The University of California, Santa Cruz, has approved a new major in computer game design, the first of its kind in the UC system. The new major, leading to a B.S. degree, provides students with a rigorous background in the technical, artistic, and narrative elements of creating interactive computer games.
"We are pleased to be able to offer this new degree program, which provides a unique combination of technical and artistic training," said Ira Pohl, professor and chair of computer science in UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering.
The Department of Computer Science will administer the new interdisciplinary program, which will also involve faculty in the Department of Film and Digital Media in UCSC's Arts Division. Students can enroll in the new major beginning this fall.
"Millions now play massively multiplayer online games, which constitute a new cultural force—a new medium. Digital media courses will provide students with the tools they need to understand this cultural transformation in conjunction with its technological and artistic possibilities," said Warren Sack, assistant professor of film and digital media.
A highlight of the major is a yearlong game design project in which students work in teams to develop and polish a video game. The campus is creating a new instructional laboratory for computer game design to support these projects.
To help launch the program, UCSC has recently hired Michael Mateas, a researcher in the area of artificial intelligence for computer games and codeveloper of Façade, an interactive drama.
The new major has a core of computer science courses and provides a rigorous education in the technical aspects of creating computer games. Additional courses in digital media permit students to focus on games from an artistic perspective. Electives permit students to explore relevant courses in art, theater, film, music, and economics. Pathways in the major permit students to transfer into it from community colleges.
The program prepares students to take jobs in the computer games industry or to pursue graduate study in computer science, Pohl said.