Membership in Higher Education Video Games Alliance Boosts Academic Program

To further assist those students more interested in creating video games than simply playing them, Eastern Kentucky University has joined the Higher Education Video Games Alliance.

The University’s membership in the Alliance, launched this summer at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, “shows that EKU is committed to video game development education and providing our students with world-class training,” said Dr. George Landon, associate professor in EKU’s Department of Computer Science, which offers a bachelor’s degree concentration in interactive multimedia. “As video game development continues to formalize as an academic discipline, top schools offering game development degrees are seeking to improve student expectations and standardize academic offerings. As an institutional member of the Alliance, Eastern will collaborate with other game development programs across the globe to develop best practices and provide feedback for continual improvement of our own program.”

 EKU houses the Commonwealth’s first academic program dedicated to video game development, according to Landon. The concentration includes courses in game design, 3D modeling, game engine design and mobile application development, as well as a capstone course where teams of students step through the entire game development process to develop their own products. Students already are receiving internships with Kentucky-based independent game developers.

The program also supports game development efforts outside the classroom by hosting multiple “game jams” at which students work on teams to develop playable games within 48 hours. In addition, a free-to-the-public Game Fest each spring provides members of the community an opportunity to play the student-developed games.

This fall, the University “will further advance its game development offerings” when the EKU Gaming Institute opens, Landon said. The interdisciplinary institute will focus on the research, development and publication of cutting-edge games using an in-house game development studio, giving students the opportunity to intern in the studio as games are developed and released in regular production cycle.

Video game development meshes well with the University’s emphasis on STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) disciplines, Landon said. “As an academic discipline, it requires students to develop proficiency across multiple STEM disciplines while learning how to handle the rapidly changing technology in the video game marketplace. These skills better prepare graduates as they enter the ever-changing technology workplace.”

The Higher Education Video Game Alliance provides a platform for leading academics to showcase the role video game programs are playing in educating and preparing students for the 21st century workforce. It affords its members, including professors and other campus leadership, an opportunity to share and highlight best practices, publish research, initiate and strengthen industry connections, and educate and engage policymakers and the media.

“Game development programs are growing the next generation of America’s STEM leaders, providing excellent career training, serving as incubators for game design and technology innovation, and advancing state-of-the-art game research,” said Mark DeLoura, senior adviser for digital media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “Efforts to increase the connections between educators and professional game developers will help to further strengthen American competitiveness by enhancing the power of these programs.”

For more information about the Alliance, visit www.higheredgames.org.

For more information about programs offered by EKU’s Department of Computer Science, visit www.computerscience.eku.edu.

Published on July 28, 2014