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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

New technology minor gets students in the game

This fall, students have the chance to bring their passion for  gaming into the classroom with Ithaca College’s new game design and development minor.

The minor is a computer science department initiative to introduce students of other majors with game development techniques being used in fields not traditionally associated with gaming.

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From left, freshmen Alice Steel and Cody Garrett work on their laptops in their Introduction to 2D Game Development class Friday. The class is part of the computer science department’s new game design and development minor. PARKER CHEN/THE ITHACAN

Sharon Stansfield, associate professor in the computer science department, said the minor was originally designed to complement the game design and immersive media major in the Roy H. Park School of Communications.

“The minor got started because Park had initially developed a game major,” she said. “The minor was developed at the same time. It was envisioned that the game major and the minor would be complementary.”

Nancy Cornwell, chair of the television-radio department, said the major was not put through final state certification procedures because the college did not have the faculty members necessary to teach the courses.

Stansfield said the computer science department developed a “two course sequence” tailored to the minor after the major was canceled.

The first course, Introduction to 2D Game Development, focuses primarily on the development and design of 2D games, she said. The second course, Game Development Methods and Technologies, is a hands-on, 200-level course concentrating on materials used to develop games in three dimensions, she said. General computer science courses round out minor requirements.

John Barr, chair and associate professor of the computer science department, said the minor’s creation reflects a prevalent interest among students in gaming and the growing importance of computational skills.

“We feel that one of our missions in computer science is to start to reach out to these other departments,” he said. “[We want] to start to … offer these minors where students in different departments, different majors, different schools even, can learn how to use the computational tools of their discipline in a sophisticated way.”

Stansfield said the education, politics, marketing and health science fields are using gaming. Medical professionals, for example, are also using gaming as a way to treat pain management and therapy, she said.

“It covers the whole gamut of what you would imagine to be media for every discipline,” she said. “If they use media, they’re looking at using games.”

Sophomore Keith Bress, a cinema and photography major, said he plans to register for the minor but views game development as a hobby rather than a possible career path.

“I’ve always been interested in video game development,” Bress said. “It’s a great new medium, and it has a lot of potential as a medium for … storytelling.”

Stansfield said the department has yet to total a concrete number of students interested in declaring the game design and development minor, but many have expressed interest.

Students who are enrolled in some of the minor’s cornerstone classes — Game Development Methods and Technologies and 2D Game Development — are studying a variety of fields in programs across the college.

Stansfield, who worked with Kim Gregson, former assistant professor in the television-radio department, to construct the programs, said the minor would focus on the technical aspects of game design, and the major would incorporate design elements. Cornwell said the program for a major is being reconstructed while the minor kicks off.

“The major in gaming is being redesigned as kind of a digital media program,” she said. “Ideally, we’re hoping it will end up being kind of an interdisciplinary program, but it’s still in the construction stages.”

Barr said the new minor reflects the college’s attempt to become more integrative, though it is not officially a part of IC2, and address recent shifts in the job market.

“We’re looking into the culture and industry,” Barr said. “We’re saying, ‘Well, what are the trends? What are students going to need?’ There’s no sense training people to build steam engines because that’s not [a field where] students are going to get jobs.”