New Degree in Computer Game Design Helps Meet Growing Industry Demands

Posted: November 21, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

It may be difficult to believe, but playing video games could be the first step to a career.

There are video games for every taste — sports, action, adventure, strategy, simulation and education. While a love of games is an advantage in the industry, game development jobs also require advanced skills. Only highly qualified sound designers, programmers and game testers can secure such jobs.

Recognizing that the demand for video games is rising and the industry is quickly growing, Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) and the Volgenau School of Information Technology and Engineering will be offering a new bachelor of fine arts degree in computer game design.

The only such four-year degree program offered in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area, the program will be open for enrollment in fall 2009, pending State Council of Higher Education for Virginia approval.

The idea to create a BFA in Computer Game Design originated several years ago when Bill Reeder, dean of CVPA, and Lloyd Griffiths, dean of the Volgenau School, met to discuss the emerging field of game design. Realizing that the program needed both computer science and art components, the two decided to collaborate.

“When discussions first began about a degree program in computer game design, the field was very new,” says Scott Martin, assistant dean and associate professor of arts management.

“As time went on, the demand for game designers began to grow, and we recognized the need for the degree and the opportunities for employment it would give students after they graduate.”

It is anticipated that up to 30 full-time and five part-time students will be admitted to the program. By 2013, growth is expected to bring enrollment to 110 full-time and 13 part-time students.

Students enrolled in the program should have both computer science and artistic strengths and will be required to take courses in both areas.

The curriculum is drawn from computer science, visual arts, digital arts and a new gaming design area of study. The degree will prepare students for employment in the computer gaming design and development field, both in the commercial and government sectors.

Critical games studies, games and society, game theory, game design, game programming, visual design, audio design, interactive storytelling and game production are some of the courses to be offered.

A senior capstone class will also be offered. In this course, students will work in teams to develop games for non-entertainment purposes such as business management, military operations or medical training and treatment.

Students enrolled in the program will also be required to complete an internship. According to Martin, the game design marketplace in the Washington, D.C., region offers multiple venues for internships and will enable students to develop skills that will enhance their employability upon graduation.

The faculty for the program will come from several departments at Mason, including the Department of Art and Visual Technology and the Department of Theater in CVPA; the Department of Computer Science in the Volgenau School; and the Program of Instructional Technology in the College of Education and Human Development.

The faculty will possess a strong background in areas such as critical game studies, games and society and interactive story telling.

For more information about the program, contact Martin at smartin4@gmu.edu or 703-993-4574.

Note: this degree was approved on March 10, 2009.

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