What non-traditional animation and game design programs exist in the South?
According to a 2016 Census Bureau report, the south is America’s most heavily populated region. The area is home to more than 122 million people and it leads the U.S. in population growth year after year. Experts say economic growth is a driving force behind the explosive population growth in the South. A recent Forbes article explains that people are moving to the south because “economic growth in the South has outpaced the rest of the country for a generation.” The southern states “generally have lower taxes, and less stringent regulations, than their primary competitors in the Northeast or on the West Coast. Indeed this year the four best states for business, according to CEO Magazine, were Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee.”
Affordability, warmer weather, and lifestyle are other reasons why people are choosing the south over the west and other areas across the U.S. With some of the lowest in-state tuition costs in the nation, getting a quality education in the south is yet another draw. James Madison University, Appalachian State University, College of Charleston, Christopher Newport University, Georgia College & State University, Western Kentucky University, and University of Tennessee-Martin are just a few of the top public colleges in the region.
The region is home to many of the nation’s top private schools too. Duke University, Rice University, and College of William and Mary are just a few. Finally, thanks to a booming creative culture that includes everything from the culinary and visual arts to entertainment art, the south is home to so many renowned art and design schools you’ll lose count. Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Ringling College of Art and Design, and Kentucky College of Art + Design at Spalding University are just a few. At these and other schools across the region, you can bet you’ll find some of the most unique programs for artists and designers of all kinds. This includes animators and game designers.
Because the south comprises such a large area, the U.S. Census Bureau divides the region into three divisions—South Atlantic, East South Central, and West South Central. Consisting of eight states and DC, the South Atlantic is the largest division and East and West South Central consist of four states each. We’d like to start our southern series with East South Central, which includes Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The following are unique bachelor’s and master’s programs for animation and game design in the East South Central area.
University of Alabama-Huntsville, Huntsville, Alabama
The College of Science at University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) houses the Department of Computer Science, which offers a unique Computer Science degree that prepares students for high-level careers in gaming. The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Science with a Concentration in Entertainment Computing emphasizes Game Programming. Per the Department, students are also “exposed to the contents on game design, graphics & animation programming, gameplay, mobile, physics, audio, user interfaces, engines & systems, and more.” This concentration also “develops students' problem-solving skills, communication skills, and creative & critical thinking.”
Sample courses for the 128 credit hour program include Technology, Multimedia & Gaming, Artificial Intelligence & Game Development, Video Game Design & Programming, Mobile Computing, Advanced Computer Graphics, Game Engines & Level Development, Animation: Modeling, Character Animation, Animation: Technical Arts, Multimedia, and Music Technology. Though the focus area highlights numerous animation and game courses, students will take a wide range of required math, technology. and science courses from calculus, physics and chemistry to C programming, JAVA and programming languages.
This comprehensive curriculum prepares students for careers in gaming, software development and design, computer programming, computer systems engineer, and more. Also worth mentioning is the UAH Game Design & Development Minor, which launched in 2014. The three year-old program comprises a mix of courses “offered primarily by the Department of Art & Art History and the Department of Computer Science, with assistance from the Department of Music and the Department of Communication Arts. The Minor provides students with a “strong foundation in video game creation basics. Topics include animation, mobile app design, digital composing, game engine development, and team game development among others.”
UAH is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award bachelors, masters, specialist, and doctoral degrees. Computer science holds accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET (ABET-CAC), and UAH is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Calhoun Community College, Decatur, Alabama
Top-ranked Calhoun Community College offers an interesting Associate of Applied Science (AAS) program that allows students to specialize in Graphic Animation and Electronic Imaging. Offered through the Humanities and Social Sciences area, the AAS in Computer Graphics is a 69 credit hour program that includes courses such as 3D Animation, Graphic Animation, Technical Illustration, Advanced Digital Design, Advanced Multimedia Production, and Drawing. Students may also take up to two animation electives.
