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9:38pm on Wednesday, 10th September, 2008:

Game Over


The ripples of the merger between the Computing and Electronic departments at Essex University continue, and yesterday they finally reached the Computer Games degree.

To cut a long story short, the department has a yearly budget deficit in the millions, and it has to cut back to its core areas if it's to survive. Computer Games is not a core area. It could have continued if it had attracted a healthy number of undergraduates, but as soon as I found out how many newcomers we were getting for 2008/09 — six — I knew what was going to happen. Sure enough, the Computer Games degree is being phased out.

Computer Games will still be taught at Essex, but not as a specialised degree. You'll get a high-quality programming degree, with some very games-relevant modules in areas like AI and graphics, but there'll only be one (or maybe two) modules specific to Computer Games. I don't know if I'll be teaching on them, but I suspect not — there are full-time members of staff who can do it, and this is a cost-cutting exercise. Once the current second- and third-year students have graduated, I'm probably going to be a cost that will be cut.

I can't blame the department for doing this; if I'd been Head of Department, I'd have done the same thing. Our problem was always twofold: a lousy name for the degree ("Computer Games and Internet Technology", which we finally managed to get changed for this coming academic year — rather too late to have an impact) and lack of investment. Universities that risked everything on Computer Games are now reaping the rewards, but we were always in the position of a racing enthusiast who has a hot tip for a can't-lose horse but no money to make the bet. Once the situation has stabilised, a Computer Games degree may reappear, but that's going to be at least five years from now.

Hmm, I really must get around to putting together those web pages for my consultancy operation sometime...

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).