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Video Games Are Not Only for Entertainment

Jen Tonon expects to graduate from the gaming program at Montgomery College this year. She has already landed a job at a game development company

Young people in the United States start playing video games as early as age four or five. Often the amount of time they spend at the games causes parents to be concerned. But now parents may have to encourage children to play more games. Youngsters can find a promising career in the video gaming and technology industry as serious games are rapidly expanding along with games for entertainment.

Jason Kenyon loves playing video games. He thinks his love for the games is a notch below addiction. His parents were concerned. "To say the least, they didn't like it very much," he said. "They said, stop and focus on a real career."

But Jason thinks otherwise. "I am really sure it is a real career. I think when I finish with my bachelor's degree probably two years or so from now, I may be able to find work pretty easily compared to most other industries. So I think I will have a good future," he stated.

Jason is one of a growing number of students seeking careers in the video gaming and technology industry. He is in the game development program at Montgomery College, in Maryland.

"The future of the video game industry is very bright," Deborah Solomon, a professor at Montgomery College. "The game technology is bleeding into virtually every other industry from military to homeland security, health care, bio-technology. Advertising even uses it."

She says the federal government is spending millions of dollars on game technology for training and recruiting personnel in various agencies. For example, the U.S. Army developed a series of video games called America's Army. The games, which can be downloaded free, are designed to help young Americans explore careers in the Army.

David Versaw is chief financial officer of Will Interactive, a leading game development company in the Washington suburbs. The company has created video simulations for the Army's suicide prevention programs, for FBI training on hostage negotiations and for the healthcare industry. Versaw says there is a growing need for serious games.

"It is a great medium to reach people, people in academics started to understand the power of gaming," he said. "The current state of the economy has slowed things down a little bit here recently. But we are busier now than we ever have been."

Brian Doyle understands the power of gaming. After graduating from university in a computer gaming program, he founded an educational video game company called Let Me Think Games.

"Approaching the new generations, students of millenniums and post millenniums learn differently from previous generations. And we need to adapt new methods of teaching them. Video games are one of those methods that are assured to be very effective," he said.

With demand growing, the D.C. area - including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs - has about 100 game-oriented technology firms.

Jen Tonon expects to graduate from the gaming program at Montgomery College this year. She has already landed a job at a game development company.

"As a female in this industry there are not a lot of us right now but it is growing," she said.

Experts say companies putting out serious games still constitute a small part of the industry. But they're confident that market share will expand as companies target the younger generations that have grown up playing video games.