I was always fortunate growing up to have parents who were perfectly fine with me spending lots of time playing video games. As long as my grades were solid, I had an active social life, and I didn't ravage my hands with repetitive strain injuries (thanks for nothing, Rad Racer), they trusted me to make good choices with my free time and my spending money.
Not everyone was always so lucky, though, and I knew plenty of people whose parents treated them like the kids in the Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right" video. Games will rot your brains! They'll turn you violent! And so on, and so forth.
It was hard to offer solid counter-evidence in the '80s, especially when the media was full of alarmist panic about how the Japanese were angling to conquer America by hypnotizing our children with Nintendo game tapes. Happily, though, it's much easier to point to the redeeming qualities of games these days... and that's due in part to the existence of the DigiPen Institute, who conferred upon its first graduating class actual usable college degrees in video games on this day 15 years ago.
DigiPen began simply as an animation studio, but its founders soon shifted its attention to education and eventually became the first accredited university in America to offer specialization in video games. From its first graduating class of 11, it's grown to a campus with roughly 2,000 students — some of whom have worked on very high-profile games indeed. Many of its graduates end up with Nintendo Software Technology, a studio closely connected to both Nintendo and DigiPen. And the two companies' relationship remains strong after two decades; earlier this week they announced a new venture to find and publish promising Singaporean games for Nintendo 3DS.
Since DigiPen took the leap into education, video games have become a legitimate field of academia. And not just with the technical focus that DigiPen specializes in, but in terms of media criticism, gender studies, and history and preservation as well. It practically seems like a legitimate field of study... and those first few graduates who walked in July 2000 helped pioneer this transformation.