From Tomb Raider and Tetris to poker and Pictionary, we all play games.
Of course, some games are better than others. A good game entertains you, challenges you, perhaps even teaches you something. Game Design majors learn to create compelling games that will be popular with users—and profitable for game companies.
Most Game Design programs focus on video games, although that category is broader than you might expect. After all, games are no longer just for entertainment (although traditional video games are a huge market). They’re also used to sell products, teach specific skills, raise awareness about social issues, even train doctors and soldiers. Game Design programs teach you how to create interactive digital environments for any type of computer or gaming system, from a cell phone to an Xbox. And the skills you learn—in strategy, design and business—can be applied to a variety of “off-line” professions.
The best Game Design programs give you hands-on experience in your specific area of interest, as well as a broad knowledge of the field. Classes typically fall into three categories: art and design, technology, and business. Art and design classes include 2-D and 3-D animation, level and character design, visual storytelling, storyboarding, and creative writing. Technology classes include computer programming, sound production, motion capture, and artificial intelligence. Business classes include project management and marketing. In short, you’ll learn to build a game, from initial idea to public launch.
You’ll also learn the theory behind game design: what is the social impact and history of games? What makes a game compelling and challenging to the user? How do games differ across cultures? Should games have an ethical component? How can game theory (a type of applied math that predicts how humans will react in strategic situations) help designers create great games?
As an undergraduate Game Design major, you’ll graduate with a portfolio of work that can give you a leg up in this competitive field. Grads find work as game designers, level designers, animators, programmers, quality assurance testers, and even marketers and distributors of games.
2-D and 3-D Principles
Business of Games
Game Development and Supporting Technologies
History of Games
Psychology of Games and Play
Story & Character Development
To excel in this major, it helps to be well-versed in games, particularly computer and video games. You need to know what you like and what you don’t.
But that doesn’t mean you can slack off in high school. Game Design students should have strong math and computer skills, to prepare for college-level programming courses. English classes that involve creative writing are good preparation for script-writing and story development. Art classes are also a good idea. Some programs with a focus on the “design” part of Game Design ask applicants to submit a portfolio of visual art.