It's a grind at video-game college
July 23, 1999
(CNN) -- It sounds like a dream come true for millions of teen-agers -- you can get a four-year degree in video-game design at the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington.
But students at DigiPen find that creating video games is a lot harder than playing them.
"It is just amazing how much you will learn just to make this one game," says sophomore Chad Queen. "That is why I like DigiPen so much -- because it is always a learning experience. Every day you learn something new, whether you like it or not."
Claude Comair established DigiPen in 1988 in Vancouver. In 1994, the DigiPen Applied Computer Graphics School officially accepted its first class of video game programming students.
The two-year video game programming diploma course, offered in cooperation with Nintendo of America, was the first of its kind in North America.
A year later, DigiPen started a two-year 3D computer animation diploma. Some of those graduates have received awards from international film festivals and industry organizations.
In January 1998, the DigiPen Institute of Technology opened near Seattle. It is the first school in the world to offer degree-granting programs for video game programming.
Students must pass 13 math classes
Chad Queen's team project for the semester looks like many other video games -- a hero zapping his way past all sorts of adversaries. And his game includes a touch of Seattle.
"This is the rain right here and the rain moves with you," Chad explains.
If this sounds simple, think again. DigiPen students cram five years' worth of very tough courses into four years.
"There are 13 courses of math, 23 levels of computer science, two levels of physics, four courses in computer animation as well as eight semesters of projects," says Jason Chu, DigiPen's registrar.
DigiPen graduates can expect strong demand for their service as the $5.5 billion a year video game industry races to churn out 2,000 new game titles annually.
Still, Digipen's founder says a programmer's life is not always fun and games.
"One has to come if they like to do the job, if they like to be part of it, because it is day and night work," says Claude Comair. "It is a nightmare of an environment that could be heaven for some and a hell for others."
CNN Correspondent Rick Lockridge contributed to this story.
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