Because the AAS in Computer Graphics dives right into the major, graduates are prepared to seek positions in the film industry, advertising, media, and even aerospace in just two years, if attending full-time. Calhoun Community College is accredited by the SACSCOC to award associate degrees.
Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky
Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is home to the renowned Gaming Institute, which focuses on the design, development, and publication of video games within an academic context. The first school in the state to offer a bachelor’s degree focusing on game design, EKU offers a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Interactive Multimedia and a Master of Science (MS) in Applied Computing. Students may add a Minor in Game Content Design or Interactive Media. The Game Content Design Minor launches Fall 2017.
Offered through the Department of Computer Science, the 120 credit hour BS consists of an exceptional mix of courses such as Computer Game Design, Operating Systems, 3D Modeling, 3D Game Engine Design, Console Game Design, Multimedia Systems & Forensics, Graphics Programming, Artificial Intelligence, Mobile App Dev for iOS, Personal Electronics Device Forensics, Film Scoring, Digital Electronics, Art Appreciation, Principles of Management, Technical Graphics, Advanced GIS, Geographic Information Systems, and Mobile App Dev.
Graduates of the BS program have been hired at Lockheed Martin, Multivision, Inc., Software Masters, Wendell Wilson Consulting, eLink Design, and many others. Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the SACSCOC to award associate, baccalaureate, masters, specialist, and doctoral degrees. The BS in Computer Science is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET (ABET-CAC).
Hinds Community College, Raymond, Mississippi
Another top-ranked community college in the East South Central area is Hinds Community College. The school has a large Arts, Media and Entertainment department that offers career and technical programs that prepare students for immediate employment in industries from animation, film and video to graphic design and broadcasting. Options for animators include the unique Animation and Simulation Design Technology program, which leads to an AAS, Technical Certificate and/or Career Certificate. Depending on the option, students may complete the program in just 1-2 years.
Per the school, “The Animation and Simulation Design Technology program emphasizes the techniques and tools used in game design and the creative design or content of such media. Modern animation skills are developed through hands-on training and professional business outcomes. Also included is in-depth analysis and training in three-dimensional animation skills, both for entertainment and industrial applications. The program prepares students for high-wage, high demand, entry-level employment in the entertainment media production field.”
Sample courses include Animation and Simulation Design Seminar, Audio Design and Production for Animation Simulation, Illustration and Artistic Rendering, Intermediate and Advanced 3D Modeling, Video Game Programming, and Game Theory and Mechanics. Students in the Technical and Career Certificates begin taking animation and game courses immediately. AAS students must take English, Public Speaking, and Interpersonal Communication, as well as Social/Behavioral Science, Humanities/Fine Arts, and Mathematics/Science electives.
A Film and Video Technology program is also available, and it leads to a Career Certificate, Technical Certificate and/or AAS. Hinds Community College is accredited by the SACSCOC to award the Associate of Arts degree (AA), the AAS degree and Technical and Career certificates.
Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
What makes the animation program at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) unique is the integrated animation and mass communication curriculum. This rare combination allows students to study video and film production, media management, new media communication, and/or photography. Because students gain multiple skills in a variety of areas, job opportunities are enhanced.
Offered through the College of Media and Entertainment, Department of Electronic Media Communication, the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Animation and Mass Communication highlights courses such as Sight, Sound, and Motion, Screenwriting, Motion Graphics, Post Production, Video Series Production, Digital Imaging, Writing for Interactive Experiences, Films and Filmmakers, Media Management, and Visual Journalism Production. Students will also have the opportunity to complete one or more internships that will help prepare them to work at production studios and postproduction houses, television stations, and in corporate production settings.
Employers of MTSU alumni include Disney, ABC, NBC, CBS, CMT, ESPN, National Public Television, Gemini Production Group and many others. Some students go on to start their own businesses or studios, while others become freelance video and film producers, filmmakers, directors, and more.
Middle Tennessee State University is accredited by the SACSCOC to award baccalaureate, masters, and doctorate degrees. The art and design programs at MTSU are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).
