College Program Wants to Turn Miami Into “Silicon Beach”

Miami-Dade College is trying to bolster the presence of a field in Miami that is a multi-billion dollar industry around the world. The college is trying to build the video gaming industry in South Floirda by using a little MAGIC.

MAGIC stands for the Miami Animation Gaming International Complex. It’s still under construction, but will be a new center to train students in game art animation and game design and development, inside the school’s Wolfson campus in downtown Miami.

“And of course we’re doing this because there’s a need in the industry, five years ago there was nothing in Miami,” explained Mauricio Ferrazza, the chair of the new program.

From nothing five years ago, now there are 20 animation and gaming companies in South Florida, including Shiver Entertainment in South Miami.

“There’s a lot of jobs out there for tech folks,” said John Schappert, Shiver’s CEO and founder.

CEO John schappert is from Miami and went to Sunset High and Miami-Dade College, before he moved to California and got into the gaming industry. Schappert founded Tiburon, the company that makes the wildly popular Madden Football game. He just moved back to South Florida and is building a new company featuring another shark logo and 50 employees, so far.

“We would love to find more great graduates that can come here and help us make great games because frankly, we have no shortage of ideas, what we’re lacking is great people to make great games,” Schappert said, pointing out that 75 percent of his employees are recruited from outside of Florida.

Starting salaries for game animators and programmers averages about $41,000 to $50,000. Miami-Dade College and New World School of the Arts already have students who are thrilled about the MAGIC program, which doesn’t open until next fall.

“It’s very encouraging. I’m very excited about the future of what’s happening in Miami,” said Jackie Albano, a college student at New World.

High school senior Benjamin Sequeira chimed in, saying “I have been wanting to get into the gaming industry for a very long time.”

“I’d really love to design one of them,” added New World junior Leonardo Bacan, saying he loves the intricate detailing that goes into today’s games.

The MAGIC program, with its state-of-the-art equipment, has the potential to jumpstart South Florida’s tech industry by making the talent pool deeper. The idea is to turn this area into Silicon Beach.

“I think it’s a great effort and I certainly hope that it does because there’s certainly no lack of interest,” said Schappert.

Ferrazza echoed that thought, saying, “We haven’t advertised, we haven’t said anything, and I get at least two or three calls a day from students wanting to know about the program.”

You never know, the next “Call of Duty”, “Madden Football”, or “Grand Theft Auto” might begin with an idea born right here in Miami, like magic.

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