Associate professor Jeff Price’s office isn’t an arcade, but it is a monument of sorts to video games.
Price is the director of the gaming and animation program at Oklahoma Christian University. He started it five years ago with 15 students. Next fall there will be six times as many students in the program.
The Princeton Review recently named the program one of the best in the country, joining the likes of MIT and the University of Southern California.
For Price, the program is something close to his heart. He grew up playing games. His office is filled with several coin operated machines, including Defender, Centipede and an original stand up version of Pong from the early 1970s.
While those games have been around longer than most of his students, the interest in gaming and animation has never been higher.
“When we started I did expect there would be some interest in our program, but the amount of growth that has happened in the last five years is amazing to me,” Price said. “We started with 15 and there are 50 now and there will be another 40 coming in the fall.”
When Price spoke to a group of prospective students and parents on a recent weekday morning, the classroom was practically full.
Building the program
Price started the program from scratch, visiting other schools to pick up ideas along the way. He later combined some of the school’s design and animation classes into one program.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have such great support from the school,” he said. “They took this untested thing and let me start this program. I think that is paying off. We’ve been lucky to be recognized by the Princeton Review. That’s been a large draw to our program.”
Price revamped the curriculum and accelerated the pace in which students learn.
“When I first got here, there were things that they weren’t getting into until their senior year,” he said. “We’ve moved things like modeling principles to freshman year. That gives them four years to build on their skills. By their senior year they have a portfolio that hopefully will help them land a job.”
Price said many of his male students tend to gravitate toward game design, while females favor animation, though there is plenty of crossover. But learning how to make games and animate on a computer are one thing, and finding a job is another.