A sign posted on the door of room nine in Weber State University’s Stewart Library warns, “No Studying.” This room is strictly reserved for students utilizing the video game equipment provided by WSU in the video game lab.
Matt LaMour loads an NHL hockey game into a Playstation 3, which is one of three video game platforms in the lab alongside the Wii and X-Box 360. For LaMour who has been frequenting the lab since last fall, this is much needed leisure time.
“I was a bit surprised when I found out they had a video game lab here,” LaMour said. “The video game setup is great. Not only does it blow off steam, just sometimes you come in and you got to get a game fix. You kind of relax after playing.”
The lab, which is available for any WSU student, faculty and staff, was opened last September thanks to funding provided by an AARC grant. Library employee Jason Francis, who helped write the grant, sees many benefits in providing hardware for student use.
Francis said he has heard students say that if it were not for the lab, they would never set foot in the library.
“You really need to evaluate what our student body wants,” Francis said. “I am a proponent for our library to look at services our students are interested in. If we have something that can get students in the door to where we can promote other services, I think it’s a beneficial thing.”
The lab is also used for academic purposes. WSU offers a video game development certification. The three video game courses include Introduction to Video Game Programming, 2-D Video Programming and 3-D Video Game Programming.
“When we are giving our Introduction to Video Gaming class, we actually have students play video games for homework because a lot of our teaching concepts come from them,” explained Richard Fry, associate professor and academic advisor in the computer science department.
One goal of the class, Fry said, is to spur excitement about the field of video game design.
“Our mission is to expose students to all aspects of the video game industry from the design document from scratch, coming up with game rules and concepts, all the way up to the computer science part where they actually deal with physics, simulated gravity and artificial intelligence.”
Bob Burqawitz is working towards a video game certification and has taken many of these classes.
“People get video game design theory in these courses,” Burqawitz said. “We’re getting a taste of what it’s like working on and designing a video game.”
The classes are reserved for computer science majors. However, the Introduction to Interactive Entertainment 1010 course is available for students who are interested in video games but are not going in the computer science field. Fry encourages those earning an arts degree or anyone who is required to fulfill a creative arts credit to take this course.
“It’s a creative arts gen-ed class that we actually teach in the computer science department,” Fry explained. “Basically, we explore all sorts of media, including video games, and play them as part of their homework. Students design full video game documents, which are then developed by the computer science students in the Introduction to Video Game Programming class.”
The video game lab is open during library hours and is open to any student, faculty or staff member whether for leisure or for homework.