Degrees for tinkers

  • Education
  • Sunday, 15 Jun 2003

All play and no 'work' can make Jack a bright boy, as colleges offer degrees in video-gaming, reports MATT SLAGLE

DAVID Najjab is an educator with an unusual problem – he's trying to lure students who are serious about making a career out of fun and games. 

As director of the new school of video game making at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, the United States, Najjab plans to attract students by using some of the area's game luminaries – including members of id Software Inc, maker of the famed Doom and Quake games – as teachers and speakers. 

GAME ALERT: A man photographing a scene from Doom III, a science-fiction game from id Software Inc.The game is set the dnak confines of a Martian outpost where the player shoots at everything that moves.- APpic

But he's got plenty of competition from schools around the United States. 

Formal game education remains a relatively untapped area, but the emergence of video game schools makes sense in the 30-year-old industry, said Jason Della Roca, director of the International Game Developers Association. 

Gaming's traditional training ground – a mentoring system where self-taught tinkers pass on their knowledge to like-minded tech-savvy gamers – is no longer enough given the myriad of skills needed to create a modern game, Roca said. 

Jay Horwitz, industry analyst with Jupiter Research in New York, said making games requires many talents – art, computer science, music, math and physics. Pulling these disciplines together is increasingly common as the industry matures into a mainstream form of entertainment, Horwitz said. 

“It's still a pretty immature media, but a discipline for actual game development is starting to make sense,'' he said. “Today you have a very rich environment.'' 

Southern Methodist University's new Guildhall school of video game making is an 18-month, US$37,000 (RM140,600) programme that will offer specialisations in art creation, level design and software development. Classes begin in July. 

In the US, there are several well-established programmes, including the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington, and Full Sail in Orlando, Florida. 

Even traditional schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Michigan have incorporated game-specific classes and programmes into existing curriculum. 

The games industry employs about 30,000 in the United States, and demand is expected to grow by about 15%, or 5,000 jobs a year, Najjab said. 

Game companies in the Dallas area include Ensemble Studios, Monkeystone Games, Ritual Entertainment and Terminal Reality. Several other call Austin home. 

Salaries in the industry vary from US$49,000 (RM186,300) for new game designers with a few years' experience to $300,000 (RM1.14mil) for veterans. – AP 

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