UC Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences has established the Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds, led by ICS Associate Dean Magda El Zarki and senior research scientist Walt Scacchi of the UCI Institute for Software Research.

The center’s goal is to expand campuswide research activities that draw upon UCI’s strengths spanning the social and technological aspects of games and virtual worlds. More than 20 faculty members from computer science, arts, humanities, social science and education will collaborate in the center.

UCI was among the first major research universities to establish educational and research programs in computer game culture and technology. The UCI Game Culture & Technology Lab, launched in 2001, has attracted nearly $5 million in external funding.

“We now realize that scientific and cultural achievements go beyond the current concepts of what games and virtual worlds are good for, or how they may be developed or applied,” Scacchi said. “The center will support our research in demonstrating the sustained ability to invent and reinvent the future of computer games and virtual worlds.”

UCI has a growing number of game-related research projects, including game-based virtual worlds where students “play to learn” via interactive simulations, open community-based development of games and synthetic worlds, and gamelike synthetic worlds where autonomous characters display emotional responses and emergent behaviors.

The Center for Computer Games & Virtual Worlds plans to host national and international research workshops as well as visiting research scholars. In addition, center faculty plan to establish industry and academic partnerships with computer game and virtual world research centers across the globe.

About the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences: The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences is the first independent computer science school within the UC system and one of the fastest-growing programs of its kind in the nation. Elevated from department to school status in December 2002, information and computer sciences at UCI is an academic community of more than 1,500 students, more than 100 full-time faculty and staff, and approximately 6,500 alumni worldwide. With experts in areas ranging from embedded computer systems and networking to bioinformatics and the social impacts of computing, the school ranks 15th among all public university computer science graduate programs, according to U.S. News & World Report.

About the University of California, Irvine:
Founded in 1965, UCI is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 27,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,200 staff. The top employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $4.2 billion. For more UCI news, visit http://today.uci.edu/.

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