LA Times: UC Irvine takes video games to the next level

By Tony Barboza,
November 30, 2009

UC Irvine has long sought to be known for preeminence in fields such as engineering, medicine and business. But now the university is embracing a new discipline: video games.

Once ridiculed within university halls as merely a nerdy pastime, computer games are being promoted to a full-fledged academic program at the Irvine campus, a medium as ripe for study as the formats before it: film, radio and television.

This fall UC Irvine established the Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds, and construction is underway on a 4,000-square-foot, 20-room “Cyber-Interaction Observatory” for faculty research. Plans call for floor-to-ceiling projection screens, 3-D stereoscopic displays and gesture-based interfaces.

If all goes according to plan, next fall UC Irvine will debut a four-year undergraduate program allowing students to declare “game science” as their major — an idea that drew snickers when a few professors first proposed it a decade ago.

“There are people who will say we’re pandering to a trend,” said Dan Frost, an informatics lecturer who teaches a popular computer game development course. “But this really is intellectually justified. Universities are always doing things that seem crazy at first.”

It’s a fitting development for a campus where some students are so gaga for gaming that they spend sleepless nights writing code for their homespun games and like to unwind with pizza-fueled Street Fighter tournaments and Rock Band contests. Continue reading “LA Times: UC Irvine takes video games to the next level”