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HBCU's need to offer Game Development courses

Decreasing enrollment, decreasing budgets, HBCU's can become pro-active increasing their enrollment by offering game design courses. Just a thought...

Kirk Williams, Blogger

April 2, 2010

18 Min Read

I’m a graduate of Jackson State University.  Graduated with honors and earned a degree in Computer Science and everything.  A great, world-class education and experience that has benefited me in more ways than I can count.  Jackson State is a Historically Black College and is known as a HBCU for short.  Now this article isn’t about the history of HBCU’s, your thoughts about them or their place in the 21st century – It’s about job placement and training for a majority of students.  I’m talking about Game Design classes.

Ok, here are a few things that aren’t known about a HBCU:

1.       The tuition is VERY affordable, and please believe that education is similar.  Whether its programming or math – 1+1=2 no matter where you go to school.

2.       Many HBCU’s have a very diverse staff and student body.  Lincoln University’s (Jefferson City, MO) student body is 70% non-African-American.

3.       One of the core beliefs of HBCU’s are that education is for everyone, that is why they have always worked to have students who would not probably be accepted in other universities be able to take the classes necessary to be successful in college.

4.       They are having a problem with enrollment, which means a problem with money – like many other colleges in this country right now.

Now, let’s switch gears for a moment.  Several years ago there were a few women in the gaming industry who looked around and saw A LOT of men.  So they got together, organized and made a noise.  Now there is a woman in gaming revolution in the industry.  This same sense of purpose has to come to the African-Americans and Hispanics in the industry.  It’s 2010 and there is only one African-American owned developer with a game on the Xbox360.  Yet, when to into any video game retailer, you can see people or all cultures buying games.

This is an opportunity of HBCU’s to be relevant again – especially in the 21st century.  Look, I’m not sure when President Roosevelt’s “New Deal” is going to kick in (got that one from The Simpsons), but unemployment is still in double digits and I don’t see any “Green” jobs in my local papers.  The great thing about this industry is how it is expanding.  With social media gaming and Iphone/Ipad apps – the gaming world is experiencing a new gold rush.  HBCU’s can step in and offer these classes that can make the African-American community turn the corner and no longer be a culture of consumers, but a culture of creators in the gaming community.

I received my Game Design and Development degree from Full Sail University in 2003 – so I can only imagine what the tuition is now there and at other schools that offer game development degrees.  HBCU’s have the opportunity to increase enrollment by offering either degree programs or certificates - something as simple as a three month course on scripting in the Unreal engine to testing classes.  The most difficult part is recruiting game design teachers and compensating them to move to a town where an HBCU is located.  But, isn’t it worth it.  Job training in a growing industry, offering skills that will allow workers to start their own business and having high school kids who aren’t interested in college, excited about going to college to learn the only thing they are interested in.  HBCU’s wake up, look around at what your children and grand-children are doing and become relevant again in the academic community.

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