It’s a big week for computer gaming. Tomorrow, everyone from Frodo to Snow Patrol will be out to see the X-Box 360 hit the streets on MTV.
But here in Ireland, the other half of the story is how game development is turning around the recent decline in applications to Computer Science degree programs.
Just ask the faculty at any of our Universities or IT Colleges: the application rate to CS programs over the past few years has plummeted; in some cases, by over 50%. Guidance counselors allegedly went through a phase of advising wholesale against computer science.
Long story short: it was as if training to be a developer was no longer cool.
Enter resourceful players like IT Carlow. Since last year, they’ve offered a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Computer Games Development. They even worked with Microsoft to refine aspects of the curriculum.
What a brilliant move! For a student to have a well-rounded knowledge of game development, they’d need at least a baseline understanding of everything from algorithms to networking to interaction design, with AI and graphics and audio and animation all in there somewhere too. They’d come out of that curriculum equipped to pursue their interest in game design – or segue into something completely different.
So what did prospective students think?
30 Carlow Game Dev places are available for next year.
350+ applicants have indicated that Carlow Game Dev is their first choice.
And if the Careers Fair at Dublin's Digital Hub on Monday was any indication, the rest of Irish academia is looking for a piece of that action:
University of Limerick – 4-Year B.Sc. (Hons) in Multimedia and Computer Games Development, launching September 2005.
Letterkenny Institute of Technology – 3-Year B.Sc. In Computer games Development, launching September 2005.
Dundalk IT – 4-Year B.Sc. (Hons) in Computing in Games Development.
Senior College Dun Laoghaire – 3-4 Year Program leading to a B.Sc. in Computing and Multimedia Programming or B.Sc. in Multimedia.
Tipperary IT – Game Dev Program in the pipe.
This list is certainly not exhaustive.
So the XBox 360 isn't the only gaming-related launch these days. Game Development degree courses have rekindled students' interest in computer science, and they're signing up in droves, with an eye on graduating in a few years' time equipped to contribute to the next triple-A title.