Interactive Arts and Media

Game Design

Game development is an exciting multidisciplinary field that requires intense creativity, as well as professional discipline and strong collaborative production skills. Students in the Game Design major take a wide variety of engaging courses that help them develop a deep understanding of the aesthetics, tools, skills, process, theory and culture of games that informs their work and encourages them to develop and produce new and original ideas.

 All students in the Game Design major enroll in core courses that emphasize the fundamentals of game design theory and process, cultural and societal aspects of game development, media theory and aesthetics, as well as introductory programming theory and practice. Students then select one of three concentrations – Game Art, Game Development or Game Sound Design – providing the depth of specialization that the game industry demands. A distinctive component of the Game Design curriculum is the senior capstone sequence, a year-long pair of courses where Game Design majors opt to either collaborate on a large team commercial-style game or work on smaller team projects, such as simulations, mods, social, mobile or indie games. Students in these senior projects come from all the concentrations of the Game Design major – Art, Development and Sound – as well as from the Game Programming major.

Graduates of Columbia’s Game Design program have gone on to careers at large commercial game studios (NetherRealm, Volition, Relic, Wideload/Disney Interactive, Robomodo, HumanHead, Sony Online Entertainment, and WMS Gaming) as well as boutique design firms, software design businesses, museums and non-profits (Phosphor, Pathfinder Development, InContext Solutions, the Field Museum of Chicago, Google, Material Group, JellyVision, and others). Students have also formed their own video game development companies, such as Cosmosaur and Level Zero Games.

Senior Capstone Projects

Game Art

Students in the Game Art concentration gain in-depth experience using a variety of software tools and workflows to create sophisticated visual concepts and game-engine-ready production assets. Our students learn to integrate those assets, including characters, environments, props, animations, and visual effects into a variety of game engines, with a focus on quality, efficiency and expediency. You graduate with the ability to use a wide range of 2D and 3D visual styles and tools to realize a strong creative visual design for a game or simulation.

 We also place a special emphasis on fostering professional and productive collaborations between artists within an interdisciplinary game development team. Cross-disciplinary communication skills are required for a team of artists, designers, programmers, and sound designers to come together to create a fun and engaging game.

 The Game Art concentration also emphasizes the importance of utilizing research strategies and acquiring knowledge of contemporary art, design and media disciplines in order to conceptualize and generate creative solutions for games and simulations. You will graduate with an exceptional professional digital portfolio along with the skill sets that prepare you for exciting careers or postgraduate study as game artists.

Core and Required Classes

  • Computational Media Development – 36-1010
  • Game Culture (36-1100)
  • Introduction to Game Development (36-1500)
  • Digital Image Design (36-1300)
  • Intro to Programming: Theory and Concepts (36-1501)
  • Authoring Interactive Media (36-2601)
  • Game Project (Indie or Large) (36-3997/3994)
  • Game Studio (Indie or Large) (36-3998/3995)

 61-63 credits are required in the Game Art concentration in the Game Design major.

 You can see a listing of all of your required Game Art classes here.

 Students seeking information about a 2nd Bachelor of Arts degree in Game Art can see a list of required classes here.

View a list of required courses by downloading the Game Art Concentration Four Year Plan.

Game Development

Students in the Game Development concentration learn to design games in terms of gameplay, fun and user experience, as well as system and level design. Classes in the concentration focus on critical thinking, advanced theory, integrated scripting/programming, deep analytic skills and disciplinary knowledge to construct original game and simulation designs, as well as deconstruct, analyze, and evaluate existing works. You learn to apply innovative game design patterns and use state-of-the-art techniques and tools to create game experiences that are engaging and immersive.  The program focuses on the importance of using effective game production techniques from a variety of methodologies in order to create well-planned and documented projects of various sizes, ranging from large commercial-style teams, to smaller independent-scale projects.

 We also place a special emphasis on fostering professional and productive collaborations between designers within an interdisciplinary game development team. Cross-disciplinary communication skills are required for a team of artists, designers, programmers, and sound designers to come together to create a fun and engaging game.

 Our graduating designers are able to demonstrate high-level game engine scripting skills, user interfaces, data tracking, level design and gameflow management to produce games for entertainment, learning, social connection and other purposes.  They also emerge with a professional digital portfolio that prepares them for careers or postgraduate study as game designers.

Core and Required Classes

  • Computational Media Development – 36-1010
  • Game Culture (36-1100)
  • Introduction to Game Development (36-1500)
  • Digital Image Design (36-1300)
  • Intro to Programming: Theory and Concepts (36-1501)
  • Authoring Interactive Media (36-2601)
  • Game Project (Indie or Large) (36-3997/3994)
  • Game Studio (Indie or Large) (36-3998/3995)

 57 credits are required in the Game Development concentration in the Game Design major.

 You can see a listing of all of your required Game Development classes here.

 Students seeking information about a 2nd Bachelor of Arts degree in Game Development can see a list of required classes here.

View a list of required courses by downloading the Game Development Concentration Four Year Plan.

Game Sound Design

Students in the Game Sound Design concentration learn to create self-designed sonic landscapes and environments by applying theoretical and practical concepts of sound design to games, real-time environments and simulations. Our students acquire a fundamental knowledge of music theory and well as advanced concepts of acoustics and digital audio using state-of-the-art software, field and studio production technology and techniques. Significant focus is placed on practical application and expression of game audio assets and theory within multiple industry-standard game engines.

 We also place a special emphasis on fostering professional and productive collaborations between sound designers within an interdisciplinary game development team. Cross-disciplinary communication skills are required for a team of artists, designers, programmers, and sound designers to come together to create a fun and engaging game. They also emerge with a professional digital portfolio that prepares them for careers or postgraduate study as sound designers.

Core and Required Classes

  • Computational Media Development – 36-1010
  • Game Culture (36-1100)
  • Introduction to Game Development (36-1500)
  • Digital Image Design (36-1300)
  • Intro to Programming: Theory and Concepts (36-1501)
  • Authoring Interactive Media (36-2601)
  • Game Project (Indie or Large) (36-3997/3994)
  • Game Studio (Indie or Large) (36-3998/3995)

49 credits are required in the Game Sound Design concentration in the Game Design major.

You can see a s listing of all of your required Game Sound Design classe.

Students seeking information about a 2nd Bachelor of Arts degree in Game Development can see a list of required classes.

View a list of required courses by downloading the Game Sound Concentration Four Year Plan.

Game Programming

For more information on our Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Game Programming please visit this section.

Careers in Game Design

Sample Careers

 

Median Salary

Game Art Director

 

$107,206

3D Model Builder 

$57,500

2D Texture Artist 

$58,500

2D Conceptual Artist

$58,500

3D Character Builder 

$58,500

3D Character Animator 

$58,500

Game Tester

$50,000

Sound Designer for Games

$77,500

Lead Game Designer

$80,000

Level Designer

$57,500

Mobile Game Developer

 

$78,500

Junior Game Programmer

$55,000

Graphics/Special Effects Programmer

$62,500

Game Programmer 

$93,500


Sources: 2012 Game Developer’s Salary Survey and Creative Group 2012 Salary Guide

Partners

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