Game design is serious business for UM-Dearborn faculty and students

September 26, 2006

LAN party at UM-Dearborn

A national group recently recognized UM-Dearborn for the quality of its gaming activities, including the very popular “LAN parties” like this one held in the University Center earlier this year. This photo was taken by Jeff Lundberg, CECS ’03, who is the founder and coordinator of MPCon (www.mpcon.org), the group that sponsors the gatherings.

DEARBORN / Sept. 26, 2006---Game design is not all fun and games for students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. In fact, gaming is a serious and growing interest for a number of students at both undergraduate and graduate levels in the campus’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The quality of the campus’s academic gaming programs was one factor that led to the campus being listed among the “Top 10 Gaming Colleges” in the United States earlier this month. The rating, conducted by a group called the Global Gaming League, also cited the very popular “LAN parties” organized by students and held regularly in the University Center for the past seven years.

Those parties, called MPCon, draw up to 200 players to play “World of Warcraft,” “Counter-Strike” and other computer games.

The GGL Top Ten list includes nationally known schools like the University of Texas, UCLA, and Georgia Tech. So why is UM-Dearborn on this list? “Simple: MPCon,” according to the GGL Web site. “UM-Dearborn hosts one of the largest LAN parties in the region. The best part is that MPCon is a fundraiser for the Association for Computing Machinery at UM-Dearborn. Any university that hosts LAN parties is cool, in our book.”

While entertainment games are now a bigger business than Hollywood, “not everyone who studies gaming becomes a game designer,” according to Bruce Maxim, associate professor of computer and information science. “What our programs provide is a solid foundation in how to manage very large scale, data-intensive projects.”

In addition to the entertainment sector, there is a great deal of government and industrial interest in “serious games,” a rapidly growing industry that features the use of interactive games technology with applications creating shared knowledge networks in education, government, health, military, science, and social sectors.

The campus currently offers a minor in game development, and one of the three application areas for the bachelor’s degree in software engineering is in game design. In addition, the College of Engineering and Computer Science offers a graduate certificate program in game design for master’s degree students or as a 12-credit continuing education program.

Some students do find careers in entertainment game design, including Austin Krauss, who earned his master’s degree in 2005 with a concentration in computer graphics and user interface design. Krause is now working in California at Treyarch, best known for its Spiderman series.

But other students find work closer to home including three recent graduates who designed a graphic simulation of wireless communications among a large number of vehicles in the same traffic system for his senior design project. Not surprising, two of them found jobs at DaimlerChrysler and the third one is now working on similar projects at Compuware, Maxim said.

Game design courses also are one of the areas where UM-Dearborn engineering students work closely with graphic design students at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Software engineering students from UM-Dearborn manage the project, and develop much of the technical specifications, while CCS students contribute screen layouts and artwork.

“The artists want to add more and more to the game, but the teams are required to stick to a production schedule,” Maxim said. “Both groups of students are working as collaborators in multidisciplinary teams.”

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CONTACT: Terry Gallagher
PHONE: 313-593-5518
The Office of University Relations
Room 1040, Administration Building
University of Michigan-Dearborn