The digital entertainment and technology program, housed in the School of Information Technology and Computing, was ranked in the top 50 schools for game development in the Princeton Review.
In its fifth year, the program was ranked No. 27 – two spots behind Massachusetts Institute of Technology – among English-speaking universities in the world and was the highest ranked Christian university on the list.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Dr. Brian Burton, associate professor of digital entertainment and information technology. “This is our fifth year having a game development degree, and it was the first year we were able to be considered for the Princeton Review. It’s an even bigger deal that in our very first year we were ranked so high. This is a big achievement.”
Burton began teaching at ACU in 2007 after he was hired to create the digital entertainment degree program. Upon his arrival, Burton had one stipulation, which was to create an interdisciplinary program.
“It did not have the arts and the film component and all of the different components that our DET degree has,” he said of the program he left at Missouri State University. “We have a very convergence view of what game development is; we involve film, animation and game development. There’s only two other universities in the U.S. that I’m aware of that follow a similar view to game development and they’re also in the top 25, so I guess Princeton liked that.”
ACU’s program draws from different departments on campus to fulfill degree requirements. This includes an interactive fiction course specifically created through the English department and courses in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication as well as the Department of Art and Design.
“There’s a core set of classes that DET majors take, but all DET majors learn the basics of programming, they learn the basics of art, they learn the basics of film and telling a story,” Burton said. “We draw from art, journalism, English, computer science; it takes all of them together to make it work. It’s a very different approach to telling a story, and that’s what it all comes back to in digital entertainment; we’re storytellers.”
Burton said this will better prepare students to enter the field.
“As we go through the course material, the requirements are continuously ramped up to get them ready to be in game development or film or animation or whichever area they’re going into,” he said. “I want them to be ready to be operating at that professional level when they graduate.”
A job placement rate of almost 100 percent was one of the main reasons the relatively new program succeeded against other programs. Other criteria considered in ranking the university were academics, facilities, career services, technology, starting salaries and employment experiences of graduates.
“These are truly the ‘cream of the crop’ institutions from which to launch a career,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review senior vice president/publisher. “Their faculties are outstanding. Their facilities are awesome. And their alumni include legions of the industry’s most prominent game designers, developers, artists and entrepreneurs.”
The DET program now has about 65 students, some of whom participate in research through the department alongside Burton. They have also formed the DET Club which meets at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday in Mabee Business Building, Room 316.
“They make virtual environments and films and animations,” Burton said. “They have a lot of fun and make cool stuff.”