MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We move now from outdoor games to indoor games and another big first in the D.C. region. Okay, so I'm going to read you a couple of names and I want you to see if they ring any bells, okay, "Grand Theft Auto," "Street Fighter," "Call of Duty," "Angry Birds." Even if you aren't a huge video gamer, you've probably heard of at least a few of these popular titles, right? That's because video games are huge in America right now.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Nearly three-quarters of the people in this country play. And with such a high demand, somebody's got to teach the next generation of game designers, right? Well, enter George Mason University. This year, the college's Computer Game Design Program will graduate its first two students. Education reporter, Kavitha Cardoza swung by one of their classes and she joins us right now. So Kavitha, tell us what was it like?
MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA
A very fun assignment in contrast to a lot of concerns about the violent stereotypes and drug use in games, this is definitely one place where video games are seen as wonderful. One group of students is designing its own game, "Monochromatic Masters."
MR. ALEC FISHER-LASKEY
You've got penguins, badass penguins versus awesome nuns...
Senior Alec Fisher-Laskey is explaining to Professor Greg Grimsby how he and his classmates would design the characters.
We also have exaggerated female proportions that we go for to attract our target audience.
PROFESSOR GREG GRIMSBY
What is your target audience?
Thirteen to 30-year-old males...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1
Yeah, that's attractive, man.
Alex says he loves playing games.
The ability to interact with worlds and just ideas that aren't possible in the real world, I mean, video games, to a certain extent, you can make any kind of world you want. You can make any kind of physics. You can make any kind of interaction that you can think of.
And all the students I spoke to say they played video games as children for approximately 30 hours a week. Luke Hilton has been playing since he was two.
MR. LUKE HILTON
I now average about four. However, when I was really, like, in elementary school, it was more like on a weekend I could -- I've even played for two days straight once, although that ended in my thumb hurting really badly, but...
Thirty hours a week seems like -- that seems like a ton of time. As these students were growing up and injuring their thumbs, what did their parents think about all this?
Well, the students say they did well in school, participated in after-school programs so their parents didn't feel the need to restrict their game-playing. Here's student Arden Remus (ph) .
MR. ARDEN REMUS
For my parents, it was better than me, like, going out and getting hurt and, like, doing something or just, you know, being at home was something nice. And my family would play with me, too, like my mom liked to play some of the videos with me as well so it was kind of a nice bonding experience.
So what were homework assignments like for these students? Did they have to, like, go home and play video games for three hours?
Actually, in some cases, yes, but they also have to write academic papers. For example, the impact of video games on health or the evolution of graphics in games. They take subjects such as calculus and physics, as well as classical music and story-telling. That's why Professor Grimsby says it's a perfect fit in the university setting because it draws from so many different disciplines.
You have sound engineers who develop the sound effects, making monsters roar and squish and there are musicians who score the games and there are engineers, software engineers who actually write all the game logic and then there are actual designers who come up with the game play systems. How is the game going to feel? What is it going to do? A lot of cross-disciplinary talent.
Students in his class learn these complicated computer programs. For one project, they had to design a hypothetical soda, a hyper-cola.
And what were some of the things that they suggested putting in the hyper-cola?
Raptors' claws, weapons-grade uranium and bacon.
You know, Kavitha, that sounds like a lot of testosterone talking right there.
The majority of students in the class are guys. I spoke with Lauren Maklemaw (ph) who said it can be challenging for a female gamer.
MS. LAUREN MAKLEMAW
You get everything from guys making fun of you because you're a girl. Guys who don't believe you're a girl because girls aren't online. I used to play competitively. And, like, if your team didn’t do well, even if you did well as a player, they would blame you. So they're never like, hey, great job or like, that was a great play or you're doing really well. It's a, I can't believe you're losing to a girl.
The gaming world is changing, though. Professors say when video games were first designed, the target audience was a 13-year-old boy. Now a gamer could be anyone and at George Mason, 40 percent of applicants are women. Lauren talks about the characters she hopes to design one day.
Really strong female champions in video games, where they are the forefront characters and they are fully dressed and maybe they don't have the exaggerated proportions. I think that the more strong representations you have of women in games, the more it will help even players adjust to the fact that women play games.
So with this first class of graduates, would you say they're ready to, you know, go out and face the job market?
Definitely. In February this year, a market research group estimated people spend more than a billion dollars on video games and related accessories. So there's definitely a demand out there and several students say their parents feel optimistic about them getting jobs. Here's Scott Martin who began the program. He's says it's not just entertainment. There's been a lot of interest from the federal government looking for games to train or solve problems.
MR. SCOTT MARTIN
Gaming itself has been used a lot in war planning and pilot training, but also in intelligence, threat assessments, certainly in K through 12 education. I even had an enquiry from the FDIC on developing a game to teach new employees how to understand the banking rules and regulations through gaming.
He says studies have shown students retain the information better and longer if they learn through video games.
And now they can do that and get a college degree to boot. That's education reporter Kavitha Cardoza. Kavitha, thanks so much for joining us.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.