Study Now To Design Video Games

Posted online: Saturday, September 24, 2005 at 0131 hours IST

Seth Arnold recalls playing ‘‘Super Mario Bros’’ and ‘‘Duck Hunt’’ for hours on end after getting his first Nintendo video-game system when he was 8 years old.
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Game Development SchoolsA comprehensive directory of game programming schools.www.ComputerTrainingSchools.comNow 20 and a college student, Arnold still spends hours hunched over a video-game console - not only entertaining himself, but training for his career.
Next year Arnold will drop his courses in business information systems at DeVry University and enroll in a degree program increasingly appearing in university catalogs: video-game design.
‘‘It’s the sum of everything I want to do,’’ said Arnold, who dreams of one day creating the next X-Bbox - one of the most popular game systems. ‘‘It combines my passion, my hobby, with what I want to do in the professional field.’’
With video-game sales generating at least $31 billion a year globally, universities and colleges are starting to offer bachelor’s and even master’s degrees in programs to train the game designers of the future.
From DeVry to the University of Southern California, officials say it only makes sense to offer the high-tech degrees, which can be applied to the booming entertainment-software industry and also to other fields.
‘‘It’s a timely degree at this point,’’ said Dan Wright, the DeVry dean of academic affairs for Southern California, who notes that starting salaries may range from $35,000 to $70,000 for game designers.
In March, DeVry will launch a bachelor of science degree in game and simulation programming at its campuses in West Hills, Long Beach and Pomona, with an online version set to debut this fall.
The DeVry program, which students can complete in just under three years, covers the math and physics of games, along with programming fundamentals, game design, modifications and what Wright calls ‘‘massively multiplayer online game programming,’’ as well as two-and-three-dimensional graphics programming.
‘‘It’s not just the blood and guts’’ of games like ‘‘Halo’’ or ‘‘Doom,’’ Wright said. ‘‘There are medical-simulation applications, military applications - the whole aspect of how one goes about modeling real things in life and putting it on a computer.’’ USC has offered game-design classes since the early 1990s, and demand is booming, with more than 700 students enrolled in the program in the last two years.
‘‘I work closely with industry recruiters, and every recruiter has a lot of job openings in various areas: engineers, game designers, business opportunities,’’ said Anthony Borquez, who teaches in USC’s School of Engineering and formerly headed its Information Technology Program.
‘It’s not like the old days when it was just a programmer and an artist.’’
USC has three minors - game design, game programming and game art and animation. It also offers a master’s degree in interactive media through the School of Cinema and Television, and it is launching a bachelor’s degree in interactive entertainment.
The School of Engineering, which plans to launch a master’s degree in game development next spring, is also working on a bachelor’s degree in game development.
Degree programs are a natural evolution for an industry that has grown increasingly complex, said Carrie Oliff, director of human resources for Insomniac Games, a Burbank company that produces the ‘‘Ratchet and Clank’’ and ‘‘Spyro the Dragon’’ games for PlayStation and PlayStation 2 systems.
‘‘We just hired a PhD from Stanford as a special-effects programmer. Not every position is a PhD, but we definitely seek out top-quality talent. The level of engineering, mathematics and physics is quite high,’’ Oliff said.
But the company still looks for employees who have a solid foundation in computer science, physics or mathematics, said Al Hastings, chief technology officer.
‘‘Things change so quickly that people have to learn most of what they do on the job,’’ Hastings said. —NYT

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