WITS Game Design course off to a solid start

Just over a year ago we caught up with Hanli Geyser, the head of WITS’ new Digital Arts department in the School of Arts. Geyser has spent the last year compiling a course in game design, and since it is now under-way, we thought it appropriate to get back in touch and find out how its going.

If you missed the first interview, you can read it here: WITS to offer degree in Game Design, starting 2012.

We also recently had a look at where in South Africa you can study game-design oriented courses.

Since we last spoke, has the format of the game design courses changed?

The game design programs are now in full swing, with excited students from both the arts and engineering causing much chaos and playing many games. The format remains the same: Game Design is available as a major in two set curriculum degrees: a BEngSci (Digital Arts) for those interested in programming, and a BA PVA (Digital Arts) for those interested in sound, graphics or narrative.

The degree programs are being very positively received by the students and faculty as well as by many South African and International industry advisors.  As it is brand new, there will of course be a lot of refining happening on the course content as we go, but no real changes are foreseen.

Game design June exam project

When did this year’s courses kick off, and how has the reception been?

The degrees commenced at the beginning of the academic year in in February. Students made their first game three days later.

How many students are currently enrolled in game design at WITS?

Currently we have 26 students, with 13 pursuing the B.Eng.Sci (Digital Art) and 13 in the BA PVA (Digital Art). We received over a hundred applications for the two degrees, and are fortunate to have been able to select the group very carefully. The students are all extremely committed to game development as well as to their studies in general.

How have the students been performing in the courses so far?

The general performance has been very good. Our students are averaging well in their selected disciplines, and their commitment to Game Design shines in the quality of the games they have been producing.

Students playing D&D

Do you think that the local development scene has grown in the past year?

Definitely. Wednesday, the 29th of August, saw the first official meeting of “Make Games South Africa”, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to furthering the interests of Game Development as a healthy industry within South Africa.  The organisation has received massive support from both active and aspirant developers. Membership is open to all, and it offers a friendly community in which to practice, learn, and ask advice. You can find it here: makegamessa.com

The AMAZE Interact festival that happened in Braamfontein last week also attracted many game designers and showcased South African indie games. The festival is planned to run annually and has the potential to become a hub for South Africa’s indie talent to connect to the rest of the world.

Lab class

Last time we chatted, your most anticipated games were Skyrim, Diablo III, Starwars: The Old Republic, Journey and Desktop Dungeons. Now that all of those games have been released, what were your favourites?

Rather don’t ask me about Diablo III – I may just burst into tears. Desktop Dungeons is still in “beta” and still wonderful. Skyrim was big, and Star Wars was fun. But of all of them, Journey was one of the most magnificent game experiences that I have yet come across. Right now however, I am stabbing things in the back in Guild Wars 2.

Learn more about the WITS game design course.

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WITS Game Design course off to a solid start

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