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Academic 1-Up

UT Austin levels up curriculum with creation of Denius-Sams Gaming Academy

Belo Center for New Media
Belo Center for New Media, home of the UT College of Communication Courtesy of University of Texas at Austin

Independent and corporate video game developers have flocked to Austin in recent years to set up shop in the innovation friendly city. Furthering this migration trend, two of the top leaders in the video game industry have partnered with the University of Texas at Austin to create a video game program meant to foster the next leaders in game development.

It only makes sense that Austin would soon become the next epicenter of teaching and training game developers.

Together, video game designer Warren Spector and industry executive Paul Sams will guide the development of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy at UT and serve as part-time instructors for the academy.

In a statement released by UT’s College of Communication, Spector expressed the goal of the academy is to provide a unique experience unlike other gaming academies, saying that “it will focus on the bigger creative leadership aspects of game development — on the management and production side and on the creative leadership side. This is a space that's not being filled by the other programs and it will make the academy unique.”

Warren Spector has over 30 years of experience in the gaming industry and is most well known for his work on game series such as Ultima, System Shock, Deus Ex and Epic Mickey. Paul Sams is the chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment, the company behind Diablo, StarCraft and World of Warcraft, and, having been with Blizzard for 17 years, oversees the company's global business operations.

Any game developers looking to apply must prepare to battle it out for one of the academy’s 20 open spots during the academy’s first year of curriculum in 2014. Accepted students will receive a tuition waiver and a stipend for living expenses, but they shouldn’t expect to be able to grind their way through the course work. Part of the offered curriculum designed by Spector will be an intensive, 12-month program in which students create a small-scale game from start to finish.

Students will mostly work in teams to divide up the labor of development, but in the end, all students are meant to gain experience in leading their own teams. Roderick P. Hart, dean of the College of Communication, says “The program will prepare students to become creative team leaders who will drive the creation of games in the future, and ensure the vitality of the gaming industry.”

The gaming industry has already proved its vitality within Texas, which boasts the second largest concentration of game companies in the U.S., according to the Texas Film Commission in the Office of the Governor. Many of these development and publishing companies have offices in Austin, from indie developers to branches of industry leaders such as Electronic Arts and BioWare.

The academy is a joint effort between the university’s College of Communication, College of Fine Arts and the Department of Computer Science. Instead of a graduate degree, graduating students will receive a post-baccalaureate certificate, which offers fewer restrictions than a traditional academic degree and also allows the academy to continually remain relevant with an ever-changing industry. 

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