Unemployed IT workers who play video games to pass the time and ease their stress could be letting a job opportunity slip through their console-punching fingers.

The technology industry has been hammered as far as new job opportunities go. But the gaming industry, which is slated to ring up $19.8 billion in video-game software and $10.6 billion in hardware retail sales worldwide for 2002, according to investment banking firm Wedbush Morgan Securities, is in a hiring boom right now, and companies are looking for techies with a creative soul.

Electronic Arts, like many other video-game companies, wants to hire programmers, software engineers, and artists. Finding technical or artistic people isn't a problem, says Rusty Rueff, Electronic Arts' senior VP of human resources, but finding a hybrid of the two is. Rueff says he's looking for folks who learned the technical details of programming in college but complemented those classes with art or creative-writing courses. It's a unique match, he says. "For us, it's about finding technology talent with creative instincts and skills."

Acclaim Entertainment Inc., maker of Turok, the newly re-released dinosaur-hunter game, is using recruiting software from to query its customers to find skilled programmers, artists, and designers. Acclaim invites customers and prospective hires to submit profiles about themselves to the company's recruiting Web site; this way, if a job that meets their skills and interests comes up, Acclaim already has pertinent information filed in its database. This can help speed the recruiting and hiring process, Acclaim HR director Dawn Giovi says.

Video-game companies aren't the only ones searching for creative, technical candidates. The E-learning industry is also looking for people with video-game familiarity and skills to design online courses. "As children evolve into the gamer generation, publishers and educators are realizing the potential to use game technology to improve the learning experience," says Shawn Walters, president of Xgaming Inc., a video-game hardware developer.

In addition to building more dynamic and interactive online courses, techies with gaming skills are also likely to be sought after in the gambling industry, says Michael Pachter, a research analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. "Slot machines are now a big sensory experience because they are basically TV screens," he says, and as long as consumers and companies spend money on gaming technology and talent, Pachter says the gaming industry will continue to attract talent and put a premium on skillful programmers.

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