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  • This Semester in Game Academia: Edition 1

    - Beth A. Dillon
  •  Introduction

    The end of Fall semester is met with holidays and an opportunity to reflect on progress made and times ahead. From vocational game education to game studies, Fall 2006 has certainly been eventful, filled with conferences and courses, contests and scholarships, and overall growth of game industry recognition in academia.

    With such a fluster of activity, it's no wonder Gamasutra Podcast ran a two part Game Education Roundtable. The discussion included input about the state of game education from DigiPen's Claude Comair, Parsons School of Design's Katie Salen, Dr. Peter Raad from the Guildhall at SMU, USC's Tracy Fullerton, and more. So what created the stir this semester?


    Video games took strides in the scene of Master's level higher education. Saarland University, located in the southwest of Germany, created a new masters degree in Visual Computing, an interdisciplinary master course that "imparts knowledge about digital images," and is aimed partly at game development. Meanwhile, the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began offering new specialized masters of science degrees, including New York state approved degree programs in game design and development. Looking ahead, Michigan State University launched its Serious Game Design masters degree program (SGD-MA) and Serious Game Design Graduate Certificate, which started accepting applicants for Fall 2007 enrollment. Algoma U, North American host of the Abertay Dundee MSc Computer Games Technology, also began recruitment for Fall 2007.

    To further the rise in university recognition of video games as a viable research focus, new labs and centers were formed. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Singapore Media Development Authority agreed to establish the Singapore-MIT International Game Lab (SMIGL). The SMIGL initiative will allow students and researchers from Singapore to collaborate with MIT researchers and game industry professionals in international research projects related to technology development, as well as the "artistic, creative, business and social aspects of games." Officials from Champlain College unveiled the Emergent Media Center, which aims to leverage off of concepts such as games, social networks, blogs and wikis for broader purposes, primarily collaborative efforts between organizations to develop serious games.

    Vocational schools angled in with online courses. The Gnomon School of Visual Effects launched an online division for courses focused on the development of the skills needed to do digital effects, animation, and game development taught by industry professionals from companies such as EA and Activision. The Game Institute started a new course on video game console design, available entirely online with content related to the fundamentals of game hardware, including game consoles, handhelds, video cards, sound cards, and input devices. PixelBox Academy prepared for the online course 'COLLADA 101', composed of five levels covering all the aspects of the interchangable file format, available next semester.

    From game design to console design.

    On the opposite spectrum, the University of Advancing Technology (UAT), an institution focused on new and emerging technologies and offering a Bachelor's degree with a major in Game Design, broke ground for construction of a new $10.6 million student residence facility. To nurture in-person community, the design of the 56,000 square feet building includes more than 20,000 square feet of open space where students can gather, including a game room, exercise room, theater, lounge, study rooms, laundry facilities and an extended-hours kitchen.

    Vocational education is certainly not reserved to part-time and fulltime students. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's Soho Studio and Pixel Lab created a London, England-based course to give London-based freelancers a chance to learn about the game business in detail.


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