SALT LAKE CITY — Believe it or not, you can study video gaming in college. More specifically, you can major in a program where video gaming is the emphasis.

Even though it's been a few years, Charles Mimnaugh can remember the reaction he got when he first told people he was majoring in video games at the University of Utah.

"They're like, ‘You hear that kid? He has video games,'" Mimnaugh said. "I'm like, ‘No, I'm serious. It's video games.'"

Look who's laughing now. Mimnaugh, a senior at the University of Utah, is on a team that created a game called The Last Pod Fighter. Soon, it will be featured on Xbox LIVE's Indie Market.

"It doesn't really feel like a class, like most things feel like class, where you go, ‘Ugh, I gotta go do this stuff,'" Mimnaugh said. "This is a lot more fun, obviously."

It's also a lot of work. Mimnaugh's team spent a year designing its game. Tuesday, Mimnaugh — along with other teams made up of computer science and film studies undergraduates at the U — held an event to show off what they've created.

"We put in a lot of hours, but it's a passion. We really get into it and get engaged with the work," said senior Michael Bradley, who worked on the game called "Minions!"

The entertainment arts and engineering (EAE) course of study started in 2007 to give computer science or fine arts majors a chance to graduate with an emphasis in video game developmnt.

"These projects are all about fine arts students working with computer science students in a melding of art and technology," said computer science professor Bob Kessler. "Basically, we look at EAE as merging the left and the right sides of the brain to develop a super brain."

Thanks to a grant from Microsoft, students designed their games to work with the Xbox system. The games sell for $1 online, but at this point it's not about the money: It's about the real-world experience.

"Once it's actually published on Xbox LIVE, we can actually just probably get into a job, just right off of the fact it's already published," said senior Tyler Robinson, creator of the "Mr. Gravity" game.

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These real-world dreams just could come true, proving once and for all that all those kids who stayed inside playing video games were actually just getting ready for their future career.

"We take it seriously, and it's a lot of fun," Bradley said.

As far as job potential, Kessler says it is a growing market with an average salary of roughly $80,000 a year.

E-mail: acabrero@desnews.com

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