A high school where gaming earns a grade

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A high school where gaming earns a grade

Korea takes computer gaming seriously. Very, very seriously. Did you know that about 40 colleges now offer a major in gaming?
One rung down on the educational ladder, a professor of computer science and his wife have opened the country’s first gaming high school.
“Like Bill Gates, who conquered the computer business after only graduating from high school, we will produce gaming geniuses who will be the best in the world,” said Jung Kwang-ho, the Hansei University professor who has established Korea Game High School in Wanju, North Jeolla province.
A graduate of this school needn’t worry about his or her job prospects outside of gaming; the diplomas are equivalent to the parchment that other schools give out.
The idea isn’t to produce better game players. The school will limit the student body to those who show talent in fields such as computer design, programming and graphics. The high school curriculum is geared toward nurturing the next generation of game producers, inventors and project coordinators.
A class of 50 freshmen will enter in February, with 100 additional students planned for each following year. The first crop of students will study in classes of five or fewer students.
But Mr. Jung admits that if students only concentrated on games, there would be a “problem of dehumanization.” To circumvent this, the curriculum incorporates a half-hour of “mental training” and an hour of reading daily, and requires students to perform community service.
The school will also stress English mastery, he says, “so it won’t be an obstacle for them to go out into the world.” The school plans to hire native English speakers, who will bunk down in student housing.
Despite a chorus of critical voices, Mr. Jung and his wife, the school’s future director, are confident that Koreans are ideal candidates for leading the gaming industry.
“No part of a game, making programs or graphics, can be done automatically; it must be done by hand,” Mr. Jung says, adding that the gaming industry offers plenty of opportunities for making money. So far, however, Korea accounts for less than 2 percent of the world gaming industry revenues, he says.
Mr. Jung became hooked on gaming in the mid-1990s. In 1998, he created a computer-game major and developed teaching material for the subject.
Since founding the Korea Game Institute, whose members include professors and gaming company CEOs, he has become the de facto chairman of Korea’s gaming business. Mr. Jung’s wife is a veteran teacher who managed a computer academy for 15 years.
“I regretted there was nothing more to teach talented students after five or six years,” she says, reflecting on her experience running a hagwon. “What’s more valuable than forming a community where teenagers can spread their creativity?”

by Jang Bae-seok
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