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Kevin Mulligan

Abertay University in Scotland offers a BSc (Hons) in "Computer Games Technology". It covers just about all aspects of computer game design.

Stewart Butterfield

Not to nitpick, but there is a pretty big distinction between design and art, and there aren't very many game designers (at least as the term is used in the industry) who do their work with 3d tools.

Modelling, animation, sketching, rendering, shading, etc. are done by artists. Game mechanics, character models, concept, level design and stuff like that are done by designers. The distinction is pretty clear if you look at the job listings for any developer.


I guess I didn't make that very clear. I was using the creation of art assets as an example of what I was talking about, not as the issue itself. Sorry for any confusion.

walk slow

Kat Hunter

I have not looked into detail, but the San Francisco Art Institute just launched a full Game Design program last year I believe.
(search GamaSutra for the full story).
But seeing as how this is an art college, and not a technical institute, my guess is you will find some Maya freaks in the hallways. Even think it is undergrad.


I understand that the University of Texas is cooking a program right now. In fact, I understand that the classes are offered at the undergrad level.
If you care for more info, let me know!


The irony here is that I've been seeing more and more film-trained people come and work in the video-games business. Really, game art is a lot simpler than anything else out there that the 3D tools are used for, at least as far as poly counts and texture resolutions are concerned.

It can become more difficult in that you have to know how to get the most bang for your buck; making sure that every last one of your 1400 polys is being used effectively can be quite a challenge. Especially when you have to match it to the 3000 poly high def one and the 800 poly low def.

I think the main point here is that the kids need to be taught good basics. So long as they can show that they can build, weight, and texture a character effectively, and build a level model using vertex lighting (at least for this generation of games, anyway), the rest of the finer points and details can be picked up on the job. The industry changes so fast, I don't think a university program could possibly keep up by changing their curriculum every semester.

Btw, people do use Maya to make games now.

Avi Solomon

Found the best "course" for free in Will Wright's presentation 'Dynamics for Designers':
The rest is up to you:)

Mike Sellers

I don't know of any game design courses off-hand. I think maybe Full Sail in Orlando, the ETC at CMU, and possibly the University of Texas are flirting with this idea.

And here I'm talking about a course that helps someone answer the perennial thorny question, "yeah, but is it fun?" This touches on art, programming, and level layout in many cases, but (and here comes my pet peeve) these things are not game design. Or at best they are parts of it. Creating systems, characters, setting, stories, balanced dynamic assets (i.e., 20 different weapons that work together well), and most of all the "knobs and dials" that the player manipulates -- in effect, creating the decision space for the player and how they can run around in it -- is the core of game design.

I don't know of anyone teaching this yet. I'd like to think some are. Heck, I'd like to do this myself at some point.

It's good to see this question being asked.


As I actually go to the ETC, I feel I should point out that we do actually offer a course in "game design" that is actually about game design. The course is taught by Prof. Jesse Schell, who was the lead designer on the MMO ToonTown Online. The class focuses almost entirely on non-electronic games (on the final assignment, a computer game was an option), as the basic design principles are still the same, and the production time is much shorter.

Still, I think any course that addresses the integrated, interdisciplinary nature of modern game development is a step in the right direction.

walk slow

Mike Sellers

Right, I know Jesse (and was at the ETC for the ICE conference last May). I think the program there is strong -- among the best out there, especially for non-art, non-programmng design. I'd love to see it "ported" to the undergrad level and to see the game design offerings broadened though. I might also differ slightly with what you said in that there are game design principles that weigh more or less heavily if you're doing board, pen-and-paper, or computer. Having been part of a couple of projects to create a computer game out of a pen-and-paper one, I can tell you that these can make a big difference in the design process.

One really great feature of the program I saw at the ETC was a final project for one of Jesse's classes, where groups from the class had to pitch their game concept to a group of (somewhat curmudgeonly) professionals. I think everyone -- on both sides of the table -- got a lot out of that.


Hey Clockwork, have you heard of the Digipen institute, in Washington? They're not really a university persay, but they do offer an Associate of Applied Art Degree in 3D Computer Animation, as well as a BS in CS with a leaning towards making games. Not sure how much interaction there is between students of the two degree programs.

The url is www.digipen.edu

I have also ran across a brick-and-mortar place of some sort that offered courses in storytelling and game plot development and such, but I don't recall the name of it.


