OGDEN, Utah – A new computer science course at Weber State University is asking students to set aside the computer code and take a critical look at the positive and negative impact of computer games on society and culture.
“We want students to understand that what they design and create has more than a gaming effect on society,” said Greg Anderson, associate computer science professor. “There is a level of responsibility one must accept for the creation of the technology.”
The new course, approved by the WSU Board of Trustees at its monthly meeting in December, is being offered for the first time this spring. During the semester students will examine and analyze the art, history, philosophy and impact of digital entertainment (video and computer games along with simulations) on individuals and society.
“The course will ask students to take a critical look at the artistic, cultural, economic and social aspects of this expressive medium,” Anderson said.
Representatives from the Walt Disney Co. and Hill Air Force Base, which have an interest in both video gaming and simulations, have been instrumental in defining the curriculum for the course. One of the goals of the course is for students to formulate elements of the ethical code of conduct for game creators.
Recent data from the video game industry underscores the need for a course like this.
According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), video gaming is the fastest growing form of entertainment. ESA reports that total sales of video games in 2007 were $18.85 billion.
The Pew Internet American Life project found that nearly all American teens (97 percent) and more than half of adults above the age of 18 say they play video games. The survey showed that one in five adults play video games every day or almost every day.
“With the number of people playing video games it seemed appropriate to study the positive and negative effects on society, and the art and logic involved with the creation of the games,” Anderson said. “This may be one of the first college courses where playing video games is a regular homework assignment.”
In 2008, the Utah State Board of Regents approved a computer science game development certificate offered at WSU. The certificate is available to students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science with an emphasis in software engineering. The WSU certificate is the only one of its kind offered in the state.
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