Monday, August 14, 2006
San Jose Mercury News (MCT)
SAN JOSE, Calif. — New at the University of California-Santa Cruz: Not only can students spend gobs of time on computer games, they can major in them, too.
The school _ known for its laid-back, frisbee-playing ambience _ is quite serious about its new major in computer game design, the first in the University of California system.
Administrators said in July that the interdisciplinary program, coordinated by the Computer Science department, will prepare students for high-tech jobs by exposing them to both the technical and the artistic virtues of game design.
As might be expected, students like the new program.
"The major is a great idea, and it's probably going to get tons and tons of new students to come to Santa Cruz," said sophomore Chris Carlsson, who is majoring in economics but is extremely well acquainted with computer games.
The capstone of the major will be a yearlong project for seniors. Student teams will develop a video game from start to finish.
Pohl said the new program will capitalize on the school's proximity to Silicon Valley and the opportunities available in the multi-billion video game industry.
"The Santa Cruz culture all along has been a culture of experimentation and interdisciplinary work," said Ira Pohl, chair of the Computer Science department.
Without knowing all of the details, computer game industry analysts said it is tough to assess the program's quality or judge how desirable its graduates might be for employers.
Students who think they want to "study" video games should think carefully before they pursue that path, an industry veteran advised.
People think playing games is easy so designing them must be fun. But, like anything else, it's hard work. And it requires a lot of effort," said Eric Goldberg, a 28-year veteran of the computer game industry and managing director of Crossover Technologies. Still, he said, "I'd love to see people get the formal training that was not available to me."
Several schools have launched game design departments during the past decade, including the University of Southern California, Southern Methodist University and Carnegie Mellon.
Santa Cruz professors spoke with game designers at Electronic Arts and Microsoft to get a feel for their needs.
The new major will require students to understand how to program games, not just how to make the graphics. "They won't be an art student retrained to do a little programming," Pohl said.
(c) 2006, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
Visit MercuryNews.com, the World Wide Web site of the Mercury News, at http://www.mercurynews.com.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.