Computer Science Beyond the Video Game

My name is Bret Scott, and I’m an Assistant Professor of Communication at Sul Ross State University. I teach film and video production. I also teach courses for our Computer Science Art Technology – game design degree. What’s a filmmaker doing teaching computer science classes?

I’m glad you asked.

Lots of universities have computer science degrees, and most schools have art degrees. The video game industry is unique in that the production of a game requires both kinds of knowledge. Mechanically, video games are computer programs. Artistically, though, they’re visual narratives where the player has some degree of control over the outcome of the story. From an audio and video perspective, games share a lot of DNA with movies.

This is where I come in. In addition to computer science classes, students in the CSAT Game Design degree take classes in filmmaking to learn how to tell a visual story. They take classes in audio design, because games use audio and music for cueing, performance feedback, and emotional underscoring. I also teach 3D motion capture using the PhaseSpace system in our 2400 square-foot Motion Capture soundstage. Students use the PhaseSpace system to learn how to direct actors and create characters for their games.

On the surface, video games might seem frivolous. But these games reach beyond entertainment. Drone aircraft are piloted using remote technology similar to games. We’ve found lots of effective ways to teach and reinforce skills like math through gaming. The periscope controls on submarines have been replaced with Xbox controllers (true story!). We even teach law enforcement officials to evaluate when to use their weapons through life-size video game simulations. Video games are serious business, and so are the careers in the video game industry.

And yeah, there’s some fun, too.

Dr. Bret Scott

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