If you've ever dreamt of creating the next Halo or Grand Theft Auto, DigiPen Institute of Technology may be your launch pad into the world of game development.
Like most young boys, Samir Abou Samra’s first love was the video games he played at the arcade. “I always wondered how video games were made,” DigiPen Institute of Technology's Chief Technology Officer says. “My parents gave me the best Christmas present when I was 13: a ZX Spectrum 48k computer that came with source code for five basic games.” With the help of his computer scientist sister, the young Samir began learning many of the concepts behind real-time interactive simulation. Those early lessons fueled his aspirations to become a computer scientist and then to work at a video game giant, such as Atari or Nintendo.
Ready, set, go!
In 1998, Samir’s dream came true: He was working at DigiPen Canada as a software engineer, and was asked by Nintendo to help develop video games. That kick-started his career in the game industry, which includes high-ranking positions like Lead Engineer at Nintendo Software Technology and Vice President of Operations at Nintendo Software Technology Canada Inc. Since then, Samir has returned to teach at DigiPen to share his knowledge and expertise in game development with his students.
When asked what keeps him passionate about his craft after 12 years in the game industry, Samir says with conviction and enthusiasm, “I thrive on the drive to push the limit. With advancements in technology, I am always challenged to discover new algorithms and to improve previous solutions.”
His knowledge and passion gave him the advantage he needed during a particularly challenging project when he was at Nintendo. “While working on the Game Boy Color video game Bionic Commando, we were given the task to add more content, but we were limited by the device’s memory space," Samir shares. "My passion and deep understanding of computer science were the basis of my discovery of a new compression technique that allowed us to add more content within the limited memory.”
Gateway to the game industry
Samir encourages those who want to follow his footsteps to start at DigiPen. “The programme here is academic, theoretical, and applied," he says. "It is designed by people with a wealth of experience under their belts and who are involved in both academia and professional game development. The curriculum thoroughly prepares students for the industry. They are equipped with the knowledge and skills to create professional games and software as soon as they graduate. As a matter of fact, we tell our students that their first day at DigiPen is their first day at work.”
DigiPen Institute of Technology stands out amongst other educational institutions by providing top-quality game development education. The programme at DigiPen is designed around Real-Time Interactive Simulation, where computer science, physics, math, and gaming all come together in hands-on, team-based, project-based classes. By the time students graduate, they will have honed their skills by completing eight distinct game projects.
Discipline and stamina are required to persevere through the heavy course load at DigiPen – in a typical semester, students must take six courses. Samir believes that students must also have a passion for game development, as well as the ability to think outside the box as they put the theory they have learned into practice. “They have to believe in themselves and that the sky is their limit!” Samir affirms.
By Shi Tianyun
Contributed by JobsCentral Pte Ltd