Game On

At Eastern Kentucky University, students don’t just play video games. They develop them.
 EKU is home to the Gaming Institute, which is preparing the next generation of game developers by focusing on the design, development and publication of video games within an academic context.

The Interactive Multimedia option within the baccalaureate degree program in Computer Science develops students’ expertise in game design, 3-D modeling and animation, graphics programming, and multimedia systems. The Commonwealth’s first bachelor’s degree program in Computer Science – EKU also offers a minor in Interactive Multimedia – meshes well with a burgeoning game development industry in Kentucky. Students are already receiving internships and jobs with Kentucky-based independent game developers.

Video game development also melds with the University’s emphasis on STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) disciplines.
“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,” Institute Director Dr. George Landon said.
Last year, EKU joined the higher education Video Games Alliance, through which it collaborates with other game development programs worldwide to develop best practices and gain feedback for continual improvement of its own program.

The 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.”

The Richmond campus is the frequent site of Game Jams, where student developers come together over a weekend to develop games. Earlier this year, three EKU students took their skills far off campus when they participated in a cross-country “Train Jam,” a 52-hour Amtrak journey from Chicago to San Francisco, during which they worked with 27 other students from around the world as well as professional game developers.
The three Train Jam participants are all from central Kentucky, but their involvement in the Train Jam and subsequent Game Developers Conference in San Francisco serves to raise the EKU program’s national profile. 

“It shows that students in our program can participate on the global stage,” Landon said. “It also helps put EKU on employers’ radars that are looking for new graduates who will produce innovative games. Prospective students can be assured that we are committed to giving our students every opportunity to succeed and will support them in life-changing opportunities like this.”

To learn more about Train Jam, see www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzumjft4OVg.
For more information about EKU’s Gaming Institute, visit gaming.eku.edu.