Graduation at Sarasota's Ringling College

By Beau Denton May 6, 2011

For the first time, students in Ringling College's Game Art and Design program, launched in 2007, will be donning the cap and gown. They gathered with the Computer Animation students last Saturday to present their senior theses, a display of Pixar-quality short films and jaw-dropping video game demos. Friends and family packed into the Neel Auditorium at SCF to applaud the creative products these students had spent countless hours developing. Given the level of imagination and talent—plus the students’ ability to have some fun in the process–it was hard not to get caught up in the celebration.

That celebration culminates in Friday night’s graduation ceremony. To highlight its new GAD program, Ringling brought in J.C. Herz, author of Joystick Nation, to deliver the commencement address. At a luncheon on campus Friday afternoon, Herz spoke to Ringling trustees and Sarasota community leaders about the video game industry. She traced gaming history, from arcades to online community-based games, pointing out ways that the industry’s business model has transformed along with its technology.

The endlessness of arcade games (“quarter extraction devices,” Herz calls them) gave way to console games with definite endings (so players would have to buy the next one), to today’s immersive style, in which gamers interact with each other and move freely through the game’s landscape. In her commencement address, Herz will encourage the GAD students to study that history and let it inform their creative process. “Games are a great opportunity to learn new kinds of critical languages”—like mathematics, architecture and music—“that deepen your ability to think and be expressive,” she says.

If last weekend’s show is any indication, the GAD students will thrive in the ever-changing industry, adding to Ringling’s many accolades. To those students, and the rest of this year’s largest-ever graduating class, we say congratulations—and best of luck.

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