Class Designs, Releases Computer Games on W&J Campus

Created: April 10, 2014
Last Updated: January 17, 2020

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WASHINGTON, PA (Dec. 5, 2013)—There was a day, not so long ago, when playing video games on a telephone seemed like science fiction. These days, most college students probably have played those games, but few set out to design one of their own.

At Washington & Jefferson (W&J) College, there’s a class dedicated to doing just that.

On Friday, Dec. 6, the college community is invited to play the digital games designed by students of CIS 105: Game Design and Development, in room 222 of The Technology Center between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.

Sophomore Computing and Information Studies (CIS) major Rick Fincham said he “tinkered” with designing computer games in the past, but never designed a complete game until taking the course.

“I’m glad now to know how involved the whole process is, and how much it takes to do all the planning, then make the adjustments, and work with a group so everyone is on the same page consistently,” he said.

CIS 105 teaches the basics of game development. Each of the 15 students in the class did individual design work for their games this semester, and spent the past month working in groups to fully develop five games: We Are Monsters; Eco-Elf; Crime Through Time; Dingo V2; and Nutty Buddy.

Since the course is introductory, students often have little or no experience with programming or design. The course incorporates all topics studied in the CIS major—including coding, design, planning, testing, and human-computer interaction—through the process of developing a game.

Fincham, who plans to make a career of developing smart phone applications, said the programming aspect of game design was challenging. The most difficult thing, he said, was learning how players would use and interpret the game.

“Really the most difficult thing is laying out the game to accomplish what you want to accomplish in terms of the user experience,” he said. “You have to put yourself in the players’ place and see if it will make sense to them.”

Amanda Holland-Minkley, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the CIS Department at W&J, said the class is a great learning opportunity for students in all majors, and a fun way to invite the community into the classroom.

“Even for students who don’t want to be game developers, games are a great setting for understanding how important it is to consider your user when building a system,” she said. “A fair number of students take the course as seniors, as the only CIS course they’ll ever take. They may never make a game again, but … they leave a lot more confident about their ability to learn complex software they may encounter in their jobs.”

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