Let the games begin

 Illustration for Computer Game and Animation DesignSouthern Arkansas University is ready to register creative and passionate students for the fall 2013 semester into a new, unique and high-demand program for computer game and animation design.

SAU recently became the first and only university in Arkansas and the region to offer a complete program dedicated to providing instruction from the technical as well as the artistic points of view. SAU is gearing up to produce graduates who will be ready to fill the ever-growing demands for mobile apps, 3-D designs and life-like animations. The University anticipates interest from students from across the U.S. who are interested in this growing field as SAU’s program is dramatically more affordable than other programs across the states.

SAU has started promoting the new program through its normal marketing initiatives, but SAU representatives have also hit the roads, visiting 12 cities and 38 Game Stops, Game Xchanges and other game stores in Arkansas, Texas and Louisiana. Each stop seems to draw more interest and attention.

“We already have freshman students planning to attend SAU and others planning to transfer here this fall to take advantage of this innovative new program. This new major and option at Southern Arkansas will be unlike any other in the state,” said Dr. Trey Berry, SAU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “The market for game and animation designers and game programmers is one of the fastest growing in the United States.”

Gaming is part of a larger field of software development, a field that is not only growing and rewarding, but also pays well. According to the 2012-13 Occupational Outlook Handbook provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary in the U.S. for software developers is $90,530, with a 30% faster than average job outlook for the years 2010-2020. The media salaries for visual artists start at $61,000, as listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics under Multimedia Artists and Art Directors and Multimedia Artists and Animators.

‘“Students’ interest and job market opportunities in computer gaming have both been rapidly rising,” said Dr. Khalil Dajani, chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at SAU. “This new gaming option has the potential to attract many new and talented students to our University.”’

The technical side of SAU’s game design program will offer students experience in the highly competitive introductory and advanced topics of game development, such as 3-D rendering, graphics algorithms, game scripting, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction and interface design, according to Dajani.

What the art side of the program intends to do is to prepare students in the visual aspect, or in the terms of the trade — the “user side experience,” according to Dan May, former chair of the SAU Art Department.

Students will be educated to create apps for mobile devices, games for the gaming industry, and animation in traditional and 3-D aspects of the entertainment industry. May anticipates more exciting possibilities involving future applications for visual interactions in fields outside of the expected areas that may intrigue potential students.

The same applications which students use to make 3-D simulated environments for games and animation are evolving beyond the entertainment field. Simulations are a less expensive alternative for training in virtual realities for transportation, medical and military fields where human beings risk being injured, according to May.

But the possibilities do not end there. A student will be able to learn to use technological software in this program to not only create a 3-D model, but also print their creations in 3-D.

“Experts are already printing synthetic materials weaved with stem cells to replace heart valves, creating cochlear implants and universal joints, prototyping toys, and the possibilities are endless,” said May. “This process could one day replace the way manufacturing is done. It is a career that art students will get first-hand knowledge and experience with technologicaly advanced processes.”

One 3-D printer is already in place and being used by students at SAU, and more are being shipped to campus soon in preparation for the fall semester.

If you would like to find out more about Southern Arkansas University and the computer game and animation design programs, more information is available online.