What do Nintendo, Atari, the medical industry, and the US Army have in common? All make use of electronic game or interactive technology, and all are potential employers of skills that will be developed in a new degree program at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.The career-oriented college is unveiling a rare, new bachelor’s degree in Electronic Game & Interactive Development. It’s the first degree of its kind in New England and starting this fall it will prepare students for careers in the fastest growing segment of the entertainment market.“We’re on the cutting edge of this new academic area,” said program director Ann DeMarle, who also directs Champlain’s popular Multimedia & Graphic Design program. “Champlain offers one of the few bachelor’s degrees in the nation modeled after the team-based game development industry.” DeMarle recently attended the 2004 Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., to continue to network with professionals who have helped to develop the program.Students studying for the new degree will learn to work in development teams composed of artists, animators, game designers, marketers, producers and computer programmers to create a game from start to finish. While they get their hands on state-of-the-art technology resources—including new multimedia, 3D animation and game production labs—they will also study psychology and history and they’ll sharpen their research, writing and storytelling skills to prepare for their careers.“The degree represents the convergence of entertainment, information, technology and art,” DeMarle said. “Our students will be introduced to a wide variety of ways in which games can be designed and applied.”In addition to game design, graduates of the new program will also be positioned for work in film, video, Web and interactive design, or in the fields of communication, educational training development, interactive development and interactive writing. The military has been a leader in adult education and their use of this technology is growing with applications in the defense industry and homeland security. The medical industry is also a heavy user of this technology in simulation training for doctors and other health care providers, as well as in the education of consumers of health care. It is also common to see media design, digital development and simulations in other industries such as architecture, law, research, insurance, and even in museum exhibit design.“In the near future, you should start seeing games that reach out and interact with you instead of being passive and awaiting your input,” said David Cook, design manager at Impression Games in Cambridge, Mass. “Furthermore, the techniques and knowledge that have developed about how games work and how they are made are drawing the attention of other fields.”Students in the Electronic Game & Interactive Development program will choose from two career tracks—Game Design or Art and Animation. Game Design students take a mix of game design courses and introductory computer programming courses, plus courses such as Cognitive Psychology and Survey of Drama to gain an understanding of human interaction with technology and virtual storytelling. Art and Animation students build on a graphic design foundation with courses in interactive design and 3D animation using professional software.The career path for a Game Design student includes game tester, level designer, interface designer, lead game designer and director of game design. The Art and Animation student can find a career as a 2D artist, 3D artist, animator, modeler, texture artist, character animator or skins artist, leading to lead artist or creative director, lead animator or lead concept artist.On Champlain’s campus in Burlington, Vermont, students will study in the backyard of one of the most active regions in the world for game development. Within a two-hour drive, Montreal, Quebec, is home to two of the largest game development firms on earth—Electronic Arts and Ubisoft Entertainment.“I think of game development as being like the extreme sports of software development,” said Clint Hocking, a creative director at Ubisoft Entertainment in Montreal, Quebec. “It’s a real thrill to be involved in trying to solve so many complex technical and creative problems in an aesthetically pleasing way—under tight deadlines.”“As interactive designers, we have the opportunity to create something that has never been created by human beings before,” he said.In the United States, the electronic game industry currently requires 5,000 new hires a year, primarily in the fields of game design, art, computer programming, production and testing. The Northeast states collectively are the second-largest employers in the US game design industry, while California is the top employer.Champlain’s program requires students to work in teams to build Web and console-type games in their junior and senior years. They’ll pitch their game to industry professionals and faculty, and, just as in the business world, those who do not have a winning product will “get hired” by the selected teams to help create a finished product.Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a private, career-oriented institution offering professional certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 29 fields of study. Champlain educates 1,600 full-time students and 900 part-time students. For further information on the College’s academic programs, please visit www.champlain.edu(link is external) or call (800) 570-5858.
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