Irvine, Calif. The University of California, Irvine has long sought to be known for pre-eminence in engineering, medicine and business. But now the university is embracing a new discipline: video games.
Once ridiculed within university halls as a nerdy pastime, computer games are being promoted to a full-fledged academic program at the Irvine campus, a medium as ripe for study as the formats before it: film, radio and television.
This fall UC Irvine established the Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds, and construction is under way on a 4,000-square-foot, 20-room “Cyber-Interaction Observatory” for faculty research. Plans call for floor-to-ceiling projection screens, 3-D stereoscopic displays and gesture-based interfaces.
If all goes according to plan, next fall UC Irvine will debut a four-year undergraduate program allowing students to declare “game science” as their major.
“There are people who will say we’re pandering to a trend,” said Dan Frost, an informatics lecturer who teaches a popular computer game development course. “But this really is intellectually justified. Universities are always doing things that seem crazy at first.”
It’s a fitting development for a campus where some students are so gaga for gaming that they spend sleepless nights writing code for their homespun games and like to unwind with pizza-fueled Street Fighter tournaments and Rock Band contests.
The Irvine campus is one of a number of schools expanding offerings aimed at a generation that grew up well after the advent of Pac-Man and Pong.