The University of Texas at Austin has partnered with video game industry leaders Warren Spector and Paul Sams to create the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy, the first video game program in the United States led and taught by gaming industry executives.
Spector (M.A., Radio-Television-Film ’80) will guide the curriculum and both he and Sams will serve as part-time instructors for the academy, which begins in the fall of 2014. The academy seeks to support economic growth of the gaming industry in Texas and beyond by creating the unique focus of training students to become game development team leaders.
“What differentiates the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy is that it will focus explicitly on the bigger creative leadership aspects of game development on the management and production side and on the creative leadership side,” said Spector, who will also serve as co-chair of the academy’s advisory board. “This is a space that’s not being filled by the other programs and it will make the academy unique.”
Spector is a 30-year veteran of the video game industry and is known for his work on the “Ultima,” “System Shock,” “Deus Ex” and the “Disney Epic Mickey” game series. He has worked on more than 20 production teams as a designer, director and producer.
Sams is chief operating officer and a 17-year veteran of Blizzard Entertainment® where he is responsible for the company’s global business operations. During Sams’ tenure, the company has produced some of the industry’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful game franchises including “Warcraft®,” “Diablo®,” “StarCraft®” and “World of Warcraft®.” Sams also shares responsibility for the growth of one of the largest online gaming services in the world, the company’s Battle.net®.
The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy was made possible by the Cain Foundation and Paul and Susan Sams (B.J., Journalism ’92).
“Susan and I believe The University of Texas at Austin has a tremendous track record of building nationally recognized programs that generate the leaders and critical thinkers the gaming industry needs,” Sams said. “The program will focus on building the skills required for students to lead teams and develop games from concept to completion, while growing talent for the gaming industry.”
Texas is an epicenter for the computer and video game industry. It has the second-largest concentration of game companies in the U.S., with more than 155 development and publishing companies throughout the state providing around 4,000 full-time jobs, according to the Texas Film Commission in the Office of the Governor.
The academy will be industry driven instead of a graduate degree, students will earn a post-baccalaureate certificate, which offers fewer restrictions than a traditional academic degree and will enable the program to remain relevant and responsive to industry trends.
The academy will include an intense,12-month program in which students will create a small-scale game from start to finish, working in teams to handle every aspect of the creation. The accelerated timeline will help aspiring professionals acquire the skill they need to join the workforce.
Wofford Denius (B.A., Business Administration ’74) is director of the Cain Foundation and co-founder of the academy. He has a long history of contributing to innovative projects at the university and the College of Communication.
“By combining the best professors with some of the gaming industry’s top minds and contributors, The University of Texas will immediately establish itself on the cutting edge of gaming design technology and the gaming industry,” Denius said. “But even more importantly, the Denius-Sams Gaming Design Academy will help our students by enhancing their marketability and providing them with unique leadership skills to advance as leaders in their employment and in the gaming industry.”
Admission to the academy will be highly competitive, with only 20 spots available for 2014. Admission will be open to U.S. and international students. Admitted students will receive a tuition waiver and a $10,000 stipend to assist with fees and housing expenses the only game design program to do this.
The academy is a joint effort between the College of Communication, the College of Fine Arts and the Department of Computer Science. It also is supported by the Provost’s Office at the university.
It complements the university’s undergraduate Game Development Program, which offers a capstone project course in video game development.
“The Denius-Sams Gaming Academy will create the most-intense program of its kind, in which aspiring professionals enlist in an all-in adventure, rather than complete mere credit hours,” said Roderick P. Hart, dean of the College of Communication. “The program will prepare students to become creative team leaders who will drive the creation of games in the future, and ensure the vitality of the gaming industry.”