Adams brings city’s video gaming industry to higher education

Mayor Eric Adams announces new video game design degree program at City College of New York. Monday, May 16, 2022.
Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Game on!

Mayor Eric Adams took action to make New York City a major player in the video game industry Monday by announcing a new Digital Game Design degree program at CUNY’s City College of New York (CCNY) funded by $2 million from the city. The program is a partnership between City College and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME).

To further level up the city’s burgeoning video game design industry, Adams also announced the formation of the Game Development Industry Council, which aims to guide city policy that will help grow the sector.

Adams was joined at City College Monday for the announcement by Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer, CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez and the CEO of esports organization NYXL James Fry.

Currently, Adams said, New York isn’t even in the top five American cities when it comes to video game development and that’s something he wants to change with this investment.

“The goal is to use CUNY to start the pipeline of ensuring that we’re going to start building out our gaming industry. Any one of you in this room can become the creators of [the] next Rockstar Games company. Or the developers of the next Rocket League or NBA 2K. You could clearly become the next head of that,” Adams said, referencing a leading video game publisher and two blockbuster games.

“So today, we’re going to really level up. We are investing in our future and the future of New York City gaming development,” Adams added.

Mayor Eric Adams with CCNY students. Monday, May 16, 2022. Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

The mayor said the city’s $2 million investment will reach over 1,000 students over the next three years when the new program starts in the fall and bring much needed diversity to the gaming industry. Adams also emphasized the access to paid internship experiences that programs like this provide.

“Far too often, you’re not seeing the diversity in this field, we want to increase that diversity,” Adams said. “So those who play the game will look like the people who are also designing the games. Wherever the deputy mayor and I go, if it’s at Google, if it’s at Netflix, wherever we go, we talk about paid internship programs and building a pipeline for those young people to fill those jobs. That is the goal here. If you don’t get exposed, then you don’t see the possibilities out there. And we’re focused on telling all of these large companies that you patronize, ‘it’s time to hire from the communities that are actually purchasing your product.’ And we’re on a mission to accomplish that.”

Torres-Springer said growing the digital games sector is a key part of the mayor’s blueprint for the city’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. And this program will help provide more pathways for young people of color to become the next generation of video game developers. 

“It’s been really important to us that our economic recovery is rooted in equity and economic mobility,” Torres-Springer said. “And we know that we have to look to the future to solve the problems and challenges of today. That is why we are so committed to supporting the digital games industry, which plays a major and growing role in our city’s economy.”

Mayor Eric Adams with NYXL’s NY Excelsior Team esports team. Monday, May 16, 2022. Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

The Game Development Industry Council will bring together video game industry leaders and young people to provide policy recommendations on how to grow the industry in New York City. Additionally, Adams said, they’ll partner with educators to provide pipelines from the classroom to careers in video game design.

According to a 2021 report on the industry from then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, the video game sector has a growing role in the city’s economy. In 2020 the industry accounted for 7,600 jobs, $2 billion in economic output and $762 million in wages.

Another benefit of the city committing resources to growing the gaming industry, Rodríguez said, is that it won’t just provide jobs in game design but in many other sectors adjacent to producing games.

“There’s so many other fields, right, that are perfect in our college environment to be able to add into the mix,” Rodríguez said. “Marketing, finance. Think about the video games need artists to be able to produce the beautiful animation. If you play those games, the music is really important, right? So there’s room also for the talent of our musicians to be part of the mix. The people who are doing producing musically to do that. So there’s a whole gamut of industries of talents that we know we have here at CUNY that can be tapping into this industry.”