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Grand Theft Brooklyn? NYU to open game studies center

March 28, 2013 at 3:41 PM ET

 Some rights reserved by NYU Game Center
Some rights reserved by NYU Game Center
Students participate in "The Winning Pitch," a social game design workshop and competition at the NYU Game Center.

New York University is aiming to cement its position as a leader in the young field of video game studies by opening a 40,000-square-foot institute called the Media and Games Network in downtown Brooklyn next fall.

The facility called MAGNET will bring together existing NYU programs in fields such as game design, game engineering and games for learning.

The programs currently are split between Brooklyn and NYU's main campus in Greenwich Village.

"To my great happiness, I will be spending a lot less money on my subway cards," said Katherine Isbister, an associate professor with a joint appointment at the NYU Game Center and NYU's Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn.

Isbister said having artists, computer scientists and academics who study video games all under one roof will break down barriers.

"I'm hoping it will create a lot more energy and experimentation and help us create new forms of games or new applications of gaming ideas to other kinds of problems," she said.

NYU is the nation's largest private nonprofit university with nearly 35,000 full-time students. Plans to add 1.9 million square feet of classrooms and other facilities to the Greenwich Village campus have aroused opposition. The MAGNET center will not require new construction but will occupy eighth-floor space in Brooklyn's MetroTech Center, a 1990s office park.

Jonathan Frye, a doctoral degree candidate who is writing his dissertation on video games and player types, said that when he started his program at NYU's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development he had to ask permission to take classes at the university's Tisch School of the Arts.

Now, he said, "you'll be able to just walk down the hall and start taking to someone about an idea that you have. ... I don't know of any other school that has programmers and researchers and game studies people all in one spot where they can work together and collaborate with ease."

NYU already offers degrees in fields such as game design, games for learning and integrated digital media.

NYU "has emerged as one of the top universities in the country in game design and game studies, a tribute to its faculty strengths in the multiple disciplines making up the field," Provost David McLaughlin said. "The creation of MAGNET, which grew organically out of the interlocking and vibrant research collaborations that had already brought together faculty in these programs, will only enhance NYU's profile in this cutting-edge sector of technology."

Frank J. Lee, the co-founder of the game design program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said that gathering various gaming -related departments under one roof will make MAGNET "almost a school or a college dedicated to gaming ."

"It provides legitimacy for gaming as a serious academic endeavor," Lee said.

The computer and video game industry employs more than 120,000 people, a figure that will grow, said Rich Taylor, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association, a trade association.

Taylor said the industry, comprising "everything from Words with Friends to Call of Duty," is looking for U.S.-educated talent, and he called NYU's Magnet center an exciting development.

"This is an industry that has a growing population that consumes the products we create," Taylor said. "They are preparing students for the economy that's awaiting them upon graduation."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Chris Cobb is an independent game developer at Ragtag Studio and he is trying to make his dream come true. NBCNews.com's Todd Kenreck reports.



© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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