Video Games Get Academic Props

Shanna Tellerman, Carnegie Mellon University
shanna tellerman carnegie mellon university student studying video games evening news

This is a video game and you are a firefighter responding to a possible terrorist attack. Poisonous gas is spreading in the subway. Victims are down. What to do?

To the artists developing this game, like Shanna Tellerman, this wasn't just fun.

"I'm choosing a light green gas, which could be chlorine gas,'' she says.

Tellerman says she's "pretty much" getting her masters degree based on this game: a masters from Carnegie Mellon University in what's called entertainment technology, or video games.

As CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, clearly this is not your father's college campus.

Some students build a robot to study video animatronics. In another class, student Zac Pavlov offers a light sabre lesson using virtual reality.

It's all high energy, but is it academics?

"This is about building real things that really affect people," says professor Jessie Schell.

Schell, a veteran of Disney, calls video game development the dominant art form of the century.

"If you would agree that writing and art and film and engineering are all valid academic pursuits, this really is just a combination of those, with psychology thrown in," says Schell.

Colleges are offering this because it's what students want. But it's also where the money is. The video game industry last year was worth almost $25 billion, which exceeded the box office receipts from the film industry.

To the older crowd, of course, too many video games have too much mindless carnage.

But to these students, carnage is not where the industry is going. They're building a firefighter game, in fact, to help train the New York Fire Department's hazmat team.

The professionals who train in real life for gas attacks, believe the video game will save lives.

"It gives us the ability to run a scenario repeatedly," says New York City Fire Dept. Lt. Tony Mussorfiti. "We would never be able to repeat the number and types of scenarios we can generate in the computer."

"I think it's going to be the future of education and the future of training," says Mussorfiti.

For this reason,more and more graduate students see themselves as "players" in the future of American industry.