By David Biggins
In the UK 44 development studios have closed in two years
A Norfolk university is reporting its highest ever enrolment for its computer games degree despite struggles in the gaming industry.
Sixty students will start their Games Art and Design undergraduate course at the Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA) in October 2010.
The course's popularity has increased by 200% since 2005.
NUCA is also looking to further help its graduates by funding the set up of studios in Norfolk.
"The course is gaining a growing reputation for its facilities and education experience," said course leader Marie Claire Isaaman.
The BA degree at NUCA focuses on the design and animation used to create today's immersive gaming experiences, while looking at the historical context of the now retro games of the early '80s, including Pacman and Super Mario Bros.
The course is quickly gaining respect in the UK gaming industry, with some of its more recent graduates landing jobs at independent studios such as Jagex in Cambridge - the company responsible for
an online game that boasts more than 100 million players.
The university is also a member of the
iPhone Developer University Program,
creating smartphone apps as part of its curriculum.
"Recent graduates have been successful in their career pathways and this has enhanced the reputation of the course garnering interest and increasing recruitment, including international applications," said Marie Claire.
Despite having the highest number of games development companies and publishers in Europe, the UK games industry has been struggling in recent years.
Students from the computer games course have landed studio jobs
According to TIGA, the trade association that represents the UK's games industry, 44 games development studios have closed in the last two years.
Earlier this year, computer games designers were disappointed by the coalition government's decision not to implement a tax break for the UK video games industry. The tax break had been proposed by shadow chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling in the previous government.
Despite these setbacks in the computer games industry, new research conducted by Ofcom has revealed that online gaming is now more popular than downloading music or films.
Marie Claire Isaaman believes that the future of the UK games industry lies in independent development studios and hopes that her students at the NUCA can play a greater role in these studios in the future.
"We are looking at working with funding bodies to support start-up companies for games and that might well be here in Norwich," she said.
"There could be a future for small, independent studios in Norwich. Considering the success of the course, which is increasing in numbers year by year, this could happen."