Rensselaer Announces New Graduate Game Design Programs

Graduate programs in game design are coming to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute next year. The new degrees, which include a master’s and Ph.D. in critical game design, will be offered beginning in the fall semester of 2020.

The new programs are among very few in the world that explicitly combine game design and game studies, which will equip graduates with a unique skillset in a rapidly changing and growing industry. By fostering both the development of technical skills along with proficiency in critical theory, the new programs aim to shape leaders who can push the current boundaries of game design.

“These are not programs where you just learn how to make games or do technical research — the focus is on games as holistic, cultural, and political objects,” said Jim Malazita, assistant professor in the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) program at Rensselaer. “We want our students to go into industry after graduation and say, ‘Here are ways of doing things with games that you never imagined doing.’”

With the expansion of games and interactive technology from the entertainment industry to fields such as medicine, architecture, and education, the creation of games will increasingly rely on professionals with more than just technical skill.

“People are now realizing that impactful game development and design goes beyond asking technical questions and plugging in technology. You have to think through how to make a game engaging, like using color and light in ways that help people think through problems,” Malazita said. “Suddenly, someone who has training in games and interaction design becomes much more pivotal to the success of such projects.”

Inspired by The New Polytechnic, the interdisciplinary, collaborative model for education and research at Rensselaer, the programs will be run by a team of faculty members from multiple disciplines, including game design and development, the arts, media studies, science and technology studies, computer science, and cognitive science.

The new programs build upon the success of the undergraduate GSAS program, which was ranked 13th among games design programs in the nation earlier this year by Animation Career Review, along with the recent appointment of Rensselaer as a New York State Center of Excellence in Digital Game Development.

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