Casual games are big business for alumni

By Stephanie Stevens

We’ve all done it. Whether it’s playing a round of "Solitaire," having fun with a buzz of "Angry Birds," or engaging a bit of "Bejeweled," casual games are now a part of our lives. What started with PacMan more than three decades ago has developed into a multi-billion dollar industry. Mobile devices and cell phones took gaming to the next level, offering up instant access to a variety of casual games that invite us to take a moment (or twenty) out of our day just to play. These days, with mobile devices diversifying from phones into tablets, the variety of casual games available to consumers is increasing exponentially, and seems only to be limited by the bounds of human imagination.

One of the most lucrative ways to distribute a casual game is by way of the iTunes App Store (for the modest price of .99  cents per download to a mobile device, and $4.99 to the iPad). Angry Birds, alone, has been estimated to have been downloaded over 200 million times across all platforms as of May 2011 (Business Insider), which takes casual gaming from a distraction to an up-and-coming industry.

So how does someone learn how to create casual games? The Digital Arts Center at UC San Diego Extension offers a comprehensive, one-year Casual Game Development program that takes students from concept to completion. Recently, three alumni of the program have completed and posted games to the iTunes App Store:

  • Nathan Mengel – Clockwork World Tour

  • Paula Bruce – Hot Lava

  • Michelle Fernandez - Willy Wiener and the Tunnel of Doom

In addition, Michelle Fernandez has gotten so amazing at game development that she’s written and published a textbook on the subject called the "Corona Game Development Beginners Guide."

“We are exceedingly proud of our alumni’s accomplishments and successes, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what this year’s students will do with their newfound skills,” said program advisor Sam Shpigelman.

The Digital Arts Center at UC San Diego Extension offers one-year professional training in various digital media art fields such as game design, graphic design, mobile apps development, video production and web design. More information about their programs can be found at or by calling the program representative at (858) 534-6705.

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