New game design minor helps students step into gaming industry

The game design is a new minor at Washburn University that will exist by the end of 2018. It’s a broad minor. The courses that satisfy the minor come from the School of Business and the College of Arts and Sciences. The housing of the minor is inside the university rather than a department.

The courses of the game design minor cover five departments, like history, mass media, art, computer science and mathematics. Most courses in the game design minor are already existing courses, except for a game design class taught by Gaspar Porta, which Washburn will offer in spring 2019. By spring 2019, every course will be a regular course in Washburn’s course catalog.

The requirement of the game design minor is 15 credit hours among the minor courses.

The professors who will teach the courses of the minor come from a variety of departments. They include Gaspar Porta, Azyz Sharafy, Phil Hauptman, Dmitri Nizovtsev, Paul Byrne, Rick LeJeurrne, Tony Silvestri, Matthew Nyquist and Rick Barker.

Many classes from the five departments will count toward the game design minor. One class will come from the mathematics department, taught by Gaspar Porta, and one class will come from the computer science department. There will be two to three classes from mass media department and three classes from the art department.

The math class for the game design minor focus on the fundamental math tools to balance and construct mechanisms in a game. The tools give students the type of mechanical situations they will use for game players to have fun. Students have to match the mathematical tools with the story and concept in the games so that the mathematics don’t overshadow the fun.

There are some challenges of the game design minor. One of them is to work on the mechanics that breaks down how a game works while also having people with art expertise to round out the picture and the environment.

Art courses have a lot to do with animation. They contain digital painting, video game design, 2D and 3D digital animation. In art courses, students create different kinds of visual stimuli that will connect the settings in a game. It’s important that the game connects players with parts of the game stories that were told.

Computer science class is about coding and virtual games. The class is called game design coding. They are directly connected to curing out the construction of settings and the creation of the game.

The mass media class, taught by Matthew Nyquist, has to do with the history of video games, the background and other developments that led to the current virtual gaming environment.

“If you want to be a part of the game industry, and you don’t know the history of how we got here, you are going to be [at] a disadvantage,” Porta said.

There are three business classes in the game design minor, game theory, macroeconomics and entrepreneurship.

Game theory is an area of mathematics related to competition. It’s a theoretical class. In the macroeconomics class, over 60 percent of examples and case studies come from the gaming industry. Students have the same syllabus and curriculum as a regular macroeconomics class, but with a lot of exposure to examples and cases in the gaming area. The entrepreneurship class is about how to start a business and how to work on producing something from scratch. A lot of impactful games come from people who started the games on their own. It’s for people who are going to work on the creation side of games.

At least five classes have to do with history, taught by Tony Silvestri. They include Japan, near east, ancient world, medieval Europe and Rome. Students who take these classes will be expected to apply simulations and interact with humans.

These history classes don’t exist at many other universities with a gaming major. There is exposure for students to see the application and simulations in an action and exposure-centered experience in the history classes.

Courses from the five departments give what’s valuable to a student. The kind of concentration the student is going to have in the game industry is so broad that it brings together many different kinds of skills and abilities.

The game design minor is valuable for people from various majors.

“The idea is not to constrict the choice of major, rather than something that enhances students’ major or degree with something attracting the companies,” Porta said.

With game design minor, students can carry the pursuit of their major and their vocational calling. It gives them a foot in the door to get a job in the gaming industry with specific skills in their major.

“A game design minor is the most accurate description for what we are trying to do,” Porta said. “There are no other ways to describe it since the intention leads to something that help students get a job in gaming industry.”

The name of the minor was determined in the conversation where staff and university have agreed. The name is more likely that it’s a name of a major than a minor.

It’s possible that the game design minor becomes a major in the future. It’s not a small step. The existing courses should be put together as a unit. A lot more classes are needed for a major. It contains multiple layers of game design and game development. Challenges include expand the number of classes and hire professors in this area. A major needs more dedication of the project with bigger commitment.

The reason that drove Porta dedicated to the new game design minor is his interest.

He has tremendous interest in games and the mechanics of games. He was drawn to the settings in games in different stages of education, and he modified the interest into what he could do with students. 

“The situation and dynamical system of a game work like a storm and move around. It makes people observe it and understand what’s going on underneath a game,” Porta said.

Many students want their project to be about gaming. Hearing this kind of expression, Porta decided to say something constructive about how to put together a game, so he started working on the game design minor.

In the last two to three years, other professors paid attention to things related to game industry, 3D art and animation. Professors with the same interest worked together to start the game design minor.

The game design minor can be put on transcript by the end of this year.

Porta wants to make sure everyone on campus is aware of the new minor. Game club and Dungeons and Dragons club are two clubs focusing on different kinds of games. He started by encouraging students in the two organizations to reach out to more courses, participate in more events and educate more students about the minor.

More students come to Porta to ask questions about the game design minor. People come because there is possibility on campus that can be a career path.  The gaming area is not something to be disqualified, but it helps people decide early what they want to do with the rest of their life.

The game design minor will be available by the end of this year, and all courses will exist in spring 2019. If students are interested in more information about the new game design minor, you can contact Porta via email at [email protected].