by Diane Sears
Updated 5 yearss ago
GAME TIME: UCF's Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy is set up to feel like a game development studio.
As the inaugural class hits its second semester at the University of Central Florida's graduate school for video game developers, the city is carving out a "digital media village" to surround the downtown Orlando campus.
The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy and UCF's School of Film & Digital Media are housed in the former Expo Centre, refurbished for $4.6 million to look like a game design studio. Now there's talk of turning the Marriott next door into dormitories, adding multistory retail and residential development and purchasing ultramodern buses to accommodate the 4,000 people FIEA and the nearby new Florida A&M University law school are expected to bring to the area. It's unclear how the T.D. Waterhouse Arena and Bob Carr Theatre across the street fit into the picture.
"I think what we're launching here is the next great economic engine for our city," Mayor Buddy Dyer says.
Graduates of the academy are expected to earn $60,000 to $80,000 annually. Game developer Electronic Arts in Mait-land touched off the project when it expressed concern about a lack of depth in the local talent pool. FIEA's 16-month program teaches 3-D modeling, animation and motion, technical artistry, software development and production management.
FIEA has attracted national recognition, securing a deal with Microsoft as the first school to license Xbox development kits. "This is going to give us a leg up," student Colleen Cleveland says. "We're going to go out there knowing not just how to make a game but how to be a leader in the industry."
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