Video games have long been a favorite pastime of college students worldwide.
At Eastern Kentucky University, home to an internationally prominent undergraduate program in game design, students are preparing to develop games for the next generation of players.
For the third consecutive year, EKU’s game design program ranks among the top 50 undergraduate programs worldwide in the field, according to The Princeton Review. The Review ranks EKU’s program, the first of its kind in Kentucky, 47th this year, the same as a year ago.
“This is a very dynamic list, and each of these programs is constantly innovating in areas of game design education,” said Dr. George Landon, director of the EKU Gaming Institute (gaming.eku.edu). “Maintaining a spot on this list demonstrates that we are consistently providing our students a world-class education in game development.”
The Review (www.PrincetonReview.com) determined its rankings based on a survey it conducted in 2017 of 150 institutions offering game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States, Canada and some other countries. The 40-question survey gathered data on everything from the schools' game design academic offerings and lab facilities to their graduates’ starting salaries and career achievements. More than 40 data points in four areas (academics, faculty, technology, and career) were analyzed to arrive at the rankings.
“Game design is an exciting field, and for students aspiring to work in this field, the schools on our list offer extraordinary opportunities to launch a career in this industry,” said Robert Franek, editor in chief for the Princeton Review. “We want to help students find the best program for their needs and interests. The top schools on our list have outstanding faculties and great facilities, which will give students the skills and experience they need to pursue a career in this dynamic and burgeoning field.”
In Fall 2017, the EKU program established a game industry advisory board consisting of representatives from companies within Kentucky and surrounding states. The companies include Frogdice, Gun Media, Inquiry Technologies, Lightchange Studios, Mommy’s Best Games, Rather Dashing Games, Super Soul and True Industries. “These advisory board members provide feedback for all aspects of our program, from course material coverage to career preparation,” Landon said.
Also this past fall, Eastern launched the first academic minor in the Commonwealth to train students on the techniques and practice of developing assets for video games, Landon noted. The new minor in game content design prepares students to develop 2D and 3D art, sound and music, stories and dialogue, and other non-programming skills needed to develop games.
In 2015, Eastern added a cutting-edge motion capture studio to its facilities in the Wallace Building. With the addition of the studio, the University is able to employ the same technology that Hollywood and game studios use to capture actor performance in movies and games.
Landon said the game industry continues to experience significant job growth, including Kentucky. “EKU has been fortunate to be at the center of this. In January, I was invited to testify about this growth before the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor in Frankfort. I have also been able to watch as our graduates are finding more game development jobs within our own state instead of having to move to the west or east coast.”
The Interactive Multimedia option within the baccalaureate degree in computer science at EKU develops students’ expertise in game design, 3-D modeling and animation, graphics programming, and multimedia systems. The Gaming Institute focuses on the design, development and publication of video games within an academic context.
Graduates of the program receive a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in interactive media. “The requirements for this degree help make them very well rounded in technical areas,” Landon said. “At this point, most of our graduates obtain jobs as software engineers and programmers. Moreover, with our new minor options in game asset creation, students graduating from EKU are competitive in all aspects of game development.”
The Princeton Review has reported its game design program rankings annually since 2010. It has teamed up with PC Gamer, a monthly magazine published by Future plc, as its reporting partner on this project since 2013. PC Gamer's May issue, out in late March, has a feature on the ranking lists that details the schools' unique programs, prominent professors, and alumni.