Bradley University wants to get into the game - the computer game. The computer game industry, so conspicuous during the holiday season with its countless TV commercials promoting new releases, is already a $9 billion business, said BU computer science professor Vladimir Uskov. To help meet the need for trained specialists, Bradley is among a number of schools gearing up programs on computer game technology.
Bradley University wants to get into the game - the computer game.
The computer game industry, so conspicuous during the holiday season with its countless TV commercials promoting new releases, is already a $9 billion business, said BU computer science professor Vladimir Uskov.
It's a business that needs trained specialists, he said. "Industry demands call for 50 to 70 percent more game designers, programmers and artists in the next year," said Uskov.
To help meet that need, Bradley is among a number of schools gearing up programs on computer game technology, said Uskov.
BU's computer science department is a partner with the interactive media program in the communication school on a range of offerings that, pending faculty approval, could mean that Bradley students would soon be able to opt for a minor in computer game technology.
"We expect the (computer game) program will grow," said Monica McGill, a professor in the interactive program. "We used to look at Web sites simply for information. Now there's interaction," she said.
That online interaction involves more than game playing but includes a mounting number of teaching and business applications, said McGill.
Uskov's son, Alex, a 25-year-old visiting assistant professor, was interacting with Bradley students this fall as the instructor of one of the new computer game classes offered at the school. The younger Uskov comes well prepared for the new challenge, acknowledging having played computer games "all my life."
Senior students Kris Melica, of Chicago, Mark Overholt, of Eureka, and Malcolm Hemmings, of Spanaway, Wash., were among a dozen students who took the course, requiring students to make modifications to an existing game, calling it a good learning experience.
"They enjoyed the class. It's more hands-on than most," said Alex Uskov.
Bradley looks to be hands-on when it comes to establishing curriculum that focuses on computer game technology and development. "We investigated what other universities were doing across the country and found that eight academic programs for computer game design were established in the past year," said Vladimir Uskov, noting that Bradley's gotten out in front of this new wave.
"We are among 20 to 30 universities in the country offering courses in these emerging technology areas," he said.
Uskov, who admits to not being a computer game player, himself, looks at the advances as just being practical. "We use (computer game classes) to increase enrollment in the department and to address the needs of the students," he said, pointing to computer gaming as one of the fastest growing industries in the country.
When prospective students visit the campus with their parents, the subject of classes involving computer gaming comes up, said Uskov, crediting the BU administration for the encouragement and support of new ideas.
"Bradley President Joanne Glasser has said the school should continue to develop new academic programs to meet the needs of future students," he said.
While computer games are big business, there's more than just entertainment involved, said McGill. "The industrial side is totally untapped. There are many uses (for computer game technology) - as a training tool for business. The military is huge on it," she said.
While the potential is great, so are the challenges, said McGill. "You don't get comfortable very long. Technology is constantly changing," she said.
"Sometimes we're learning with the students," said McGill of rapid-fire developments in the field. As an example, she cited how the popularity of the iPhone has opened up new opportunities for game development.
"You can put a game together in a few months for the iPhone and it's published. Now games are going out at the micro-level," said McGill.
Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.