Welcome to the Major in Game Design at Indiana University. Just below you will find frequently asked questions about the program. On the Program Overview tab is a diagram of the prerequisite structure and the typical flow of studies. That page also contains details about the requirements of the degree.
Thanks for visiting our site. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at castro @ indiana.edu.
Professor Edward Castronova, Program Director
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I start?
- What’s the current status of the program?
As of April 1, 2015, the program has been approved by the IU Board of Trustees and courses will begin in Fall 2015. The registration process in Spring 2015 will be a challenge for current Juniors and Seniors.
Many of the new classes still have to be placed in the computer, and the prerequisites need to be synched with each student’s transcript. Official information about the program will be rolled out when it is available on the Media School website.
When the official information seems contradictory or incomplete, just contact the Game Design Program Director, Edward Castronova, to talk to a human being. His email is castro @ indiana.edu. Please bear with us during construction.
- Is this program, a major, a certificate, or what?
This is a major, like English or Physics. Technically, it is a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Game Design. It is offered by the Media School in the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington. Indiana University is a member of the Association of American Universities, which consists of the 62 leading research universities in the United States.
- Why is a leading research university offering an undergraduate major in game design?
There’s a growing recognition that games are important; approximately 400 post-secondary game programs are currently operating in the US. Games are models of the complex systems all around us; markets, elections, cultures all have game-like features.
In addition, demand is growing for people who can design interactive experiences, in the game industry but also in many other areas, such as advertising, education, health, and public policy.
- How does a program in Game Design help the world at large?
Game design is the study of strategy and systems. Young experts in game design start their adult lives with an understanding of the world as a set of interlocking complex systems. Moreover, they are strategically literate: They know how to make decisions in complex situations. Indeed, their craft involves designing complex choice decisions for others. Game design students are masters of strategy and complexity.
Today’s world is increasingly complex and we have less and less room for errors. By helping young people understand systems and strategy, our faculty hope to reduce the global error rate in some small way.
- When does it start?
First classes will be offered in Fall 2015. The program is currently pending final approval by the Indiana Commission on Higher Education. Until ICHE approves the program, the information in this FAQ is not yet official.
- Is it online?
No. We operate on a studio model, small groups with individual mentoring. All classes are on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington.
- How do I get in?
Apply to the College of Arts and Sciences as an undergraduate. When you get here, tell the advisors you want to take the introductory game courses in the Media School. Start with Introduction to Games, Introduction to Game Programming, and The Videogame Industry. These are open courses with no prerequisites.
- What will I have to do to earn the degree?
As a freshman and sophomore, you take courses that introduce you to game design, programming, art, sound, and management. These courses lead into advanced junior/senior level workshop courses where you will team up with other students to create and publish a game.
Along the way, you will be pursuing electives in one area of specialization: Art, Design, Sound, Programming, or Management. And you will be completing general education requirements of the university.
- Is there a foreign language requirement?
Yes. All IU College BS degrees requires three semesters of foreign language proficiency. Some students can test out of this requirement if they had foreign language in HS.
- What goes on outside the classroom?
Students run an independent game development and publication company called Hoosier Games. Many students attend the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. Students participate in game jams. We have pitch meetings at the start of every semester and a demo day at the end of every year.
- Who teaches in the program?
We have a mix of teachers, from industry and from academia. Some are from large game companies, some are from the independent sector. We have junior lecturers and adjuncts as well as senior full professors. It is a wide range of talents and experiences. We all love teaching.
- Are women welcomed?
Yes. We are open to everyone and actively welcome women and others who might be under-represented in game development today. Ours is a highly collaborative culture where all voices are part of the mix. Anyone willing to work hard and work with others can succeed.
- Can I get a job?
Yes. Most but not all of our students want to work in the game industry. We prepare people for that, but also for a wide range of other careers. More than anything, we want you prepared for leadership, which is why you will be taking many courses across the university that have nothing to do with games but everything to do with the depth and breadth of your knowledge.
We also want you prepared for changes in your career plans; the dream of game design does not work out for everyone. The skills you learn in this program apply to any job working in an advanced technical environment that involves interactive systems development in teams. Demand for these skills is growing rapidly.
- What if I want to go on to advanced study in some other field, such as Medicine, Law, History, and so on? How does Game Design help me?
Game design is a good undergraduate basis for advanced study in other fields. Its expertise has broad applicability. You are learning more than the basic skill of making games; you are coming to see the world in a strategic, systemic way. Law is a system; the body is a system; history is the playing out of complex systemic interactions.
