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Future architects to be trained via video games

Posting in Architecture

Architects spend a lot of time on their computers, rendering buildings and playing with adventurous new shapes and concepts. Does it make sense, then, that architecture students might be well suited to learn about their future profession via video games?

Architectural Record recently reported that the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) won a $40,000 grant to develop a video game to educate architectural students about the business side of the design industry.

The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) gave SCAD the funds as the 2012 Award for the Integration of Practice and Education, and it represents the organization's largest award given to date.

The game will help teach SCAD's architecture students about the less glamorous side of the profession and will be part of the curriculum in the school’s required architectural practices course. It will simulate interactions with clients and contractors, and deal with topics such as compensation and project administration. In other words, it won't be about designing buildings or thinking about city skylines at all.

“Most students are very familiar with this type of media,” Greg Hall, chair of SCAD’s architecture department, told Architectural Record. “And it’s widely recognized that ‘playing’ is one of the best ways to learn. We hope to expand this concept to other classes.” The game is scheduled to be taught -- and of course, played -- starting in Fall 2013.

The idea of interactive computer games as a teaching tool isn't new, of course; training simulations have long been used by the U.S. military, pilots, and even food-service companies. But there seems to be a fresh wave of attention to the concept, in terms of either new critical praise or in the case of SCAD's grant, financial support.

Just last month, for instance, The Economist's Schumpeter column looked at video games as the latest fad in management theory. In April, the British Journal of Surgery published a paper reviewing 25 research studies on 30 medical-training simulations that can be considered "serious games" created between 1995-2012; the paper concluded that "serious games can be used to provide surgeons with training in both technical and non-technical skills."

That SCAD's interactive game development students and faculty will collaborate with the institution's architecture professors to produce the new simulation suggests that game developers may be wise to seek previously untapped industries to pitch video games as an educational tool. There could be a growing market for such tools -- and the designers who create them.

Image: Jon Purdy/Flickr

— By on December 20, 2012, 12:38 PM PST

Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure