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DeVry Getting Serious About Videogames

Due to pent-up demand, DeVry University’s West Hills campus is rolling out a new bachelor of science degree program in game and simulation programming at the end of next month, rather than March as it had previously planned. The program, which will also be simultaneously rolled out at DeVry’s Long Beach and Pomona campuses, will train students for careers as video game programmers, software engineers and project coordinators. But DeVry is hoping to turn the program into more than just a video game industry finishing school, as it plans to educate students so that they can qualify for jobs beyond the game industry, where the arts of game and simulation design and programming merge. According to DeVry, some other ideal professions for graduates of the new program would include working in military, tactical and strategic simulations and training; automotive design and testing; training for health care workers; crime scene reconstruction; flight simulation and any other industry that does design and prototyping work. “It’s going to be a valuable career move. The video game industry is recognizing that they need well-educated employees,” Dan Wright, the Dean of Academic Affairs for DeVry in Southern California said. “But our program is going to look beyond the industry as well. We’re going to look at various industries like military, education and health care to flesh out the program. It’s a very broad career education opportunity.” DeVry has already rolled out the program in four locations, where the programs were met with great success. According to Wright, the average class size for the program was 40 students. First in area As far as offering a full fledged bachelor’s degree in game programming, DeVry is believed to be the first in Southern California. However, the University of Southern California offers well-regarded courses in the game programming field. Though Wright said that a full slate of faculty have yet to be lined up, he stated that the new professors hired for the program will have game industry experience and/or a master’s degree. It shouldn’t be difficult for DeVry to find qualified professors as Los Angeles is seen as one of the hotbeds of the video game industry. The Valley in particular is a major epicenter of the industry, with THQ Inc., Walt Disney Online, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and NovaLogic all based locally. Additionally, Santa Monica-based Activision, Inc. owns two development studios in the Valley: Encino-based Infinity Ward and Woodland Hills-based Neversoft Entertainment. John Garcia, the CEO of Westlake Village-based NovaLogic, was pleased to hear the news about DeVry’s new degree offerings and believes that it will be helpful for local video game companies. Different expertise “I think it will be helpful for us. Video game is different enough from the other areas of software to need special training. The data parts are very different from the other software application programs,” Garcia said. “They’re putting it in the right place. You are certainly going to have a critical mass of people required for the program. It makes a lot of sense and it’s good that our industry is coming of age.” While Garcia wasn’t about to make any guarantees about whether or not DeVry’s graduates would find employment upon graduation, he believes that the program will enhance their attractiveness to local video game developers. “The video game industry is in a huge growth mode right now,” Garcia said. “I think they’ll have a better chance of landing a job in the video game industry with a video game degree than going to film school and getting a job in the film industry.” Wright said that DeVry has been in discussions with local developers about what types of things they would like to see in the new program. He declined to state specifically which ones the school had spoken with. Jack Kyser, the chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, was also sanguine about the prospects of DeVry’s new degree. “It’s good that we’re educating people to get involved in this field. Some might think it isn’t the most serious type of thing, but when you step back and think about unmanned aerial vehicles and other applications that use simulations, you’re really talking about the ultimate video game,” Kyser said. “This is a great program. Now along with USC, you have two institutions teaching video game programming. Soon you’ll see another one coming along. It helps to keep L.A. on the cutting edge.”

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