Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS, The Times-Union
Computer programmers might be used to thinking in binary, but some new electives at Florida Community College at Jacksonville are showing that they don't have to choose between work and play.
The school has introduced two new courses in video game programming, giving local students some tools that could put them in the driver's seat for the Grand Theft Auto games of the future.
FCCJ will offer the basic course -- Introduction to Game Programming -- for the first time this semester, which starts Monday, Aug. 30. (Interested students can still register for the course through the college's Web site.) The sequel course will be offered in the spring semester.
The courses developed out of a summer camp that John Trifiletti, manager of the school's Computer Information Systems program, has run for high school students for the past several summers. During this summer's six-week day camp, 23 gifted and high achieving students learned how to create Web animation, resulting in interactive logos and basic games.
Seeing how well the camps were received, Trifiletti moved to add the game programming courses as electives for the school's Computer Programming and Analysis degree.
"Game programming is becoming more and more part of computer programming," said Trifiletti, adding that the skills learned in the courses transfer to other programming disciplines.
The courses might also help attract students, the professor said.
"It helps us stay right on the cutting edge," he said. "Every high school kid dreams about creating computer games. They never had any way to do that until now."
Those high school dreams have led many people to consider game creation as a career, making the industry grow but also creating stronger competition.
"Video games have become so popular and so pervasive that a lot more people are exposed to them," said Jamil Moledina, editor in chief of GameDeveloper magazine, which just released its Fall 2004 Game Career Guide.
Gaming has exploded as a field, becoming less of an creative venture and more of a business, with different ways for those interested in the career to break in. Instead of having one visionary auteur who handles all the tasks of game creation, studios are now approaching games like movies, bringing together teams of audio engineers, artists, programmers and others to work on projects.
"Couple of decades ago," Moledina said, "you had two or three guys who did all of these tasks. You had to be a Renaissance man."
This means that a game fanatic with an art degree or some programming experience can both have a shot at working on the next generation of video games.
And that's where FCCJ's newest course comes into (pardon the pun) play. …