Video game development company founder says gaming on the rise during pandemic

WSAV NOW

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A video game development company founder recently spoke with students from the Savannah College of Art and Design about the state of the gaming industry amid the pandemic.

Randy Pitchford, who started the Gearbox Entertainment Company in 1999, shared his knowledge of the industry with SCAD students during a virtual chat.

Pitchford’s company, which has created games including Borderlands and Brothers in Arms, also released a national poll that showed a rise in people spending their extra time at home to play video games.

Three-fifths of Americans ages 18 to 34 who responded said they used video games as a way to stay connected with friends and families during the period of stay-at-home orders earlier this year, the poll found, with increased free time being the most-reported reason.

“It’s not surprising at all that when we’re in a world where people are spending more time at home, they’re finding ways to entertain themselves and amuse themselves, and more people are turning to video games,” Pitchford told WSAV NOW.

He said that normally, the summer months are when fewer people play or purchase games because people tend to get out and travel more during this period.

“In the summer of 2020, we saw a huge spike and a second bell curve in the middle of the year where it’s usually a valley,” Pitchford said, adding, “In fact, from a sales perspective, it was actually greater than what we experienced during the holiday seasons, which is traditionally when people are buying Christmas gifts and staying indoors for their breaks over the holidays.”

In recent years, the gaming industry in the Peach State has boomed, with customers spending over $830 million on video games in 2018, according to the Georgia Game Developers Association.

Pitchford says during the pandemic, gamers seem to have gravitated toward games that offer some kind of social connectivity. “It’s really fortunate for us because Borderlands is one of the greatest cooperative games ever made where people can play together and share the experience together,” he said.

During his virtual talk with SCAD students, the gaming industry expert noted that when he started out as a game developer, schools didn’t offer programs to grow those skills.

“Just the fact that there are universities dedicated to the aspects of the craft of interactive creation is really awesome, and an amazing advantage, but it’s not the only path,” he said, noting that a lot of creators who enter the gaming industry are self-taught.

Pitchford called it a “great privilege” to connect with SCAD’s future graduates.

“I believe sincerely that the best game developers in the world a decade from now are folks that might not even be in the industry today, so it’s very important that we interact with and engage with the future,” he said, adding that he hopes plenty of SCAD graduates choose to enter the gaming industry.

“I hope the best and brightest go on to create amazing things that we can all enjoy, and that’s why I wanted to spend time with the students,” he said.

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