Games course aims to alleviate skills shortage

10 Jun 2005

The anticipated growth in the computer games software sector in Ireland is being catered for by a new computer games programming and design course at the University of Limerick from September next.

The BSc (Hons) course in Multimedia and Computer Games Development is intended to equip students with the skills to develop both multimedia and computer game systems. They will study computer science, with special emphasis on topics relevant to game design such as computer graphics, artificial intelligence, digital video and audio fundamentals. They will also study topics relevant to development of a game concept to the final ‘shooting script’ (prior to programming).

Specifically, students will gain knowledge of: digital media technologies; skills in programming, system analysis and integration of software components; and human computer interface and theories of perception, which will enable the student to develop computer-gaming situations.

Graduates may pursue higher degrees by research or through taught postgraduate programmes. Owing to the research expertise in the university, students will have opportunities to work with distinguished researchers during the third-year summer break or carry out final-year projects under their supervision.

With the global games industry now worth US$20bn, which is more than the film industry, games development has become one of the hottest of all software sectors. Ireland has already stated its intention to be a games development hotbed with the Digital Hub in Dublin’s Liberties district becoming home to several games firms.

The country’s growing development community now comprises 22 companies, North and South, across a range of activities that includes mobile, multiplayer, PC and console games and middleware.

The shortage of suitably qualified graduates, however, is seen as a potential growth barrier so a number of third-level institutes have established games development courses in recent times. These include a new four-year degree course at Carlow Institute of Technology, which gives students a grounding in developing games for all the major games platforms and diploma courses at Ballyfermot Senior College and the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

While there is a worldwide scarcity of games programmers, especially in the domains of graphics programming and computer simulation, employment possibilities in the computer games arena in Ireland and the UK are mainly in the area of games programming and design and games project management.

Career options include games programmer, graphics programming, visualisation, research and development in media and entertainment-related technologies. However, as the course ensures graduates have a solid grounding in software development, their career options will also include software development, software engineering and systems analysis and design.

By Brian Skelly