In its first national student survey on videogame preferences, The Art Institutes system of schools recently polled more than 1,000 Game Art & Design, Animation and Visual & Game Programming students from throughout its 31 schools on everything from favorite computer and console games to game purchasing behavior.
For these students many of whom hope to make a career in the $30 billion a year global software entertainment industry participating in a national poll on gameplay preferences was an opportunity to weigh in on a field where they hope to make a significant impact.
The results were surprising, according to Marc Sherrod, academic director of game art & design for The Art Institute of California San Francisco and spokesperson for the national survey results. "When we first decided on the poll questions, we assumed that the big name titles like FINAL FANTASY and WORLD OF WARCRAFT would do well after all, their game makers spend millions of dollars advertising, promoting and creating a demand for those products.
However, once the results came in, "We realized that, like movies or television shows, everybody has their favorites, and in the case of our game and animation students, those choices were widely varied," he said.
"We found that only 11% of our students named HALO 2 as their overall favorite videogame. WORLD OF WARCRAFT took favorite computer game, also with only 11% of the votes," said Sherrod. HALO 2 and HALF-LIFE 2 captured best video graphics and best computer graphics, but with the relatively low 14% and 17% of votes, respectively.
The results of the student poll reflect several similarities to recent awards handed out by the game industry itself. The Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' 8th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards recently honored HALF- LIFE 2 as both its "Game of the Year" and "Computer Game of the Year." Similarly, the International Game Developers Assoc. (IGDA) gave HALF-LIFE 2 and HALO 2 top honors at its recent 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards.
Why the wide diversity in game playing preferences?
"It's hard to find a game that excels equally in all areas of graphics, gameplay and storyline. "I've started playing more niche games in simulation and action adventure this past year because they've become more accessible from other countries," said Anthony Ruelas, 28, a Game Art & Design student at The Art Institute of California San Francisco.
Game Art & Design students at The Art Institute of Atlanta concur in their choice of playing games outside big blockbuster titles. For Nick Maresco, his game of choice is DARWINIA. "I just recently found this game and I have been totally addicted ever since. Every aspect is flawless. It's visually beautiful and the game play is simple and extremely fun," says Maresco.
Raycheal Risdal, a Game Art & Design student also from The Art Institute of Atlanta, says her new favorite title is FINAL FANTASY 9. "FINAL FANTASY 9 is a massive online community of gamers from all over the world. I enjoy RPG-based games, but I also enjoy playing games where I can interact with a large diversity of individuals, who have the same interest as me," she says.
That's not to say that the students polled don't enjoy best-selling computer and videogames, "It's just that there are many games out there, and we found that our students often prefer games that may fly below the traditional game-playing radar. Those preferences may have something to do with how they themselves would design or animate those games," says Sherrod.
Other survey results reported that Art Institutes' students spend some 12 hours a week playing games with 44% naming PlayStation 2 as their favorite game console. Nearly half 46% said they did not own a portable gaming device.