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My Journalism 101 teacher at Palomar College thought the following story was "excellent," however, she failed to submit it to the editor of the school paper in time to make the final edition for the year.

Rather than let my hard work go to waste, I decided to post it here, with a heartfelt thanks to Alex and his students for their help. The best part of my school year was being in the classroom with them, and learning what it's like to be a video game artist.

                                                        ***

Become a Gaming God.

Imagine waking up knowing you'll spend the day, creating the world of your dreams. In this world, you are God. You determine who dies and by what means--a flamethrower, a knife or a semiautomatic gun. You paint your scenery--whether it's a racetrack or city--using a pallet of thousands of colors. Best of all, you own the characters who tell your story and they have to live by your rules.

For 30 students with a Video Game Artist major, this dream is becoming a reality. The certificate program introduces students to the video game industry, game design, and the creation of both 2D and 3D artwork for video games.

"It's what I'm passionate about," says Josh Banogon, 24. "It's basically the only thing I want to do. It's a way for me to get away from anything I have to deal with."

His counselor suggested that he look into video game design when he became discouraged with his major in psychology.

"I play video games all the time," Banogon said. "It gives me something to do...calms me.

"It's the only thing I can find that calms me down."

His instructor, Alex Ehrath, who also works as a game developer for Rock Star San Diego and THQ San Diego, said escapism and psychology are a big part of game development because "you have to figure out what makes people want to play." His advice to anyone who wants to get into game development is "just play games, work on (developing) games. Work hard because the competition is fierce."

Ilya Schekhtman, 20, knows just how fierce that competition can be. He worked on war monger games for about six years with a team of six other people. Now they are all working on degrees so they can take their careers to a higher level.

"Honestly, right now," he said, "I'm looking to get a foot in the door in any company at this time. Get some good education in, maybe an internship. I was looking at Sony, Activision...all the big companies and some small companies.

"There's not a lot of people in the industry right now who have degrees in this, so all the big companies are looking for people with degrees." According to Schekhtman, a recent article in the New York Times said a person with an associate's degree can make an average of $65,000 a year to start.

Ehrath said starting salaries are higher. "A bachelor's or master's degree will help with a bigger starting salary," he said, "but in the long run, it's experience that counts." He also mentioned that while most internships are paid, many video game development companies have few resources, which prohibits them from offering paid internship positions.

On dperry.com, David Perry, a veteran gaming artist who worked with Michael Jackson, said most of his emails are from "newbie" artists who claim to be too old or have kids and can't accept the low salaries of interns. Perry calls this a "tough problem that usually results in tears.

"If you are young and single," he said, "start learning now."

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