GamesBeat Summit 24: USC Games’ Jim Huntley on fledging game devs

”I care about your portfolio, not your GPA,” was the line that set the tone at Jim Huntley’s fireside chat with me at GamesBeat Summit 2024. Our fireside chat was about the next generation of game developers, what challenges they face, and what the developers and the education system can do to help them. Huntley, who is an associate professor at the University at Southern California and teaches at its USC Games program, spent several minutes answering audience questions in addition to my own on the topic.

The initial topic of conversation was about what the new generation of game developers looks like, and what kind of career path they’re face. What kind of industry do they inherit? Huntley minced no words: “Horrible.” That said, Huntley added that entry level positions in the games industry have not disappeared despite the vast swathes of layoffs happening. And he added that education programs such as the one at USC Games can offer a path into games for young developers. He said the line at the top of the article in response to a question about the kind of student who thrives in the program.

When asked to expand upon what kind of student he had in mind, he added that successful students who go on to careers in the industry are not simply gamers. In order to thrive, fledgling developers should not only have an interest in and knowledge of a variety of games, but they should also have interest in and knowledge of a variety of things outside of games in order to bring a well-rounded perspective to the table.

Huntley added, in response to an audience question, that the USC Games pitching process helps build the skills necessary to make it in the industry — pitching, collaborating with other creatives, building a game to completion — but that it can’t foster a love and interest in game creation. The student who has a 3.5 and a portfolio of game work is more interesting to both teachers and employers than a student with a 4.2 who doesn’t have anything to show for their interest in games.