The bucolic Baltimore suburb of Hunt Valley is home to a diverse collection of computer game companies whose innovative and dynamic products have helped push gaming to a new level. MICA's presence is a big reason why these firms chose to set up shop on the East Coast-and MICA alumni are a major asset for these companies. Together, two firms, Firaxis Games and Big Huge Games, employ more MICA graduates than any single employer. Firaxis, one of the world's premier game development studios and home of legendary designer Sid Meier, employs no less than 22 MICA alumni. Big Huge Games, a video game studio focused on cutting-edge technology and aimed at mass-market game development, also employs several MICA alumni and frequently seeks recruits from the College. When Greg Foertsch '95, an original member of the Firaxis team, became its internship coordinator, he turned to his alma mater for talent: "Our philosophy is to find excellent fine artists and teach them the computer skills, and MICA gives us excellent fine artists." David Inscore '95, founder and former Studio Art Director of Big Huge Games (currently Art Director at Zynga East), adds, "I was so fortunate to have come out of MICA in the mid-1990s, when games really started to take off. Being able to pass that opportunity on to MICA students is just one of the things that drives me now. I've been doing this for 13 years, and I have a blast every single day. It re-energizes me to sit down and talk to students about this opportunity."
As the industry has evolved and grown, Foertsch and Inscore recognized that young artists need more than talent and traditional fine art skills in this competitive industry. So they've been working with MICA to explore curricula and programs to prepare MICA students to hit the ground running with the sophisticated 3D animation approaches that are essential for success in gaming today. Foertsch has taught MICA classes in contemporary character modeling techniques in 3D Studio MAX, ZBrush, and Photoshop. He and Inscore have consulted with MICA faculty on coursework that would give MICA students a solid foundation for a career in gaming. Inscore observed that students prepared for work in the gaming industry are also ready to take on opportunities in films and other entertainment media. "Gaming has gotten so complex that a lot of what we do is comparable to what they're doing in the movies," he explained. And MICA is uniquely positioned to take advantage of what's happening in both areas: "Other art schools have gaming programs, but MICA is the only art school on the East Coast that has such a strong community of game developers and game studios nearby."