search process, so students

latest functionality in games.

have the confidence to break

If you’re in tune with that, it

into the industry.

allows you to design products that audiences want.



I think the biggest challenge is understanding how complex designing a game can be. There are many different elements students need to grasp, including the graphics, code, mathematics and physics.

Where is the industry heading? What do you think will be the “next big thing”?


The next big thing – which

where the technology is going.

courses consulted by the best

What are some of the biggest challenges game design students face in today’s industry? What does SNHU do to help them overcome these challenges?


is already here – is virtual reality. We’re seeing more and more how virtual reality can be used for training as well as for games. It’s already becoming such an effective tool in the medical and military fields, and as the technology advances, so will its reach. Another technology I see


What’s the most surprising statistic you can give us about the gaming industry? The most interesting statistic to me was how the Chinese mobile market nearly overtook the United States in mobile market sales. For young developers, I think the lesson is to keep localization in mind when you create your game.

coming is augmented reality. It’s very new, but I don’t think it’s absurd to think that this technology is on its way to being used in our everyday lives. It’s a big leap from “Galaga,” but I really believe that’s where we’re headed.



providing students with the skills they need to create and solve problems on a free-form basis and without an expected outcome is the foundation for innovation and discovery.

CREATIVE-FUELED CONNECTIONS This spirit of discovery fueled one such Nobel-prize-winning science insight. As a chemist, Dudley Herschbach had never heard of the psychics technique, “molecular beams.” Having no preconceived ideas about how this technique should be used, he crossed two beams of different molecules.

How creativity is adding new dimension – and more opportunity – to math and science Analytical or imaginative? Rational or intuitive? Precise or random? When asked, most people identify with one or the other. In other words, they’re either leftbrained or right-brained. Today, the line between those two distinct ways of thinking is blurring. In fact, career fields that were once the sole domain of mathematicians and scientists are getting – and more and more requiring – an infusion of creativity.

At first blush, creativity may seem like the antithesis of STEM, and educators see this as a big problem as they help prepare students for careers in the real world. Teaching students to memorize facts and formulas in order to arrive at the “right” answer no longer serves them well. Instead, today’s educators find that

Herschbach said, “People thought it would not be feasible. It was called the lunatic fringe of chemistry, which I just loved.” If he had followed the rules, Herschbach might not have uncovered how colliding molecules behave and gone on to win one of science’s highest awards.1 As famed computer programmer and Apple co-founder, Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Like figuring out how colliding molecules behave, creative-fueled connections are responsible for major advances in everything from disease research to weather forecasting.

CREATIVITY IN FORECASTING Dr. David Sze, online faculty lead in the Mathematics department at SNHU, shares two examples of how creativity helps us prep for our morning routine and even the way we choose stock options.


“Although everybody jokes about weather forecasting, advances in highly powerful computers and highly sophisticated models have made both shorter-term forecasts (hour-byhour or even minute-by-minute) and longer-term forecasts (one week or further into the future) much more accurate than they were even a few years ago. This is despite the ‘butterfly effect,’ a mathematical concept that shows why weather prediction is an incredibly difficult problem.” Sze cites another example from the financial sector called “the Black Sholes model” that is still used today. As he explains, “This was a new creative approach to calculate the values of stock options, which then can be compared to their actual market prices. In the multitrilliondollar financial markets, a model that is more accurate by just a fraction of one percent can lead to millions of dollars of profits.” Whether his students go on to have a meteorological tool named for them or develop a financial model that revolutionizes the stock market, Sze stresses the importance of being creative in your chosen profession. “One of the goals of applied math and data analytics, is to build models that analyze and predict the behavior of complex systems – financial indicators, online advertising and purchasing, geological analysis, etc. These are not ‘textbook’ problems, but instead rely on analysts to create new models based on uncertain factors and uncertain data. Successful analysts can answer not only the howto-do type questions, but also think deeply about the ‘Why are we doing it this way?’ and ‘What can be done better?’ types of creative questions.”


