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Monday, May 27
The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

Video game program gives students hands-on skills

Large video game posters decorate every wall of telecommunications professor Edward Castronova’s office. He’s an instructor in IU’s video game design program, and it’s not hard to guess what he loves.

“I love being around video games,” Castronova said. “I’m a better professor for being a professor at what I love.”

Once only a graduate program, game design is now a track within the Department of Telecommunications in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The coursework has evolved to provide students with hands-on experience in marketable skills, such as 3D modeling.

“When I came through telecommunications, the game focus was for graduate students,” said Will Emigh, a faculty member who teaches design courses. “The tools and the scholarship have allowed it to progress to undergraduate level. Now we’ve got educational licenses for 3D work.”

Coursework isn’t the only way for students to get real-life experience within the program.

Hoosier Games, an independently run student group, gives students the opportunity to generate video game ideas and then work together to design them from the ground up.
With no pay incentive and no transferable academic credit, Hoosier Games relies on voluntary commitment of its members to make things happen.

Castronova said the work students do in Hoosier Games is integral to their success.
“It’s a really hard industry to get into,” Castronova said. “All they care about is what you’ve done. We try to emphasize that if you focus on a game, and then don’t finish it, you’ve wasted your life.”

Castronova, who has been with the program since 2010, is also passionate about the experience available to students through the program and Hoosier Games.

“These kids are interested in video game design, and these skills that they learn will keep them employed,” Castronova said. “Anybody anywhere can be a game designer. If that kid is a Hoosier, I’d like to give him his chance.”

Emigh noted the rising sophistication and technical knowledge of the groups coming into Hoosier Games.

Often, students are working on more than one game per semester.

Christopher Ingerson, a senior majoring in Japanese and telecommunications, is currently working on four games.

“I probably spend five hours per project every other day,” Ingerson said. “On weekends, that number bumps up a little.”

Ingerson has been with Hoosier Games for three years and said he’s glad he came to school where students are able to learn for themselves.

“It’s much better for us to learn by ourselves,” Ingerson said. “This semester, we’ve had the best pitches. I don’t think any of that would have happened had we not failed so many times before.”

Lauren Morten, a senior in the track, said Hoosier Games has been one of the most satisfying aspects of the program.

“Portfolio building has been rewarding,” Morten said. “The mock-professional environment was important.”

In 2012, Hoosier Games released two games for the Xbox 360.

Some of the attention Hoosier Games is getting is local.

Both Morten and Ingerson have completed internships at Wisdom Tools, a Bloomington company that designs educational games.

But the program is also getting a reputation outside of Bloomington.

“People in Indianapolis know about us and have invited our group to the International Game Developers Association chapter there,” Ingerson said.

Emigh and Castronova said they are optimistic about the future of game design in the Midwest and the opportunities that will create for students.

“Indiana is not known as a center of digital media,” Castronova said. “I think that’s going to change.”

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