An Australian school that offers training in video game development is opening its first U.S. campus in the Seattle area.
The Academy of Interactive Entertainment will begin its first classes in September and should soon have capacity for at least 125 students, according to Chris Erhardt, a former game developer and teacher who will head the school.
The non-profit school will offer certificate programs and continuing education. Courses will be designed for people wanting to work in digital media, game development, special effects and film production.
“We consider ourselves something that fills a niche that currently doesn’t get satisfied in Seattle,” Erhardt said. “We bring the ability for students to be able to try things in a smaller capacity than, say, a four-year degree program.”
If AIE follows the model of its parent organization in Australia, it may also offer the equivalent of community college degrees as well.
“Education is a cornerstone of economic development when you’re trying to grow an industry,” said Kristina Hudson, director of the Washington Interactive Network trade group, which helped recruit the school to the region.
Hudson said AIE will expand the mix of schools that train people to work at the state’s cluster of video game companies. She plans to announce the school’s arrival at her group’s annual Power of Play meeting Thursday in Redmond.
“The educational programs we can have here to nurture our own to hopefully walk into those jobs when they become available at these companies is ideal,” she said.
Erhardt formerly taught at DigiPen Institute of Technology, a Redmond school that offers degrees in video game development and recently expanded to a new campus with programs for high school students. Earlier he worked on games for Activision, Electronic Arts and other companies.
“We don’t consider ourselves competition for DigiPen,” said Erhardt, who recently was working with AIE in Australia on its international expansion.
Erhardt is still selecting a location for the school in the Seattle area. “We’re a boutique operation, not a huge facility,” he said.
The school is also expanding to Europe and Asia. It has Australian campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
Seattle was chosen partly because of the potential to form partnerships with organizations in the area, AIE President John De Margheriti said in a prepared statement.
“We evaluated several cities in the West Coast and selected Seattle because of the depth of talented game studios, the deep creative and entrepreneurial talent that exists in this city,” he said.
Before starting the school in 1996, De Margheriti co-founded Australian game studio Micro Forte in 1985. He also founded the Game Developers Association of Australia.