Five Questions With: William Collis

WILLIAM COLLIS is chairman of the Rhode Island Digital Games Institute advisory board, which will oversee the new digital games institute at New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich. / COURTESY NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

William Collis is the chairman of the Rhode Island Digital Games Institute advisory board, which will oversee the new digital games institute at New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich.

Collis, an adjunct faculty member at New England Tech, is also co-founder of OXG, New England’s largest esports pro team, and owns the Boston Breach and Boston Uprising franchises.

Collis spoke to Providence Business News about the video game design industry and about the new institute.

 

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PBN: What are some of the aspects of video game design that have career opportunities available?

COLLIS: Video games are a huge industry generating about $200 billion annually. Furthermore, video games are one of the most interdisciplinary industries in the world combining art, storytelling, coding, product design and much more. As such, the career opportunities around video games are almost limitless. If you have a skill, chances are there is a way to put it to work creating games, and this is before we consider how broadly game-making skills impact other industries.

For example, did you know TESLA cars run a video game engine or that your favorite TV show likely had its special effects made using game software? It’s almost impossible to overstate how valuable games industry skills are to our modern, digitally integrated world.

PBN: How many New England Institute of Technology graduates have found careers in game design and how much will that grow?

COLLIS: According to information from the office of career services at NEIT, its game development and design graduates pursue careers in many industries and various positions. A few examples include unity developer, upwork 3D modeler, game ambassador, application developer, previsualization technician, and more.

Crucially, RIDigi sees game development and design as an extremely high growth area because of the value of game-related skills in the modern workforce and anticipates that game design and related programs will double or even triple over the next few years.

PBN: RIDigi says game design can help advance manufacturing operations. In what ways can video game design achieve that for the manufacturing sector?

COLLIS: Manufacturing is just one of the modern industries that can benefit enormously from game design. The examples of integration potential are almost endless.

For example, imagine training factory workers using game software before they ever go to work on a line. Envision designing a factory entirely inside a game engine to test its theoretical efficiency, guaranteeing that the final building blueprint is optimized. There are even opportunities to “gamify” manufacturing tasks to make them less repetitive and more engaging.

That’s before we consider the “manufacturing” that happens inside games themselves. We don’t typically think of games as generating products, but popular video games are producers of valuable digital items. Some scholars have even estimated the GDP of popular games, ranking them similarly to large countries like Russia.

PBN: What types of local companies is RIDigi looking to partner with?

COLLIS: While we can’t name specific partners, RIDigi is happy to speak generally about our partnership plans.

Broadly, we are excited to partner with universities in the state to help create meaningful networks and job pipelines. We are also passionate about connecting local businesses interested in leveraging gaming-related skills and hope to have several partnerships here to announce in the near future as we roadmap our state ecosystem.

Lastly, we’re obviously excited to work with games publishers themselves, helping them realize the value of Rhode Island’s workforce.

PBN: Do you see video game design being a prominent business sector in Rhode Island in five years, and what do you think it will take for the sector to thrive in this state?

COLLIS: It is absolutely crucial for Rhode Island to become a prominent player in the games industry. Games is a massive business opportunity, and its skills underpin the evolution of the modern digital economy. If Rhode Island does not build a meaningful presence in games, we risk not simply failing to create incremental jobs in the state, but actually falling behind other states in terms of both talent and training.

For Rhode Island to thrive in games, we obviously need nodal organizations like RIDigi to build our ecosystem. We also need strong partnership from our state government and a recognition of the importance of games as a vital element of modern economic engines. Of course, we need the gamers in Rhode Island to step forward and identify themselves to begin creating a more tangible, local community.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette

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