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U. of Utah to Help Students Publish Video Games

Many universities offer programs that teach video-game design, but the University of Utah has taken the unusual step of creating a company to help its students bring their electronic amusements to market.

The company, Utah Game Forge, opened in May and just released its first game, Heroes of Hat! (above), written and produced by a group of 14 Utah seniors.

Owned and financed by the university, the company is the brainchild of faculty members in the entertainment-arts-and-engineering program, a collaboration between the School of Computing and the department of visual and media arts. The professors worked with the university’s Technology Commercialization Office to establish the company.

“We wanted a way to help our students commercialize games,” said Roger A. Altizer Jr., game-production-track director in the program. Students can master the programming, but “they don’t know how to run a business or manage risk,” he said.

The students retain all intellectual-property rights to their game and can use elements of them for future projects, he said.

Being able to publish games can also boost students’ career prospects, he added. “It’s going to give a lot of our students a big leg up, because they have game credits.”

Another group of seniors who worked on a senior game project is creating its own distribution company, since the leader of that team has previous experience starting businesses.

Utah Game Forge, for its part, does more than publish students’ work. Mr. Altizer is setting up contracts with two outside companies to bring in design projects that will employ seven to 14 students, he said.

While similar internships have always been a part of the game-production program, the university had little experience in writing up the necessary business contracts. Establishing a private company under the auspices of the entertainment-arts program, Mr. Altizer said, helps facilitate those kinds of deals.

“I can’t think of any other school that makes commercializing their games part of the curriculum,” he said.

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