Free Online Video Game Design Courses

Video game design degrees may be in their infancy, but that hasn’t discouraged students from signing up for a program that may lead to what CNN Money referred to as one of the best new jobs in America. Video game design is an industry not exclusive to gaming enthusiasts; in fact, artists and technically minded students from other disciplines, including fine art, literature and computer science may find video game designer to be a great career option. In this guide, we will discuss the degree options available to video game design students, as well as sample courses and career options.

Sample Courses

The courses you take will depend on your individual program, however, you can expect to learn artistic aspects of game design, such as storyboarding, drawing and character creation, as well as technical aspects like artificial intelligence, graphics and novel input devices. At the University of Southern California, for example, students have the opportunity to take Immersive Game Development, Video Game Programming and Game Hardware Architectures, among many other courses.

Possible Specializations

At some higher education institutions, video game design is considered a specialization within fine arts, design, or computer science degrees; however, it may be possible to specialize or minor in a complementary discipline such as literary arts or graphic design, which will only enhance the student’s curriculum and improve their post-graduation career outlook. For information regarding minors and specializations, contact your prospective program advisor.

Degree Types

Most universities that offer video game design offer a bachelor’s and master’s degree. In choosing the degree option best for you, it’s important to keep in mind the specific companies you would like to work for; video game design companies have varying expectations in regards to education, so be sure to do your research before applying to a program. In the following section, we list some common degree types and the jobs most commonly associated with them.

Associate

The majority of colleges do not offer an associate degree program in video game design, opting instead to offer a four year bachelor’s degree program. With that said, some colleges, such as Montgomery College in Maryland, offer an associate program that gives students an introduction to video game design. This program typically takes two years to complete, giving students the ability to decide if a bachelor’s degree is worth pursuing. It may also be possible to earn an associate degree at a community college before transferring to a bachelor’s degree program. For some students, this option proves less expensive, however, it’s crucial to speak with your prospective university to ensure your credits will transfer.

Bachelor’s

A bachelor’s degree, which typically takes four years to complete for a full-time student, provides the education necessary to gain entry-level employment in the field of game design. For example, Nintendo, one of the world’s premier game design companies, offers a Junior Software Engineer position, requiring only a bachelor’s degree. Areas of focus and curriculum vary from college to college; at the University of Utah, for example, undergraduate students have the opportunity to earn a degree in one of two focus areas: a Bachelor’s of Arts in Film and Media Arts-Entertainment Arts and Engineering emphasis or Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science School of Computing-Entertainment Arts and Engineering emphasis.

Master’s

A master’s degree offers in-depth instruction and the ability to specialize in an area of interest, such as character development or artificial intelligence. A master’s degree will not only help you stand out when applying for senior developer positions at popular companies like Nintendo and Blizzard , it will open up the opportunity to conduct your own game industry research or teach video game design at the high school and junior college levels. The University of Utah offers a graduate degree in video game design, for which students have the option to choose from one of four academic tracks: Game Arts, Technical Arts, Game Engineering and Game Production.

Ideal Candidates for Video Game Design

Video game design requires a collaborative approach, which means designers must have the interpersonal skills to work closely with others; relevant skills include good communication, a positive attitude and the ability to solve problems.

Millions of video game players worldwide look forward to video game release dates, which means a video game designer must be deadline-conscious. An individual that is both creative and good with time management will be considered an asset to video game design companies. Due to the laid back nature of the gaming industry, careers in this field can occasionally be lax; however, it’s important to maintain professionalism and commit to finishing quality work on time.

Career Pathways

The video game industry offers a variety of careers; on the creative side, careers range from game level designer to content writer to concept artist, and on the technical side, careers range from graphics programmer to user interface programer.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data on video game developers yet, but according to the BLS’s Occupational Outlook Quarterly, video game designers appear to have earned more than the median annual salary for all reported positions in 2010.

The video game industry uses cutting edge technology. In order to keep up with the latest information, and to learn more about the industry as a whole, research professional organizations, OpenCourseWare and books, journals and magazines related to the field of video game design.

2 Courses

Get More Out of Your Online Video Game Design Courses

They were yelling at one another, right there in the office. Fellow teammates cowered behind monitors as the language and the force of the argument intensified.

Two old friends who had once pledged themselves to each other, who had stuck through 20 months developing a game called Magicka, were in the full and hideous majesty of a blowout fight. Oaths and insults were exchanged. They were threatening to mangle all that they had achieved.

