The School Where it's OK to Major in Fun and Games

At Vancouver's DigiPen, kids who grew up playing Donkey Kong and Castlevania train to create the video adventures of tomorrow

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In Vancouver, British Columbia, the next generation of video games is on the drawing boards. At North America's only video-game school, students who grew up hooked on Bionic Commando are now learning the highly complex skills necessary to invent new onscreen diversions (and, of course, hot new products).

The game-programming school, the brainchild of DigiPen (short for Digital Pencil) founder and CEO, Claude Comair, is now in its third year. Although the school, with support from Nintendo, is attracting applicants in droves, only the very best and brightest will gain admission. (For the class entering this year, there were 12,000 applicants for 77 places.)

Studying everything from Boolean algebra to logic circuits and storyboarding, DigiPen classmates spend two intense years honing their skills and devising a class project: an original video game. Writer Richard Wolkomir takes us behind the scenes at this unique academy, introducing the young wizards who will shape the games of the future.

Along the way, he also explores the emerging trends in an industry that is growing exponentially. The video-game scene is an arena of soaring profits. It's a $15-billion-a-year enterprise. The United States alone generates sales of approximately $3.5 billion a year, approaching Hollywood's $5 billion or so annual box-office take.

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