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Miami University Is Making Gaming A Major: It's More Than Just Video Games

Students in an Interactive Media Studies class at Miami University.
Jeff Sabo
Miami University
Students in an Interactive Media Studies class at Miami University.

Miami University's board of trustees is set Friday to upgrade the school's gaming minor to its own major.Until now, the program has been part of the Interactive Media Studies program lead by Director Glenn Platt.

Before you scoff, Platt says gaming is about more than just the first-person shooter or Xbox games you may be thinking of.

"If you have a Fitbit, you are playing a game," Platt explains. "Those are game mechanics that are involved in a Fitbit - the things that give you levels, points, rewards. Your Kroger card, Graeter's card, your loyalty program for your airline - all of these things are games."

Games are big business. At $140 billion worldwide, it surpasses Hollywood and music combined and it's still growing, Platt says.

"The healthcare gamification industry is expected to be a $20 billion industry by 2020 - $20 billion just on trying to gamify 'hey, you should take your medicine' and 'here's some exercises to get healthy' and rewards for that."

Platt points to a survey by the Higher Education Video Game Association that suggests students in game majors have an 8 percent higher employment rate than the average college student and make approximately $24,000 more per year upon graduation.

Students will be trained in game design, game development, and game art ... along with how to apply these skills beyond the typical video game.

Miami has offered gaming studies as part of Interactive Media Studies for a number of years. Princeton Review ranks the game program 16th in the world and third among public universities.

There are about 750 students studying interactive media. The new major will be limited to around 100, making it fairly competitive.

Gaming programs got their start in computer science, and, like that industry, gaming also tends to skew male.

Platt says Miami is being intentional in the way it selects diverse students.

"Game programs around the country have struggled with this. We've been very intentional about this. Our interactive media studies program, and our game students in that, are actually slightly majority female.

"We have been very gender sensitive and oriented in what we do, and I think we've designed a program that works as a game program in a way that's going to be more attractive to women than a lot of other game programs, frankly."

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.