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College Courses Needed for Writing Video Games

by Susie Zappia

The video game industry has evolved almost at the speed of light, maturing from the early days of Pong and Pac Man in the 1970s and 1980s to today's interactivity and 3D graphics. Video games are used in education and business for training: 70 percent of major employers are including video games among interactive software to train employees, according to a study conducted by KRC Research. Over 250 U.S. colleges now offer coursework in video game development. Most programs provide a background in simulation and game development, along with creative writing, modeling, design, and programming.

Core Requirements

Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina became the first U.S. college to implement a state-approved degree program in simulation and game development in 2005. The program provides students a broad background in creative writing, visual arts, programming and design. Students also get hands-on training in 3D modeling, software engineering, database administration and programming. Most video game design programs include math and science courses which are academically demanding, but students must also master English and develop excellent writing skills. Central Piedmont's English course, "Writing for Games," is an example of one which is always filled to capacity, but essential to a budding game designer's or writer's career.

The Austin Community College Example

Austin, Texas is home to Austin Community College, which opened a Game Development Institute in 2008. Associate degree students take math, humanities and performing arts courses and English before taking game design-related courses. The certificate programs offers students one of three tracks: game design, game programming and game art. Game Design track students study writing, game play and design aesthetics. Those on the art track focus on course work which develops strong design and modeling skill sets and a sense of animation aesthetics. The programming track develops the student's technical skills. All students wrap their programs with completion of a portfolio project.

Drexel University

Students enrolled in Drexel University's Game Art and Production program begin with core course work in art history, design history, design for media, drawing and figure drawing. They continue with course work in computer animation, digital design tools, multimedia timeline design, artificial intelligence for gaming and web authoring, for example. The program features course work in educational game design, experimental game design and mobile game design. Prior to graduation, students participate in a three-term capstone project, during which they must achieve innovation. Prior capstone graduates have designed brain interface games, head-tracking multiplayer web-based games, location tracking games and an MMORPG game based on players' creation of characters who mate and produce genetically-driven offspring.

Art Institute of Vancouver

The Art Institute of Vancouver has been named a top ten video game design school by both The Princeton Review and GamePro Magazine for 2011. The Bachelor of Science program in Game Programming introduces coding, production, art course work, game play strategies and programming. A second option is the 90-credit Visual and Art Game Programming diploma, which offers students courses in graphics, physics, C++, Python, JavaScript and Open GL. A diploma program for Game Art Design is also available, and course work focuses on digital storytelling, character and object design, drawing and anatomy and 3D and 2D.

About the Author

Susie Zappia teaches humanities and research and writing courses online for several colleges. Her research interests include counterculture literature of the 1960 and instructional design for online courses and she enjoys writing about literature, art and instructional design. She holds a Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills and a Master of Science in instructional design from Capella University.

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