Gaming is undoubtedly popular and has grown in recent years to become one of the most profitable industries in the United States, with Marketwatch reporting that it earns more annually than both the Hollywood movie industry and professional sports.
Bobby Schweizer, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the College of Media & Communication's Department of Journalism & Creative Media Industries (JCMI), has a go-to response when asked to describe the intricacies of game development.
He quotes Frank Lantz, director of the NYU Game Center, who once said that “making a game combines everything that's hard about building a bridge with everything that's hard about composing an opera. Games are basically operas made out of bridges.”
When charged to expand and deepen JCMI's gaming curricular and co-curricular footprint three years ago, Schweizer, along with Megan Condis, Ph.D., an assistant professor co-affiliated with JCMI and the Department of Communication Studies, had “operas made out of bridges” in mind.
Seizing the opportunity to add new relevant courses for students, the two professors have created classes in gaming, such as CMI 3373: Introduction to Game Development. The department also offers a Game Design and Culture certificate which started in Fall 2020.
The 15-hour certificate requires five courses:
- CMI 3370: Interactive Media Storytelling
- CMI 3373: Introduction to Game Development
- CMI 3375: Digital Gaming Culture
- CMI 3377: Designing for Play
- MCOM 2320: Writing for Media and Communication
The certificate is designed to teach students how digital and physical interactive media are forms of expression, but also to teach students the historical and theoretical contexts of games in society.
“The goal [of this certificate] is to give students the opportunity to take a cluster of classes related to gaming,” Schweizer says. “The classes are designed to give them a picture of video games as an expressive medium; video games as an interesting, historical media artifact and an industry. Also, video games as something that our students can make.”
Gaming has both journalistic and creative media applications, and it appeals to a vast number of students regardless of their major. As a result, the Game Design and Culture certificate is open to all Texas Tech students.
“I have found that in my game development class, some of the best games produced come from my students who don't really care about games,” Schweizer says. “I don't want a bunch of gamers. I like people who play lots of games, but I want a variety of people to take this.”
In modern times, gaming has become a prominent part of daily life. For example, gamifying health care leads to insurance benefits, and credit card companies incentivize spending more to receive rewards.
“Parents and policymakers, alumni and donors, they want to know why kids are studying games,” Nick Bowman, Ph.D., an associate professor in JCMI, says. “My answer is because they're everywhere.”
Gaming culture is a massive form of entertainment for many people. The average gamer is 30 years old and can be any race, gender or ethnicity, and the ubiquitous videogame has shaped modern media culture, with references to games appearing in other forms of media such as film and television.
“I can't think of anybody who wouldn't benefit from the certificate because it's hard to find spaces in modern media culture that don't involve video games,” Bowman says. “There's so much of modern media culture that is inherently tied to gaming, that if you didn't understand games, there would be a substantial part of U.S. culture you wouldn't get.”
The Game Design and Culture certificate prepares students who want to go into the industry as professionals. It also gives students the opportunity to design game mechanics. It's not only for potential game designers; students who want to advertise or market videogames and those who want to be videogame journalists will also find the certificate valuable.
“The certificate is for people who want a really well-rounded view of what is out there for them in this industry,” Condis says. “They want to make things for their portfolio that they could take to a game industry job or to work in media of any kind. It's for someone who wants to show off their creativity and have some different things in their portfolio.”
The certificate is also perfect for students who want to get more experience in gaming while earning an additional credential. Gaming is for all types of students, and no one is excluded because almost everyone plays games of some form.
“I like that big, broad definition,” Condis says. “Because that means everyone gets to have an opinion and everyone gets to like and share their taste. There's no gatekeeping.”