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[Friday, December 02, 2005]

Those who spend hours playing computer games can transform their hobby into a career by earning a Digital Media degree to be offered by McHenry County College next fall.

The college received $15,000 in seed money from a MentorLinks grant awarded from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a Digital Media degree.

MCC is one of three colleges in Illinois to receive this grant, which pairs up schools to help establish new programs and make needed changes. Meri Albright at MCC will be mentored by Phyllis Owens from Camden College in New Jersey. Camden College has had a Digital Media degree for several years.

According to MCC computer instructor Meri Albright, a Digital Media degree fulfills a niche for those looking to combine a love for programming, creativity, and art.

“Today’s students don’t want to learn mainframe or COBOL. They want to learn the latest in today’s technology. Video game programming can be incorporated into many other areas, such as internet programming, marketing, art, or full-fledged animation for TV or Disney,” Albright said.

The degree will include two tracks—an animation track and a programming track. The animation track will focus on the basics of design and computer graphics, 2D and 3D modeling and animation. The programming track will consist of object oriented programming, C++ languages, and database concepts.

Albright, who typed in her first computer program at age nine on a Tandy computer, said she wants to reach out to get students engaged in learning.

“My interest in using game technology is to teach today’s computer literate students. The lecture/reading format is losing kids because the entertainment industry has trained them to expect more. This incoming generation of students is a video game generation. Video technology—taken to a new level—is getting students involved.”

According to Albright, less than 10 percent of those employed in the video game design and development are women.

According to a 2003 Game Development Salary Survey reported by, video game programmers earned between $58,000 and $69,413, depending on experience. Lead programmers earned up to $97,907. Art and animation salaries ranged from $40,573 to $53,636. Lead artists earned up to $58,839 with up to five years experience.

MCC is looking for four-year schools with game design and animation degrees to accept MCC transfer students, Albright said. Currently, DePaul University accepts many MCC transfer credits and is currently advising MCC on the new Digital Media degree.

Currently, the college offers classes toward an Internet Game Programming certificate. Students may enroll in Computer Literacy, Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to Programming, all having multiple sections available; Introduction to Flash (Animation), which meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays and Internet Game Programming, which meets from 6-10 p.m. on Mondays.

For more information, contact MCC’s Computer Information Systems instructor Meri Albright at (815) 455-8939 or visit for information on other CIS degrees available.

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