Computer Science & Information Technology Department Introduces Gaming Track

News Story: September 22, 2009

Students interested in the multi-billion gaming industry – as in video games – will have a new source for their academic studies and possible career internships beginning this fall. Sacred Heart University’s Department of Computer Science and Information Technology (CSIT) will be launching a new gaming track in September. When fully operational, it will offer coursework in game development and animation as well as the “architecture” of programs used in the fast-growing field.

Domenick Pinto, who chairs CSIT, has been an active part of the University’s education in mathematics and advanced technology since 1976 – seven years before his department was formally “spun off” in 1983. He explains that the new course offerings will be of value for all computer science students, even those not expecting to make gaming their career. “It will emphasize what’s ‘behind’ the game. Courses will include introductions to various aspects of the field; digital animation and gaming; computer graphics; and fundamentals of gaming design. Students will also be required to take pre-calculus, calculus, visual organization, and Photoshop & Illustrator.” The courses will lead to a capstone that will require participants to combine all these elements.

The gaming track’s emphasis on logic and mathematics makes it useful in any technological field, Pinto points out. “This area has been exploding in the United States and internationally, and ‘games’ are often as educational as they are entertaining. They can be a way to immerse young people in an interactive learning process almost without their knowing it.”

While some games have gained notoriety for their coarseness or violence – “Grand Theft Auto” comes quickly to mind – the genre itself can be used with great effectiveness for any number of positive goals. And as Guillermo del Toro, the director of Pan’s Labyrinth, famously has said, he fully expects that within the next decade, someone will create the Citizen Kane of video games. Maybe now it will be a Sacred Heart grad.

Professor Pinto said that colleges across the country have been adding gaming elements to their computer science curriculum and that Sacred Heart will be both a trend-setter and a regional leader in this arena. The department hopes to offer graduate courses in the gaming track by 2010. In its 26-year history, the department has had tens of thousands of students and has awarded more than a thousand undergraduate and graduate degrees.

To emphasize the “real world” practicality of the gaming option, Pinto shared the hopes of a Sacred Heart CSIT grad. Chris Hughes earned his bachelor’s in 2003 and the next year, he completed his master’s. He is the founder of FlashGameLicense, a company he calls a “marketplace for over 6,000 developers and more than 1,000 companies interested in licensing their games.” In a little over a year, the company has helped independent developers make close to $2 million. Hearing about the University’s plan to offer a gaming track, he got in touch with his alma mater to see about possible student internships and eventual partnerships.

“We have a number of tools to help developers improve game quality, get user feedback, market their games, and fully ‘monetize’ their games,” says Hughes, who adds, “I benefited greatly from SHU and all of the faculty and staff there, so I’d love to be able to give back to the school in some way.”

For further information, contact Domenick Pinto at 203-371-7799 or at pintod@sacredheart.edu.