video game, characters speaking to leaders

New Classes Promote Interdisciplinary Game Studies

A screen shot of World of Warcraft game with characters that were created by 3rd Faction. The characters are standing on stairs looking up and trying to convince the leader to change his views.

Project Demand Player Sovereignty of Third Faction is an example of how games studies can be interdisciplinary. The project involving SJSU students, faculty, and international artists takes a look at promoting real-world social change in the virtual World of Warcraft. The project was presented at The Inter-Society for the Electronic Arts in Istanbul, Turkey, in early September.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

New classes are being added to the Department of Computer Science as a way to fulfill growing demand for a games studies culture and to help SJSU students develop soft skills to accompany their programming and computer expertise.

“We found that students were consistently able to solve problems, communicate and form teams while they were playing games,” said Department of Computer Science Chair Jon Pearce. “The idea is to tap into that creativity and bring it into the classroom.”

The classes are a first offering into a “prototype game courses curriculum,” according to Pearce, which could possibly lead into a new games studies major for the university.

The two classes, Introduction to Game Studies and Introduction to Game Design, give students insight into the gaming industry and an opportunity to learn about, design and play games. James Morgan, instructor for Introduction to Game Studies, said his class is preparing students for careers not yet known in games-related art, modeling, animation/illustration, and game design.

“A lot of the contemporary technology is facilitating the independent gaming industry and creating its own market and own space,” Morgan said. “One of the things we want to do is have students be able to show us what these fields are going to be.”

Games Studies Center

A Games Studies Center is in the works, according to Pearce, and is expected to start research activities in spring 2012. The center is expected to promote research and the development of games for that research. These “serious games,” according to Pearce, are designed to model complex systems that are otherwise difficult to model mathematically, such as folding proteins or measuring soft skills. Pearce says the center will be the start of several initiatives that will increase interdisciplinary studies on campus.

“Games studies is the thing we all have in common,” Pearce said. “The gaming approach can be used for simulation games or modeling a virtual world; it’s truly interdisciplinary on a vast scale.”

Game Development Club

Other support for games studies on campus comes from the Game Development Club. The purpose of the club is to gather, network and play games, according to senior animation/illustration major and club Co-President Cindy Chang. The club hosts game nights, 3D game development challenges, and is currently working on building an arcade cabinet to use for club events.

“It can be a place to satisfy a curiosity or a place to gather network and play games,” Chang said.