A career in video games might seem ideal for most young people around the world — at least until they understand what it entails. The career is not about constantly trying your hand at video games, but involves programming and designing them.

Many universities around the world offer degrees in game programming, although those in the UAE are just beginning to test the waters in this field. A computer gaming course will be offered in the fall semester at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and a minor will follow.

The question is whether AUS students are prepared to face the challenges presented by this career choice.

"Playing a game is easier than making one," said Renji Sulaiman, a mechanical engineering major, who predicts that it will not be a common pursuit for students in the UAE. Other students, who have a more optimistic view about the future of game programming, are a little discouraged due to a lack of production companies in the UAE.

Mohammad Elashri, a computer engineering major, has been looking for game development companies, but they are still unavailable in the UAE. He says, the future of games programming is "currently still in the developing state, but it will be very popular and demanding".

Majid Sulaiman, a business major, predicts the same, and says "people are demanding more video games these days".

Bigger than movies

Shehab Al Dasher, an accounting and finance major, says that although the gaming scene in the Middle East is just taking off, he foresees it will take over the movie industry in the near future.

"Many students play video games and would probably be interested in knowing how they are made," says Hesham Shablaq, an MIS major. "It's a rapidly growing industry, so it has a very bright future," he adds.

As if on cue, Haklim Abu Nahel, an MIS and finance major, says: "A career in game designing would be most suitable for me since I'm a gamer myself". Apparently, many do wish to make a professional career out of a personal interest.

A profitable industry

There seems to be another driving force behind young people pursuing a career in this field. "The gaming industry is a famous and profitable industry," said Khalid Al Qaood, a business major student.

Some might argue that given the nature of the end products, a major in such a field would not be treated very seriously. "Just because it involves games does not mean it is not a serious major. It takes a lot of serious work," says Abu Nahel. And, there is much money to be made out of it, he adds.

There have been less than a handful of video games produced in the Middle East. According to students, all of these have been major disappointments. Instead, games by established and recognised producers, who provide high-quality graphics and superior story lines, are highly popular.

There are many reasons behind the failure of games made in this region. "Video games created in the Middle East are of very bad quality," says Ahmad Khalid, a marketing and management major. "They are not related to the region's culture. We need games that will contribute to personal development but still be fun and attractive," he adds. The gaming industry is very competitive, he says.

Amir Diaz, a student of computer science, provides one explanation for the poor standards. "In the Middle East, games are made from scratch since they have no help from European or North American developers; so their effort is great."

What you study

Amir Diaz argues that there is more to programming games than what can be taught in one course.

"You have to take advanced mathematics and physics along with 3D object manipulation courses. You also need to take advanced programming graphics courses to be able to learn how to make a game."

Furthermore, software such as 3D Max, AutoCAD and Maya needs to be taught along with computer programming courses.

"With the construction of Dubai Silicon Oasis, developers will be attracted from all over the world," says Diaz. In 10-15 years, the gaming industry will undergo a boom.

"Game programming was a childhood dream of mine, but the unavailability and impracticality of it turned me down," says Al Dasher. With Silicon Oasis coming to Dubai, students will have many opportunities to further their careers in this field.

— The writer is a student of the American University of Sharjah

A minor in computer Game programming

The American University of Sharjah will be offering a minor in Computer Game Programming in the coming fall semester.

The programme will be offered by the Department of Computer Science in the School of Engineering.

It aims to help students develop computer games applications and multimedia programmes for mobile devices and the internet.

The new programme will be open to all students who are of good academic standing.

For more information, log on to: www.aus.edu
— Reema Saffarini