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digital games guildhall developers
Industry leaders are working with the Hart eCenter staff to develop the center's new program in digital game development. Shown here are (l-r) David Najjab from the Hart eCenter, Levelord (a.k.a. Richard Gray) from Ritual Entertainment, John Romero from Monkeystone, Paul Jaquays from Ensemble Studios, Tom Hall from Monkeystone and Peter Raad from the Hart eCenter.

DALLAS (SMU) -- The Hart eCenter at SMU has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to offer a professional certificate program in digital game development. The program will begin in July 2003.

The new program, which will be called the Digital Games Guildhall at SMU, will offer three tracks that match the primary careers in the industry: art creation, level design and software development.

SMU officials believe that they are the first to receive accreditation from a regional accrediting organization for a program in digital game development. SACS is one of six regional accrediting organizations in the U.S. recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The SMU program is the only digital games program developed with industry participation at a research university.

Peter Raad, professor and L. W. Hart Director of the Linda and Mitch Hart eCenter, said that being housed at SMU will enable the Guildhall to draw on experts in fields such as business, engineering, humanities and law to add depth to the program.

"We are acting on the opportunity to define the future of education in digital games," Raad said, noting that while books were the popular medium of the 19th century and movies were the popular medium of the 20th century, games will be the medium of the future. "SMU has a tradition of excellence in education and we want to apply this to the medium of the 21st century."

SMU is creating the program to help meet the needs of the burgeoning digital games industry, which is growing at a rate of 15-20 percent a year. This results in the need for about 5,000 new hires a year, and the industry urgently needs adequately trained personnel to fill these jobs.

"Digital game development companies tell us that their need for qualified people is a more important business problem than their need for investment capital," Raad said. "These companies receive thousands of unsolicited job applications but find that only a fraction of these applicants have enough relevant, demonstrated expertise to even justify a response."

Raad also noted that technology developed for the games industry has applications for many other industries, including national defense, scientific simulation and education/training.

Dallas is home to many game development companies and luminaries in the game development industry. Several of these industry leaders approached the Hart eCenter in the fall of 2002 with the idea of an intense, industry-oriented training program.

"These leaders told us that their needs were unmet by traditional programs in conventional schools that could not address the multidisciplinary nature of digital game development," Raad said. "The Hart eCenter, which was founded specifically to address problems that could not be addressed through existing academic departments and schools, is the perfect entity to launch and offer a program such as this."

The 18-month program consists of six three-month terms, each culminating in a real-world project. Classes will be taught by industry professionals and SMU faculty members and will be held in newly equipped rooms at SMU-in-Legacy in Plano. A total of 42 courses will be available, and students will complete 22 of these courses based on their chosen area of specialization.

The Guildhall at SMU is now accepting applications and will enroll 100 students in its first cohort. New cohorts will begin every six months. Students interested in applying for the program may visit the Guildhall Web site at