We have a number of undergrad courses in game design in USC's School of Cinema-Television and just setting up an undergrad minor in Game Design in collaboration with the School of Engineering.


I'm a student of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh and the Art Institute Online Game and Art Design program.

The ETC conference this year had both CMU and Art Institute students I thought it was interesting to see what the CMU students were doing in their projects.

As far as I know the Art Institute schools are focusing on the art related aspects to the field i.e. modeling and texture work and story creation. As of yet I haven't had a class dealing with coding/programming an actual game engine. I think that's more the along the CMU curriculum.


Hey, we have a few people interested in the finer points of game studies here at the Univeristy of Virginia. So, this year we've gotten together a Game Design Workshop run by Bethany Nowviskie. It's all about design, and while there are a few programmers involved (including myself), the emphasis is on design.

And it's all undergrads.



I don't know if anyone is still watching this, but I'm about to graduate with a BS in comp sci, and when I got into it there were very few programs that offered courses in game design. Now I'm looking for a masters program, I want to try to get into ETC but it's expensive and I'm poor ;-) Anyone know of any US schools that offer a similiar program?

Jane Kernan

I'm an undergrad at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design), which, asside from being fabulous for all types of digital illustration, animation, and modeling, has recently added a junior/senior computer game design elective which I don't think would be too difficult for other schools to emulate. Here's a description:

An introduction to the design of interactive games, using Macromedia Flash as the construction tool. Although today's biggest games are platform and PC-based shooters and sims, such specialized and vast games are beyond the scope of this class. Beginning with simple matching games and side-scrolers, controlled by ActionScript, we examine the elements that go into a sucessful game, which we define as any game which is difficult to stop playing. How does the interface affect game playability? What elements make a game addictive? Should narrative be an element of gameplay? What role do graphics play in the game experience? Finally, are there any games yet to be discovered?

Its taught by Nicholas Jainschigg, an established sci-fi/fantasy/gaming artist. Actionscripting isn't exactly hardcore programming but that's obviously not the point of the class. I'm pretty excited about it.


Bernie Yee and David Sturman are working on a cross disciplinary series of courses in game design at Columbia University. It is offered through the CS department but they are actively recruiting other disciplines, art, psych, cognitive sci, etc. to participate.


[quote] And here I'm talking about a course that helps someone answer the perennial thorny question, "yeah, but is it fun?" This touches on art, programming, and level layout in many cases, but (and here comes my pet peeve) these things are not game design. Or at best they are parts of it. Creating systems, characters, setting, stories, balanced dynamic assets (i.e., 20 different weapons that work together well), and most of all the "knobs and dials" that the player manipulates -- in effect, creating the decision space for the player and how they can run around in it -- is the core of game design. [/quote]

What your talking about reminds me of Storyboarding class, we had to think out the entire adventure, and then draw it all out, including the characters, setting, and stories.

I'd think the answer would be simple, but maybe you all missed it. To learn how to make games, get a group together, buy The Dungeon Master's Guide, The Monster's Manual, and the Player's Handbook read it, and create adventures with it. How your friends react, or react badly, teaches you what works, and what sucks.

Aside from that, if you really wanted a college to teach a class in core game design. Then I'd simply have the instructor have each student buy the Dungeon Master's Guide for the class, and create their own adventure, then have groups of 5 or 6 players, play the game, and rate it afterwards, and tell why they each rated that game that way, what they liked, didn't like about how the game was set up.


In response to Arbalest:

I agree with the direction you're going, but I think the complexity of D&D puts it beyond the level of a game design class (since it's probably going to amount to Game Design 101). Instead, you're going to want to look at something like a simplified version of White Wolf's Storyteller Lite system: 1 type of die (10 siders), fairly simple character creation (some abilities, a few skills, and a unique power or two, easily changed to fit the world the game takes place in), and "light" enough to allow a group of people who have never roleplayed before to get through it without tripping over arcane rules and bonuses.

I say this because this is what CMU used in its Game Design class last year, and it worked quite well (in groups of 4).

But I would note that roleplaying games are but one genre, and there are aspects that it doesn't do very well, and some people, who do in fact have good game design skills, just don't get into it. Thus, although designing a roleplaying adventure is a good game design experience to undergo, there must still be other game types used.

walk slow


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