THE NEW CREATIVE CAREERS What you don’t have to question is if one of these fields might be right for you. For rightbrain types, here are some traditionally left-brained fields where your creativity can put you in high demand and offer you an attractive salary. While “data analyst” is broad, the career outlook is specific. Experts predict one specialty field that will emerge under this banner is artist-explorers, the creative types who find actionable insights others don’t see. It’s estimated the current talent pool of data analysts only makes up 20 percent of the overall demand. What’s more, qualified analysts earned an average of $62,150 in May 2015, with the top 10 percent earning more than $120,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.2 In a special

report, even called the role of a data analyst “the sexiest job of the 21st century.”3 Another data-heavy field with a creative bent is geospatial technology, an emerging green industry that’s worth an estimated $270 billion a year.4 Within this industry are professionals who utilize geographic information systems – essential planning, analytic and management tools used to turn geographic data into models and maps. According to O*NET, GIS technicians, geospatial technicians and remote sensing technologists earn more than $85,000 on average per year.5 From companies like Hello Health that help doctors create better engagement with their patients through telemedicine tools (twoway videos, texts, apps)6 to Tableau, a business intelligence software that helps people understand their data in a visual way, there’s never been more of a need for creative minds in math, science and data analytics.

Put your creativity to good use with an online BA in Mathematics, BS in Data Analytics or MS in Data Analytics. Sources: 1Student Science, 2Bureau of Labor Statistics,, 4Esri, 5O*NET, 6Fast Company


Note: Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook and other sources is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.


Internships can be tricky for online students, many of whom are already spinning lots of plates between coursework, jobs and family. Experiential learning tools provide the hands-on experience of an internship without the logistical challenges. Students in SNHU’s data analytics programs, for instance, get to try out today’s leading database tools in their coursework. They use Oracle® and MongoDB® to learn how to store data. They practice manipulating data in the cloud using IBM Bluemix.® They experiment with data visualization using Tableau® software. Case in point: the data displays shown below, created by Rachel Ruiz, an online MS in Data Analytics student at SNHU. Rachel uses Tableau regularly in her role as a business intelligence/reporting analyst in higher education.

“In this day and age, people expect to be engaged, entertained and quickly find the information they are looking for,” said Ruiz. “It is hard to see trends or what is going on with a plethora of data in raw numbers. It is when you create interactive, clean visualizations that the story behind the data comes to life.”

- Rachel Ruiz , MS in Data Analytics


STEM SPACE FOR WOMEN Based on the latest statistics, women make up only 22 percent of game developers.1 The good news: The tides are changing. In fact, the percentage has actually doubled since 2009, when women reportedly represented a scant 11.5% of the workforce. Today, the Higher Education Video Game Alliance now reports that women comprise about a third of enrollments in video game programs. 2 Add to that a rising population of female gamers and progressive acceptance of women in leadership roles, and it’s clear that the industry’s playing by a new set of rules. As part of our efforts to create a supportive STEM space for women, we dedicate this segment to the ladies who lead the pack to a brighter future for gaming. Sources: 1GameSpot, Games Industry



NHTI’S GIRLS TECHNOLOGY DAY: BUILDING A STEMINIST FUTURE On March 15, SNHU’s Executive Director of Online STEM Programs Gwen Britton volunteered as a mentor for an all-day workshop at the fourth annual Girls Technology Day in Concord. The three-day event was hosted by New Hampshire Technical Institute, Concord’s Community College, and drew 800 participants for a series of hands-on workshops, keynote speakers and career fairs. The initiative aimed to encourage female high school students to pursue careers in STEM and provided interactive experiences in game programming, 3D modeling,

mobile app development, metrology and engineering. To kick off the day, Gwen asked a group of students a simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Among the group were an aspiring musician and game developer. Later, Gwen had the students build a computer-animated scene with an educational object-based programming language called Alice. The game developer led the task of programming. The musician composed the music. Other students focused on developing the story. Each contribution was valuable and reaffirmed the power of exposing young girls to STEM in their formative years. We congratulate this year’s participants and support NHTI’s efforts to build a STEM-inist future. Sources: NHTI

THE PRESENT AND FUTURE WOMEN OF GAMING SNHU STUDENTS TO WATCH Christina Emerson Online SNHU Student and CEO Ohio-based software engineer and developer Christina Emerson is an online Game Design and Development student here at SNHU, and she’s already well on her way to changing the face of the industry. As CEO and lead programmer of Round House Games, she collaborates with a team of 14 artists and developers to create games in iOS, Android, PC and console platforms. Her latest project is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) called “Aeryn: The Nightmares of Fau.” It’s still in the early stages of development, but sneak peek character designs are available online.

