The First Three Years is a research project tracking where post-secondary students from video games programs go after they graduate, what their work world is like, and why they may choose to leave the video game industry. Through this project, we hope to make this industry a better place to work.

We’ve successfully completed recruitment, welcoming over 200 students into the project from games programs in the United States and Canada! Thank you to all those who helped spread the word. We are looking forward to talking to each of our participants over the next three years.

Stay tuned for new developments as we transition this website from recruitment to the dissemination of our research findings!

Read about the ethics guiding this research.

Project Summary

Within a few years of finding employment in the video game industry, a staggering number of post-secondary graduates leave it. This project addresses the urgent need to understand why people abandon an industry they worked so hard to enter. Despite much discussion of the transition of highly skilled workers from postsecondary institutions to industry, there remains little to no rigorously produced, reliable information on the host of factors that shape workers’ experiences and economic outcomes. This includes an analysis of the following:

  • the effectiveness of game studies curriculum,
  • the formal and informal networks that support new workers,
  • the mismatch between workers’ and employers’ expectations during the transition from school to work,
  • the lack of paid jobs in the industry; and
  • the systemic barriers to success that specific cohorts face. 

The First Three Years is a multi-year research project to understand the barriers to successful, long-term employment in the video game industry for highly-skilled workers. This project will conduct a longitudinal study to track the employment experiences of 240 graduates from postsecondary video game programs in Canada and the United States over their first three years in the workforce.

This project will provide detailed texture to the findings of both the IGDA Developer Satisfaction Survey (see chart below) and the GDC’s State of the Industry report, both of which highlight the transiency and uncertainty of labor in the game industry.

The 2020 State of the Industry report by GDC found that game development “is an industry driven by young workers who tend to depart within a decade.”