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Archive for Sunday, August 6, 2006

University launches computer-gaming major

August 6, 2006

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— 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," said Eric Goldberg, managing director of Crossover Technologies.

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