The stress and exhaustion of game development, coupled with their own lack of experience, had eroded all their energy and frayed the bonds that had brought them together. They'd had enough.

They were suffering from "crunch," the state of being in which game developers work insane hours, desperately trying to meet a looming deadline. It's a grim way to exist, the frustration of its victims exacerbated by common aggravations such as lack of resources, poor planning and incompetent management.

Colin Campbell, Polygon.com
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Video Game Design in the News

Source: Gamasutra

Our Favorite Video Game Design Blogs

Video Game Design Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • Game Studies

      This international academic journal publishes video game research, industry methodologies, and interviews with industry experts.

    • Gender, Media, and Technology

      This critical academic journal is published by Fembot, focusing on the intersections of cultural studies with game studies.

    • International Journal of Computer Games Technology

      This global, peer-reviewed journal covers industry techniques and breaking news on interactive media and gaming.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Develop

      This trade publication is dedicated to professional networking events, industry news, expert interviews, and op-ed pieces on video game development and design.

    • Edge

      This digital magazine covers video games for beginners, new release features, business development news, and career opportunities.

    • Gamasutra

      This is the premier resource for game designers, originally published as a print periodical called "Game Developer" from 1997-2013 before being converted to ...

    • Game Informer

      This is the official magazine published by the GameStop retail company, covering reviews of current titles and business projections for upcoming releases.

    • IGN

      This entertainment media network publishes breaking news, game cheats, and tech tutorials on a wide array of platform franchises, including XBox, Playstation ...

Video Game Design Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • National Endowment of the Arts Media Arts Grant

      Deadline: July 24

      Award Amount: $10,000 - $100,000

      These awards are issued by the federal government to help game design and development organizations complete a project.

    • The Ludus Project

      Deadline:

      Award Amount: $5,000

      This grant was designed to aid non-profit organizations working on gaming projects related to health, digital literacy, or education.

  • Scholarships

    • ESA Foundation Scholarship Program

      Deadline: May 15

      Award Amount: $3,000

      This scholarship foundation provides academic awards to female students enrolled in majors linked to video game studies, including computer science and digital ...

    • G.I.R.L. Scholarship Program

      Deadline: March 19

      Award Amount: $10,000

      This funding is offered by Sony Online Entertainment to encourage women to enter the game design industry.

    • International Game Developers Association Scholar

      Deadline: March 23

      Award Amount:

      The IGDA scholarship does not have a monetary award. Instead, it provides winners with a mentorship and paid admission to a major annual gaming conference ...

    • Mark Beaumont Scholarship Fund

      Deadline:

      Award Amount: $2,500

      This annual award was created for students exploring the business aspects of the video game industry, including marketing, management, and public relations.

    • Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund

      Deadline:

      Award Amount: $2,500

      This scholarship is available on an annual basis to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in game design or interactive media.

    • The Penny Arcade Scholarship

      Deadline:

      Award Amount: $10,000

      This annual scholarship is granted to students of any major who wish to work in the gaming industry after graduation.

Video Game Design Internships

  • Blizzard Internships

    Deadline:

    College students can apply for game design, 3D art, and business operations internships at Blizzard, the masterminds behind games like World of Warcraft, Diablo III, and the Starcraft series.

  • EA Games Internships

    Deadline:

    Students can explore software engineering, computer graphics, game design, and production paid internships with EA, makers of smash hits like Dead Space, SimCity, and the FIFA series.

  • LeapFrog Careers

    Deadline:

    This educational gaming app company often lists internships in their searchable careers database.

  • MakeGamesWithUs

    Deadline:

    This startup was featured in Forbes due to their innovative collaboration approach, recruiting high school and college student interns to build mobile games and sell them on app store markets.

  • Microsoft XBox Internships

    Deadline:

    Students interested in console gaming should keep an eye out on Microsoft's career directory for internship postings in cities around the world.

  • NC Interactive

    Deadline:

    The makers of hit gaming franchises like Guild Wars and Aion often post internship opportunities on their careers listing page.

  • Playstation Summer Internship Program

    Deadline:

    College students attending school full-time have the opportunity to work at Sony over the summer in several paid 12-16 week internship programs.

  • Riot Internship Program

    Deadline:

    League of Legends enthusiasts will be thrilled to see Riot's selection of summer internships, which cover a broad spectrum of industry roles including art, design, data, and finance.

Video Game Design Student & Professional Organizations