A new bachelor’s degree at Rogers State University will capitalize on the popularity of computer video games, respond to the rapidly changing job market for information technology professionals and contribute to the Oklahoma economy through an emerging industry – the development of animated video and business simulation games.
The new degree – a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Game Development – will be the first of its kind in Oklahoma. The unique program was approved recently by the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the governing board for RSU, at its meeting in Norman.
“This is truly a cutting-edge program, both nationally and in Oklahoma, that is ideally structured to respond to students’ interests,” said RSU President Dr. Joe Wiley. “The degree also recognizes the shift in demand for computer programmers toward the creation of educational, entertaining and marketable products.”
Development of the new degree also is a response to a re-alignment of jobs in the global marketplace. In the last five years, many information technology (IT) jobs in the U.S. have been eliminated as a result of the outsourcing, or “off-shoring,” of those positions to countries such as India or China. The field of game development can “fill the void” by providing jobs for IT professionals in the U.S., Wiley said.
The game industry does not solely focus on entertainment value or rushing the next fantasy game to the youth market, but is an important purveyor of developing unique new methods of educational delivery, Wiley said. He cited business simulation games as a powerful educational tool that can present students with real-world situations in economics, world affairs and a variety of other disciplines.
The bachelor’s degree in game development is the first degree at RSU to require a certain level of academic standing. All students admitted into the program will be required to have an ACT score of at least 25 and a grade point average of 3.0 or above.
The program will be an interdisciplinary endeavor for students, not just during their first two years of general education, but through junior and senior-level classes in advanced mathematics, physics, software development, graphic arts and creative writing.
“Through surveys of our current students and an examination of students taking the ACT exam across Oklahoma, we discovered that many students are interested in studying math, writing and computer programming, subjects that are applicable to the study of game development,” said Dr. Bruce Garrison, dean of the RSU School of Business and Technology. “Many of these students excel in math, but don’t wish to pursue it as a major. For those students who have a dual interest in math and writing, game development is an opportunity to bridge those seemingly disparate subjects.”
Faculty from disciplines across all three schools at RSU – the School of Business and Technology, the School of Mathematics and Science, and the School of Liberal Arts – came together to develop the curriculum, which is a cross-section of study not typically found in more traditional degree programs but uniquely suited to a degree in game development.
RSU faculty have developed a variety of new courses for the program, including game programming, physics for gaming, and creative writing for game design, and will draw on the university’s existing strengths in the arts and sciences.
“In advanced math courses, students will gain an understanding of algorithms, which they will need in writing the underlying codes that allow the game to operate,” said Dr. Peter Macpherson, RSU professor of applied technology and chairman of the faculty task force that developed the new degree. “In digital 3D foundations courses, they will learn how to create images for animation and in a sequential art course, they will hand-draw storyboards for their games.”
Another unique aspect of the RSU game development degree is that students will not merely create games using existing software, as they are taught to do in game design or game engineering programs, many of which are at the two-year level or offered through art institutes or proprietary schools. Students accepted in the game development program at RSU will write their own programs and develop their own software, Garrison said.
During their senior year, RSU game development students will complete seminar and “capstone” courses in which teams of students will develop original game programs. Those who have developed programs with a certain level of sophistication and market viability may be considered for tenancy in the new Innovation Center, which opened last week on the RSU campus in Claremore. The Innovation Center is a business incubation facility with a focus on high-technology business endeavors, including software development.
“The ultimate culmination of a student project would be the successful marketing of a new game product and the subsequent boost to the Oklahoma economy,” Wiley said. “What we’re doing here is not only addressing the emergence of a new academic field of study – we’re trying to help diversify the Oklahoma economy, steer it in a new direction and contribute to the availability of higher-paying jobs.”
The new degree will be offered beginning this fall, pending approval of the program by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. For more information, students may contact the RSU School of Business and Technology at (918) 343-7663.