Jamie Emerson SNHU Student and PAX East Exhibitor Currently a junior in the Game Design and Development program on campus, Jamie

Emerson is also a peer educator who assists with Intro to 3DS Max courses. She is the winner of two Game Jam competitions, and in spring of 2015, she placed second with an educational video game designed for the Stride Academy Game Design Challenge. Most recently, she attended the 2016 PAX East gaming expo, along with SNHU’s Associate Dean of STEM Programs Angela Foss. As an exhibitor, the event gave her the opportunity to show off her digital sculpting skills to thousands of attendees.

INDUSTRY GAME CHANGERS Jane McGonigal Futurist and NY Times Bestseller

Games have the power to heal. That’s the platform that drives San Francisco-based game designer, author and alternate reality gaming (ARG) specialist Jane McGonigal. With her interactive online gaming app “SuperBetter,” she’s created a safe space for over

half a million players to “build social, mental and emotional resilience in the face of any illness, injury or health goal,”1 and it’s got the whole industry talking. She currently works as Director of Games Research and Development with the Institute of the Future, and this past March, she was a 2016 SXSW keynote speaker.

Robin Hunicke Entrepreneur and Innovator For Robin Hunicke, a threeyear fast track from game designer to lead producer at EA (Electronic Arts) was just the beginning. In 2012, she struck a chord as producer for thatgamecompany’s recordbreaking indie hit, “Journey.” That same year, she co-founded Funomena, an independent game studio committed to the belief that games can make a positive impact on the world. The studio’s latest, a hand-held alternative reality application and collaborative project with Google called “Woorld,” is due to launch in September. Sources: 1Superbetter


WHERE CAN SNHU LAND YOU? The top five U.S. regions for gaming are California, Texas, Washington, New York and Massachusetts (in that order),1 but there are opportunities everywhere. Below, we highlight some of the places our grads and students are pursuing their passions, along with a few high-growth areas of interest.



In 2015, Fortune reported that California alone accounted for 63,718 employees and an economic contribution of $2.78 billion to the gaming industry.4


Thanks to indie companies in Denver, Boulder and Louisville, Colorado is a frontrunner in gaming. Just look at Backflip Studios, the mobile game developer that sold a 70% stake to Hasbro in 2013.5


In 2014, Georgia passed a ground-breaking law incentivizing growth in the gaming industry. Wages for employees in gaming are also 99.6% more than the average state salary.6

In a booming industry, it’s important that students are prepared for the careers they want. Here are some of the prime jobs a bachelor’s degree in Game Design and Development can land you.

Game Designers, Artists and Animators Average annual salary: $74,000 In terms of benefits, artists and animators have it made. A whopping 97% report receiving benefits from their employers, including insurance for health, dental and vision.10 Mobile Developers Average annual salary: $90,000 Ranked the 5th Best Job in America by Glassdoor in 2016. They also reported 2,250 job openings nationwide.11 Programmers and Developers Average annual salary: $93,000 Among the highest paid in the industry, programmers and developers can expect six-figure salaries as they rise through the ranks to lead programmer and technical director roles.12


With 27 development companies and two publishers in 2015, Illinois is the leading midwest state for gaming. It’s also the birthplace of the hugely successful “Mortal Kombat” series.7


Louisiana’s JumpStart program has offered tax incentives as high as 35% to game developers. EA Games also partnered with Louisiana State University to build a $29 million Digital Media Center for future gamers.8

Producers Average annual salary: $82,000 In an industry that tends to favor men, the scales seem to be tipping most in these high leadership roles. Women account for 22% of all game producers.13

Sources: 1,2,3,4,7 Fortune, 5 The Denver Post, 6, 8ESA, 10,12,13Gamasutra, 11GlassDoor Note: Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.


Profile for Southern New Hampshire University

STEM Journal Issue 4, 2016  

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Online at Southern New Hampshire University.

STEM Journal Issue 4, 2016  

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Online at Southern New Hampshire University.

Profile for snhu