Princeton Review Recognizes Game Design Program

April 24, 2012

Bradley University is among an increasing number of colleges and universities taking games seriously - and we're not talking about athletics.

With as many as 150 institutions now offering coursework and degrees in video game design and development, Bradley recently received mention on the Princeton Review's annual listing of schools offering video game programs.

The video game industry has long since taken its place at the nation's table when it comes to amusements that people spend time - and money - on. Despite a recent downturn, video game revenue is expected to total $34 billion in 2012, according to IBISWorld, a Los Angeles-based market research firm.

That's down from $41 billion in 2008, but IBISWorld looks for future growth.

Looking to prepare game designers at Bradley are Steve Dolins, chairman of the school's computer science department, and Monica McGill, an assistant professor in game design with Bradley's Interactive Media division.

"The (Bradley) program only started in 2010, so to be nationally recognized means we're going in the right direction," said McGill.

Dolins noted that the BU effort brings two different disciplines together. He credited McGill, along with Vladimir and Alex Uskov, in his department.

"They really promoted this and got students engaged," he said.  At Bradley, the game is taken seriously. "Students still need to learn the basics of computer science," said Dolins.

Thirty-five students take part in the program, said McGill. "We want to keep offering more classes. It's a very competitive field," she said.

While dominated by market giants such as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, the video game field has seen successful challenges such as from Activision Blizzard. The fourth-largest video game company has established World of Warcraft, Diablo and StarCraft game franchises, noted IBISWorld.

Numerous elements have to come together for a successful game, said McGill. "There are a lot of things I'm looking for from my students," she said, citing artwork, music, overall design and business structure as some of the components of a successful game.

Bradley students are currently building a game called Digem that involves functions at an earthmoving company. The game's name stands for "Designing with Information Gathering for Engineering Mechanics" and is described as "a serious game under development."

McGill said students will continue development of the game next fall, taking it to the next level with the goal being to eventually produce a marketable game.

There is no shortage of ideas when it comes to video games these days, McGill said. "'Gamification' is a word you hear all the time now. Suggest a topic and somebody's ready to turn it into a game.  "The gamification process has other applications, McGill said. 'The military has used (video) games for training for 25 to 30 years. Now the health industry and physical therapy fields are getting involved."

There's also the growing influence of social media. "Face it, the old ways of marketing are dead and that means you need to be executing expansive online marketing campaigns. With over 1 billion active users on Facebook and Twitter alone, it's obvious that social media is the new crux of your video game marketing campaigns," noted John Newell, creative coordinator for Supercool Creative, a Los Angeles-based ad agency.

While some of the marketing approaches may be new, the concept of video games and onscreen simulators has been around, said Dolins. "I worked at Texas Instruments from 1982 to 1989 and they had flight plans for F-16s that people could experience," he said.

A number of Bradley students have already connected with jobs in the video game field, said McGill. "We have BU students at Sony, Microsoft and at F84 Games," she said.

Next month, Bradley will graduate its first three students from the program involving the collaboration between computer science and interactive media.

Story by Steve Tarter who can be reached at 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.

Printed with permission by the Journal Star