UT's Gaming Academy: Facts & Inferences

What is this post-baccalaureate program all about?

Warren Spector
Warren Spector

This past Monday the University of Texas sent out a press release announcing the creation of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy. At the helm of the venture is local gaming luminary Warren Spector, whose résumé includes Ultima, Deus Ex, and more recently Epic Mickey. Here are the details as well as a bit of reading between the lines where necessary.

Admission to the tuition-free program gets you one year of game-making know-how, not to mention a $10,000 stipend. Don't start shining up your transcripts just yet, the first group won't start the learning until fall 2014. Before then you would do well to butter up your references, because there are only 20 spots up for grabs. It seems safe to call that a highly competitive program, but since we don't really know how many people are applying, you never know.

One of the biggest unanswered questions is what exactly students learn in the Gaming Academy. The press release states that it is "industry driven." It continues saying, "The academy seeks to support economic growth of the gaming industry in Texas and beyond by creating the unique focus of training students to become game development team leaders." Does that help? Not really. Luckily for us UT also posted a video starring Spector who breaks down the program. He claims the courses will be taught by "gaming industry executives," and that they want to "encourage a practical approach to the development of games." All in all the course smacks of business school except for the fact that students create a game over the course of the year. Although, anyone who's familiar with game jams knows that one person can make a game in 48 hours if necessary. What about the other 363 days?

Applicants might also want to know that according to the press release one does not leave the program with a graduate degree, instead "students will earn a post-baccalaureate certificate, which offers fewer restrictions than a traditional academic degree and will enable the program to remain relevant and responsive to industry trends." If anyone understands what a post-baccalaureate certificate really gets you, please let me know.

Certificates seem to be the way UT handles its game-design programs. The undergrad Computer Science Certificate in Game Development requires only six courses and, after completion, doesn't even appear on official transcripts from the university. Instead, if you want prospective employers or schools to know you have game-making skills, the university sends a letter explaining the program. Because admissions officers and would-be employers have time to sort through errant letters describing a certificate. It's been a while since my college days, but isn't that called a "minor"? Are minors worth anything anymore? Don't tell me my minor in sociology was a waste. Sigh.

If you have questions about the program or the application process, for the love of God don't email me. Instead contact comm-webmaster@austin.utexas.edu.

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