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DSU computer game design is ‘toughest major you’ll ever love’

February 15, 2018

It’s not all fun and games for students in the computer game design program at Dakota State University. It’s also hard work, said Aaron Curry, a senior computer game design major from Cosmos, Minn.

“We say it’s the toughest major you’ll ever love,” said Dr. Steven Graham, associate professor of computer game design. Coursework for the bachelor of science (B.S.) degree is rigorous, and includes calculus and physics along with computer programming and visual design classes.

This four-year program drew Dominic Sharma to DSU. The sophomore computer game design student said the B.S. designation means “employers will take the degree seriously.”

Sharma knew at an early age that he wanted to make his own games, and when he realized this was something he could do as a career, he was pleased to have an option close to his home in Vadnais Heights, Minn. It is the only bachelor of science game design program in the state, and one of only a few in the Upper Midwest region. A DSU education is also affordable, Sharma said.

To introduce the program to people interested in games or game design, faculty and students in the DSU computer game design program are sponsoring a Super Smash Bros. tournament in Sioux Falls on Feb. 24. The tournament is free and open to all, and will be held at Game Chest, 421 N. Phillips Ave., Suite 102 in Sioux Falls, from 2 to 5 p.m. The DSU E-Sports Club is also assisting with the tournament; Sharma is president of the club.

A Super Smash tournament features Nintendo characters from Mario Bros. games and Donkey Kong, said Sharma; attendees are encouraged to bring their own controllers. Future tournaments may be scheduled in cities such as Sioux City, Rapid City and Aberdeen.

At these events, the students and faculty will explain program strengths, such as the canon of games used by the faculty. Graham, Dr. Jeff Howard and Dr. Glenn Berman developed this list of games based on the game’s role in establishing a genre. Examples are 1977’s Atari 2600 and board games such as backgammon.

“Knowing the history of games gives the students a better perspective on the future of games,” Graham said.

Students also receive hands-on education developing their own games in project classes. “This experience means our students are unusually good at soft skills,” Graham said, “because they work in teams, with people of different backgrounds.” The program’s location in the new Beacom Institute of Technology bolsters group work with a game design lab suite designed specifically for project-oriented team work.

“These project classes push you because they’re so much work,” said Curry, “but it is completely worth it for the end product,” as the games created provide the students with experience and a comprehensive portfolio useful for job interviews.

Graduates of the 10-year-old program are employed around the nation in a variety of industries, Graham said; others work privately as entrepreneurs, freelancers, and some have started their own companies with kick starter funds.

“There are a lot of applications for games rather than entertainment,” he stated, such as simulations, training, marketing, and education.

For more information about the tournament or the DSU computer game design program, contact Graham at steve.graham@dsu.edu.