It's 'Game On' for Nevada's computer science students

12/14/2007 8:00:00 AM

It's no surprise that the video game industry in America has already overtaken the movie industry in terms of profits. With the advent of ground-breaking gaming systems like the Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360, gaming has catapulted itself into the residence halls and living rooms of American college students in a stronger way than ever seen before.

University computer science students and faculty are all too familiar with this truth and hope to capitalize on it in more ways than for the sole sake of entertainment.

Nevada's video game developing prowess was showcased on Dec. 7 in the Scrugham Engineering Building as computer science students and staff mingled around some of the students' latest video game designs. Even a small robot graced the lab area with his presence as students indulged in their mini video game Mecca.

Many of the games developed were designed for all types of systems ranging from the Nintendo DS, Game Boy Advance, Wii and Xbox 360. The majority of the projects were end-of-semester projects that students completed in groups or individually.

Matt Whipple and Matt Sgambati, two CPE 481 students, were among those who showcased their latest work from a course entitled, "Embedded Systems."

Their game, Basic Wars, functioned like an advanced and much more aggressive version of chess. For Whipple and Sgambati, their game took them all semester and amounted to about 50 hours' worth of work on just the game alone.

Whipple said that the content of the course was right in line with what his future career plans are.

"I would like to make games or be an imbedded systems engineer," Whipple said.

Roger Hoang, a graduate student in computer science, also showcased his latest work, No Refuge, his first game ever designed for the Xbox 360.

At first sight, it was hard to tell that Hoang had never programmed for the Xbox before. Between colorful three dimensional graphics and a wide array of weapons, enemies and multiplayer functions, it was obvious that Hoang had done his homework.

Bill Wells, the director of research and development for IGT, a local casino gaming company, was also present and sensed that there was a mutual respect among many of the student developers.

"Everybody enjoys each other's games," Wells said. "They have a pride in their own, but they like to see what others are doing."

According to Whipple, the appreciation for the study of video game design goes beyond the realm of entertainment. The study of embedded systems also lends itself to many of the electronic functions in newer automobiles that require embedded systems engineering in order to function.

This alternate perspective of video game design was also emphasized by Dwight Egbert, a CPE 481 instructor and computer science professor.

Egbert emphasized that game design is much more of a collaborative work than one might think. Game design also takes a lot of discipline to really develop a quality product. Egbert said that discipline is ultimately the hardest thing to develop in students as they pursue video game design initially.

Another obstacle that Egbert said students must face is the highly-competitive hiring process that students must go through in order to land jobs within the entertainment realm.

Yet, Egbert also said that the target audience for video games is expanding with the advent of everything between cell phone games to games designed to improve the mental capacity of senior citizens.

According to Egbert, these newly developing target audiences are proving to show promise for student employment that has never before been realized in the past.

Whatever the future holds for video games, Nevada's computer science students seem to always be looking forward to what's next in video game design. Whether that's the next version of the Nintendo Wii or an intense version of cribbage, it's all uncharted territory until further notice. 


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