Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Academic Side of Gaming

Dr. Christopher Erhardt, head of the United States campuses of the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, sits in a hallway at the LITE Center.

By Kris Wartelle - See the original article here.

When the Academy of Interactive Entertainment opens its doors in February, students enrolled there will be learning the latest in game design, 2D and 3D animation, programming, and visual effects. The nonprofit, private digital media college will be housed in the LITE Center and will hold classes in three different areas: Game Programming, Game Art and Design, and 3D Animation and FX for Film.

"We will offer certificates and advanced diplomas in these areas as well as training that our students can use in the petroleum industry, medical imaging and other fields," said professor Christopher Erhardt, head of AIE's U.S. campuses. "Our class size will be limited, 15 to 20 students per class. We call this work force education. Last year, we had 100 percent placement of our students from our Australian schools."

Erhardt says the idea is to grow or create a talent base needed in the game development and animation industries. He says already the school has partnered with EA games in Baton Rouge, Game Loft in New Orleans and the Louisiana Digital Gaming Initiative. The school has also partnered with LEDA's Opportunity Machine in order to give students who would like to publish games or products they have developed the chance to make those products successful.

"This is an opportunity for us to mentor the game development industry and even create small studios right here in Acadiana," Erhardt said.

Bob Miller is the Executive Director of LEDA's Opportunity Machine. He says when AIE was brought to LEDA's attention, it fit right in with the goals of the OM.

"We are technology accelerators here," said Miller. "One of our main goals is to help expand and develop the technology ecosystem here in Lafayette. AIE definitely plays a part in that."

Miller says AIE's LITE Center campus is not a permanent spot for the school. After it is established, it will set up campus in a more traditional location. But, he says the new classes will certainly provide the building blocks for students who want to go into the game development or animation fields and for Lafayette's goal of becoming a technology hub.

"You have to take steps to get yourself there," said Miller. "We don't know what demand is going to be, but in order to be competitive, we need some resources."

While many have long touted Lafayette's potential as a hub for technology and related industry, so far it hasn't materialized to the point some would like. Erhardt admits the software, computer and game development industry is extremely small here, but he hopes to change all that in the future.

"Our goal is to grow substantially over the next two years," said Erhardt. "We hope to demonstrate the economic benefit of game development here in Lafayette. If you compare it to San Francisco and other well-known game areas, the cost of doing business is much higher. We want to show developers that they can come by the same higher quality at a lower cost."

Students interested in the school can still apply, and there are still spaces available for the February opening. Tuition for the school isn't cheap, however, at $7,500 a semester. Still, Erhardt says, there are options for students including scholarships, financing and other avenues.

For more information visit or call (225) 288-5221.

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