Could PC Gaming Be Critical to Our Nation’s Future? Part 1
By Matt Ployhar
It’s in the nation’s best interest to have a bright gaming future. Sound like a pretty bold declaration? Well, there are several things that have occurred over the past few years that have led up to my position that I’d like to share. You can then draw your own conclusions.
The keys to our future well-being are all about our ability to innovate. I originally started thinking in this direction when I was attending a private games summit a little over two years ago with several key industry execs. During the lunch conversation, several games ISVs (independent software vendors) observed that they couldn’t get their hands on enough H1B work visas and permits for foreign workers and students. The key reason they had to look outside the U.S. was that they could not fulfill the demand in their respective companies for employees with strong computer science, math and science skill sets.
These individuals further added that both the curriculum, and the quality, of most American schools and universities fall far short in graduating a big enough pool of students with the quality skill sets that they’re hiring for. Hearing all of this firsthand was initially a shock, but also somewhat of a wakeup call. I’d honestly never thought about it in that context before.
So what are the skill sets these ISVs are looking for? There really isn’t a mainstream software app that comes to my mind that’s more demanding than a PC game. PC games push the following boundaries: OS, network stack, servers (if connected), security and identity, graphics (e.g., web graphics, DirectX 11, OpenGL ES, and the like), physics, artificial intelligence, parallel and multithreaded computing (like OCL) and so on. All of these things require not just a basic understanding of math and science, but also an intimate understanding.
The vast array of algorithms and techniques leveraged for PC gaming, as you can see, is nothing short of astounding. PC games today use practically every technology I mentioned across the board, to one degree or another. It is the sum total of those individual technology parts that makes a PC game interesting, fun and engaging.
Then how do we all benefit from PC gaming? There’s been an ongoing -- and increasing -- amount of crossover between PC gaming and Hollywood special effects and techniques, especially in terms of pushing the boundaries for more immersive graphics, physics and artificial intelligence advancements, tools and middleware. I can’t think of any other two industries that play so great a part, so high up the food chain, in the demands they place on driving technologies.
These innovations then waterfall and benefit many other companies and adjacencies. Here’s a partial list: medical imaging and simulations; climate modeling; military applications; private and commercial aviation; oil and gas exploration; business and enterprise software; and so on. The list is nearly endless.
The key thing to keep in mind is that these technological advances likely wouldn’t have been as healthy, or accelerated, if PC gaming had not been a key driver -- of which even the console industry also largely benefits. The number of jobs associated with, generated by and benefitting from the PC gaming and Hollywood ecosystems goes far beyond what is immediately seen on the surface.
Matt Ployhar focuses on graphics, multimedia and gaming in Intel’s visual computing software division [disclosure: Intel is the sponsor of this website]. Prior to that, he worked at Microsoft for more than 12 years. His passions are graphics and gaming. And when he can get away from his computer, he also enjoys the great outdoors and reading.