Game Art (BA)

Game artists imagine the visuals that bring video games to life. From the game's environment—the hillsides, the dark caverns, the rooms—to the characters themselves, game art visually connects the gamer to the game. As a student in the Game Art BA program at Columbia College Chicago, you’ll create visually striking and compelling 3D art and learn how to implement those art pieces into a game engine.

As a Game Art major, you’ll build games right away in your first semester and create many more throughout your time at Columbia. The software tools you’ll use in class are the same ones you’ll use as a professional game artist. And our curriculum mirrors the collaborative environment of the game industry. The Game Art program will give you the technical skills you'll need to compete for a job in the industry, and with experience working on a team, you’ll be a valuable candidate for employers.

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In the Classroom

What to expect your first year

You’ll take Intro to Game Development your first semester, a requirement for all students in Interactive Arts and Media game programs. This course identifies the characteristics of the different game genres and the career paths in the industry. You'll learn what differentiates game artists, designers, programmers, sound artists, and everything in between, so you can choose the program that best suits your interests.

You’ll hit the ground running, learning core theory and immediately putting it into practice. For instance, you’ll learn foundational theories and practices in interaction and development and then build your skills through practical assignments like sketching, prototyping, and designing while you study the fundamentals of 3D game art creation.

What to expect your last year

In your junior and senior years, you’ll likely begin to concentrate on your area of interest, whether it’s character modeling or environment art. Courses like 3D Digital Sculpting will test your abilities as you paint and texture advanced characters for games. In your senior year, you’ll take part in our two-semester capstone experience.

Game Studio Capstone

This isn’t your average senior project. Developed by our faculty to mirror the gaming industry production model, the capstone will allow you to work in small (Indie Game Studio) or large (Large Team Game Studio) groups to develop a game. Over the course of one year, you and your team will pitch the initial concepts, design all the necessary art and sound assets, test prototypes, and deliver a playable game.

Within a collaborative team formed from seniors in Game Art, Game Design, Game Programming, and Game Sound, you will make the creative decisions, divide up the work, and manage the project. As you build the game, you might even bring in expertise from other Columbia students who study film, acting, voiceover, or creative writing. Our faculty members are there to supervise the course, but this is a student-led project that requires professional-level work and commitment. At the end of the year you’ll have portfolio-ready pieces to successfully launch your career in the game industry.


Outside the Classroom

At Columbia, you’ll get real-world opportunities to show your stuff while you’re in school. The opportunities differ from year to year, but in the past, students have tested their skills, networked with professionals, and shown off their work at events like

  • The Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco: the world’s largest professionals only game-industry event.
  • The Chicago Toy and Game Fair: Indie Team Game Studio students are required to show there each year.
  • South by Southwest (SXSW): compete in events like the Music Hackathon, where participants develop a prototype for a music app in just 24 hours.
  • Industry Night: the Interactive Arts and Media Department’s annual event, where graduating seniors show their work to industry professionals from across the country.

Careers

Game Art alumni are employed at a variety of small and large gaming and entertainment firms, including Incredible Technologies, High Voltage Software, Pixar, Weta Digital, NetherRealm Studios, Raw Thrills, Iron Galaxy, Raven Software, and Sony. Our Game Art alumni also build simulations for major companies like John Deere and Walmart.

Our degree program will train you for careers in

  • Animation
  • Asset modeling
  • Character art
  • Computer graphics
  • Concept art
  • Environment art
  • Technical art
  • UI (user interface) design

Student Work


Alumni

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Nimah Kelly ’15

“You can’t just rely on the curriculum to get you where you want to go. You have to go the extra mile.”

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Faculty

Our faculty members are working professionals and experts in the field. They’re award-winning game designers, accomplished audio artists, and expert programmers. They've worked on games like Iron Man, Mortal Kombat, and The Walking Dead. And they’re dedicated teachers, bringing their knowledge of groundbreaking theories and techniques directly into the classroom.

See all department faculty.

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Alex Damarjian

Alex Damarjian creates games that are not only entertaining, but prove to better the world.

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