By learning how to model systems and, especially, how systems are affected by humans and their choices, the game design student is prepared to tackle a wide range of deeper intellectual problems. We think of game design as similar to philosophy and mathematics in one sense: It is an intellectual hammer that can be applied to many different nails.
- What skills will I learn?
We focus on teamwork, professional responsibility, and iterative systems production. Iterative systems production is a process of completing an interactive system in a repeated loop of design, testing, and refinement. We teach students how to do this rapidly and well.
In addition, all students will develop specialized skills in art, sound, design, programming, or management.
- How does the three-course Workshop sequence work?
At a pitch meeting in December of the Junior year, students will propose major game projects for the Workshop sequence. Accepted projects will be assigned a team of students with different skills (management, art, sound, programming, design, and so on).
During Workshop I (Junior year, spring), these projects will be developed into working prototypes. Work continues on a voluntary basis over the summer between junior and senior year.
During Workshop II (Senior year, fall), prototypes will be developed into working demonstration games and submitted to the Independent Games Festival, the game industry’s premier venue for new work.
In spring of Senior year, during Workshop III, students will polish their games to completion and publish them. These graduating seniors will also travel to the Game Developer Conference to network, and also serve as mentors to current Juniors working on their prototypes.
On graduation, students will be able to point to a published game on their resume as well as 15 months’ direct experience working on a game team.
- How many students will you have?
Intro classes will have 40-100 students. The final workshop courses will be limited to 25 seats per section.
- What do the facilities look like?
The Major in Game Design will be housed in Franklin Hall, which is being newly renovated for the Media School. It will open in Fall 2016. There will be a state of the art game lab reserved exclusively for Game Design students.
There will also be a space for building controllers, an animation rendering lab, audio recording space, a game lounge for testing games, and classrooms. Faculty offices will be on the same floor.
- What’s the best way to get a job in the industry?
For better or worse, the industry only cares about one thing: Experience. It does not matter to them where you got your degree, or even if you have a degree. They only hire people who know how to make games. Our program is built around this reality. So while we focus quite a bit on producing games, we also encourage students to take full advantage of the opportunity presented by this huge university, to grow in many different ways. Practical experience embedded in a broad undergraduate education is the best way to get a job now and also to become successful and happy in the long run.
We work hard with students to get them to develop and finish games, and to graduate with a strong portfolio of published achievements. At the same time, we also want young people to be aware that career plans can change, and also, being good at the current technology is not the key to life-long leadership.
- What are some other programs in this area?
We admire many other schools and programs involved in game design and production.
- Of the more vocational and technical schools, Full Sail and Digipen are worth looking into.
- If you want to approach games as an artist, you should explore NYU and the USC program in the Cinema School.
- If you want to focus more on game technology and programming, you should think about UC Santa Cruz, the USC game program in computer science, or RIT.
- Here in the Midwest, Depaul has a good program. Further west, Utah is very active in game design.
- If you are really into game programming, you can do well just by getting a Computer Science degree from a top school.
- At the graduate school level, Michigan State has a Serious Games program and Wisconsin is very strong in games and education.
- The best graduate program for game designers is the Center for Entertainment Technology at CMU.
There are many other good programs not listed here. But we’re confident that none has our particular focus on game systems design.
- What is your niche? How is this program different from the others?
This gets somewhat egghead-y, but it is important. Most game programs see games as art, or as computer software. We see game design as something else: A systems science. Games are models of complex systems. Game designers are engineers of systems.
Game design involves art and technology, so it makes sense that there are game programs that are mostly about individual expression or coding. But the world also needs system designers. That is our niche.
- What do you mean by ‘systems design’? What exactly will I be learning?
In addition to everything else about game design (art, coding, and so on), students in our program will learn how to make things like ecological systems (plants and animals growing together), audio systems (sound production that draws directly on events and parameters from the game world), resource systems (harvesting, production, and markets), combat systems (different attacks and defenses), and mission systems (objectives, levels, groups, and alliances).
There is a tremendous need for systems designers in the game industry. More than that: Some of our world’s greatest problems are systems design problems. Climate change, for example, is about ecological system design. We are trying to create a generation of sophisticated system designers who can work not only in the game industry but also on other important problems.
- Where do I go for more info?
Write the program director, Edward Castronova at castro @ indiana.edu .