Computer games are a popular hobby for many schoolchildren. Some of them devote a huge amount of time to games and at times start to imagine the idea of not only playing but also creating them. For those who would like to study this specialty in the USA, the questions arise of where to start, which further steps to take, and what you need to know to make your dream come true.
The first step towards becoming a professional in-game designer starts with a basic understanding of the game-making process and identifying your potential role in it. Game design is a creative and time-consuming process and requires the effort of a team of professionals working in three main directions. There are a game designer, a game developer, and a game artist. Each of them performs several functions, but in short, the game designer creates the concept, the game developer embodies the idea technically, and the game artist creates 2D and 3D images. Students interested in this specialty should determine what role they see for themselves in this process.
Undergraduate degree programs in game design
Undergraduate degrees in game design are offered as Associate of Science (AS) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees, and more rarely as Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts degrees. The difference between a bachelor’s and an associate’s degree is a more advanced program, a broader range of disciplines and skills studied, as well as broader job and career prospects. The differences between the AS, BS, and AA and BA lies, as in other specialties, in the emphasis on technical aspects, mathematics, programming in science programs, and the humanities, narrative, visual aspects of design in the arts programs. The choice of courses depends on the university, the program, and the role a student wants to play in the process of creating the game. The usual set of game design program courses includes computer theory, game technology, principles of game design, game production, game tech, game systems, 3D modeling, and narrative design. In addition to the game-related specialized subjects, students also take general courses in physics, math, engineering science, psychology, communication, business, etc.
Admission requirements vary from school to school but usually includes the following items:
- • Online application;
- • Transcripts of official academic record, listing all courses and grades at high school;
- • Statement of purpose (college essay);
- • Letters of recommendation from teachers, art school supervisors, volunteer work supervisors, etc.);
- • Evidence of financial resources (bank statement or salary slips from students parents, etc.);
- • Official TOEFL or Duolingo score (some schools may also ask to submit SAT or ACT). Be aware that many schools have made the SAT and ACT requirements optional for all fall 2022 applicants due to the reduction of available testing dates;
- • List of any extracurricular activities and honors;
- • Résumé (optional);
- • Passport. Emergency contact details;
- • Non-refundable application fees vary from $30 to $150 or more. Many colleges and universities do not consider documents without an application fee. One needs to write a letter to the admission office asking for a fee waiver and explaining the reason for the request.
Game design is a creative specialty, so many colleges may require the submission of a portfolio which displays previously created jobs and the process used to make them in addition to other admission items. It is the thing which will help you to stand out. Portfolio requirements vary from institution to institution. It can be not only videos, board games, but also other works of art (paintings, illustrations for stories, costumes, poems, music, songs, poems or prose, etc.). Please read carefully the portfolio-related information provided by the school. Follow the instructions and guidelines.
Education in this specialty is very prestigious, competitive, and popular but not cheap. Undergraduate applicants may look for financial aid in U.S. schools but be aware that the amount is quite limited. They may look mainly at merit-based scholarships. Some top universities may offer a limited number of combined merit-based and need-based scholarships for international students, but they are super competitive.
Game design is a growing and promising field, with most of the jobs in this industry occupied by men. A unique combination of creativity and programming allows game design degree holders to occupy not only positions of a video game designer, visual effects artist, multimedia artist, animator, and software developer but also several professions not directly related to games, like cybersecurity analyst, data scientist, art director, etc.