OUS starting game design program

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

When he was younger, Andrew Fry's older brothers were glued to the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and he wanted in on the fun as well.

"Games like Super Mario Brothers captivated me," he said. "They grew away from it, but I kept going."

He eventually grew away from Super Mario as his interests began to lean more toward action and fantasy games, but his interests in video games still remained strong. When he had the opportunity to take a class in 3D GameStudio, which allows students to design their own video games, he signed up.

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This past fall, Rick Eid, information technology director at Ohio University Southern, said he taught two beginning classes in game design. The courses lasted for eight weeks, from 3:30-7:30 p.m. one night per week. Now, three more beginning classes will be offered this winter quarter, and advanced classes will be offered this spring.

Most of what the students learn in the beginning classes, Eid said, is building things such as rooms, levels, characters and trap doors. The games that students would have after learning skills in the beginning classes would not be commercially marketable, but they do have a start.

"I always tell my students that the first 10 games they design will be bad and will usually be learning experiences and nothing else," he said.

However, he was still impressed with the work his students did. One student had lighting that Eid said was exceptional, and another student created a character that used a fish as a gun.

The difference between a good game and a great game, Eid said, is the designer's ability to write a script, which tells how a character will behave. This, Eid hopes to teach in advanced classes which he will teach this spring as well as one in model editing.

Most of Eid's students were high school students like Fry, a 17-year-old junior at Ironton High School. Eid did have some high school graduates and some junior high students. Fry said the Gear Up program paid for his class.

"I truly had a blast," Fry said. "When I was in this class, it was like curing a blind person."

He said he had never been told exactly how everything works in a video game, and many questions he had about game design were answered in the class. His parents make the occasional comment that he spends too much time with his video games, but they understand. After all, he is interested in becoming a game designer.

Soon, Eid hopes to have a friend of his working for Pixar to visit his class. This friend worked on "Monsters, Inc." Taking classes such as this could lead someone to a job at motion picture or hundreds of game companies, Eid said.

The beginning classes are accredited, and the advanced classes are in the process of accreditation. Enrolling in the four-credit beginning course costs $380 with credit, $289 as a no-credit course.

"A game designer puts not only his or her ideas into the game," Fry said. "They also put themselves into the game. That is what makes each game so unique and interesting. In a sense, designers press their fingerprints into a game."