Christian Brothers University, South Memphis, Tennessee
Christian Brothers University (CBU) says that it’s relatively new Minor in Video Game Design provides the skills needed to pursue a career in the in demand video game design engineering industry. The program can be completed in less time, allowing students to enter the field faster than earning 4-year degree. Per the school, students in the program “engage in the use of different codes and software that are commonly used and become familiar with the different ways in which they contribute to the development and production of modern video games.”
Some courses offered allow students to “learn the technical and organizational skills needed to develop video games by using Unity 3D, a cross-platform game engine that provides encompassing environments to develop feature-rich video games and publish them to desktop, mobile, console, and web platforms.” Completion of the program shows that a student “understands the principles of game design, technology and has intermediate expertise in the use of a game engine.” As such, CBU game graduates have “career options spanning the whole field of video games. Being equipped with a versatile knowledge of computers, software, and code, CBU graduates have also numerous options outside that realm.” The CBU Video Game Minor is offered through the Gadomski School of Engineering.
Christian Brothers University is accredited by the SACSCOC to award the Bachelor's Degree and the Master's Degree.
East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
The great thing about the BS in Digital Media (DIGM) program at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) is the option to concentrate in Digital Animation, Digital Game Design or both. Students also have the option to concentrate in Digital Visualization or Digital Visual Effects. Another noteworthy component of the program is the DIGM core, which lays the foundation for all four concentration areas. The core consists of courses such as Digital Game Design, Digital Animation, Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Visualization, and Contemporary Art.
In a Times News article, Associate Professor Todd Emma said, “Our students who major in digital media and have a concentration in gaming focus on something called scripting, 3-D modeling and the Unreal game engine from Epic. It's the basis for many titles. They primarily focus on outputting (games) to mobile and PC. Students learn a little bit of everything during their time in the Digital Media Center (DMC), including scripting, music and animation. It's done this way because when you arrive in the program wanting to design video games, your interests may change over time and you could end up specializing in something else.”
Said Greg Marlow, a graduate of the DIGM program and lecturer at the DMC, “Now we focus our new students to try everything to make sure they pick the right thing. They may want to get into video games, but once they get into the program they may like video production better or visualization. Playing games doesn't mean making games is what's right for you.”
Game students will take unique courses such as High Fidelity Modeling for Entertainment and Game Play and Testing, as well as in-demand courses such as Computer Science, Interaction for Game Design, and Game Design. Animation students will take Technical Direction, Animation Fundamentals, 3D Animation, Character Animation, and Effects Animation. Animation students will also have the option to a unique offering—Raster-Based Imaging or they may take Visual Effects Compositing. They may also choose High Fidelity Modeling for Entertainment or 3D Lighting and Rendering.
The last class in the DIGM series is Portfolio Development. The class prepares students to transition from college life to professional life by working on resumes, cover letters, presentation skills, and most importantly: developing a professional digital media portfolio.
The DIGM program is offered through the College of Business and Technology, Department of Engineering Technology, Surveying, and Digital Media. East Tennessee State University is accredited by the SACSCOC to award baccalaureate, masters, education specialist, and doctoral degrees.
Other Schools to Consider:
Census Regions and Divisions of the United States. Suitland: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016. PDF.
Goldberg, Barbara. "South Rises Again, Leading U.S. in Population Growth." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 Mar. 2011. Web. 09 July 2017.
Kotkin, Joel. "How The South Will Rise To Power Again." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 09 July 2017.
Lane, Matthew. "ETSU's Digital Media Program Is More than Just Playing Games." Kingsport Times-News. Times-News Kingsport Tennessee, 31 Jan. 2017. Web. 09 July 2017.
Levin, Tim. "Top 25 Southern Schools 2016." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 07 July 2016. Web. 09 July 2017.
"Top Public Schools Regional Universities (South)." U.S. News & World Report Education. U.S. News & World Report, 2017. Web. 09 July 2017.
"U.S. Census Bureau Population Growth by Region." U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. Census Bureau, 2016. Web. 09 July 2017.