all offices are small so space can be devoted to meeting rooms,
functional spaces, and a posh 1,200-seat lecture hall.
“There is nothing accidental about this,” Linehan points out.
“The building is a purposeful architecture that is constructed
according to the way in which the faculty have said we need to learn
to work in the future. And to the credit of our wonderful board of
regents, they’ve really let us do it.”
The studios are impressive. A motion-capture lab is equipped
with 18 cameras and has already been used to animate a 3-month-
old baby using a live model. The large, utterly soundproof recording
studio is freakishly still, an experience unlike any other. It’s eerily
appealing until sound instructor Roxanne Minnish notes that the
quiet is fatiguing after 30 minutes because the brain is accustomed
to ambient noise. In here, there is none. There are art studios, sound
mixing rooms, classrooms, computer labs, darkrooms, and an airy
ATEC’s mission is broader than churning out developers of Toy
Story 4 or the next World of Warcraft, which, by the way, has grossed
over $10 billion. The discipline has seen a steady rise in research
funding to $1 million this year—much of it from the U.S. Army.
It’s not for war games.
The students developed an elaborate cultural trainer in video
game format to educate soldiers about social etiquette and customs in
Afghanistan. It won first place in a defense department competition
for innovations in gaming in 2009. Now, ATEC students are using
the platform to develop similar “serious games” to teach troops
about Nigerian and Philippine cultures.
“We’re sending kids from Nebraska into these environments,
and they make serious cultural mistakes,” Linehan notes. “What we
do is using gaming models, we place the troops inside an Afghani
village, a Pashtun village with 200 people. Your job is to meet them.
They each have full personalities, histories, families, responsibilities,
health conditions, and there is an elaborate conversation tree for
each of these people. You’re scored based on your interactions.”
Such concrete applications sustain and enhance the program,
Linehan points out. “We can support this from a research point
of view as well as an enrollment point of view, so that we can not
just be a trade school training people to do digital content design,”
Top: The Building’s lobby with modern polished concrete;
above, media conference rooms are spread throughout