Correction to This Article
The .game column in the Sept. 29 Business section incorrectly said that the University of Baltimore is in the process of developing a degree program in video game creation. The university's program in video game design is in its second year.

Like Video Games? Now You Can Major in Them

Game art and video game design students at the Art Institute of California take part in a
Game art and video game design students at the Art Institute of California take part in a "game tourney." (Art Institute Of California)

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By Mike Musgrove
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Video game school.

Sounds like a joke, right? Sort of like "School of Rock"?

But check out the back pages of a gamer magazine, any gamer magazine, and you'll find -- among the ads from Electronics Boutique and the mini-reviews of the latest PlayStation Portable games -- opportunities to pursue a college degree in video games.

"Be lame or get game," boasts one advertisement that promises to train students in the arts of animation and visual effects. "Without guys like me, you'd still be playing Pong," is the quote from an alum of another college, an industry veteran who graduated all of one year ago.

Suddenly, the idea of a degree in video games is one that might even persuade the parents who grumble about the high cost of video games to write a tuition check.

These days, there are companies that pay big bucks to computer science geniuses who can develop the next big thing -- a Grand Theft Auto sort of game that will generate a big following and big sales.

Carnegie Mellon University and the Georgia Institute of Technology, for example, now offer master's degrees in game development. The University of Southern California offers a graduate degree in interactive media and an undergraduate program in game design. Locally, the University of Baltimore is putting together an undergraduate degree in video game development.

The Entertainment Software Association, an industry trade group, puts the number of colleges and schools offering some sort of gaming-related coursework at over 50.

"Just like students went to school in the '60s and '70s wanting to study the works of Hitchcock, students now want to go to school to study the work of [Sims designer] Will Wright," said Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the ESA.

Maybe the thought of creating the next Sims or Halo or Grand Theft Auto is what lured a guy named Ahmed, a twentysomething University of Maryland grad, to come back to his alma mater yesterday, taking a day off from his current job to approach possible video game employers at an on-campus job fair.

He waited anxiously around the Microsoft booth, where recruiters were talking to students about jobs throughout the company, including its Xbox division.

"You guys can have anybody you want," Ahmed told the Microsoft recruiter, a guy who just wrapped up work on the software guts for the forthcoming Xbox 360 game console.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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