Four Distinct Degree Programs in Game Design and Development
USC Games offers four degree programs in distinct areas of game design and development. At the undergraduate level, we offer both a Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Media & Games and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Games. For students at the graduate level, we offer a Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media & Games and a Master of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Games.
Deciding which program is right for you depends on your goals and level of preparation. All of our degrees are hands on with technology and creative project development. For those primarily interested in design and production, we suggest the Interactive Media & Games degrees in the School of Cinematic Arts. For those interested in focusing on technical development for games we suggest the Computer Science (Games) degrees in the Viterbi School of Engineering.
In addition to our full degree programs, we also offer a wide range of minors for undergraduates who would like to add an expertise in one of the various aspects of games alongside their major field of study. All USC Games students work together collaboratively across degrees and disciplines.
School of Cinematic Arts, SCI building
The Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in the design of games and interactive entertainment. Students make games at all levels of the program gaining hands-on skills across a range of digital media arts; the core game design education allows students the space within their education to earn multiple specializations within the industry, broadening their skill sets and post-education trajectory. Hands-on skills are taught within a vibrant community of thought that explores new models of interactivity as well as emerging markets and platforms for playful media. Emphasis is placed on collaboration, team-building, innovation and creative leadership.
The M.F.A. in Interactive Media is an intensive three-year program designed to prepare students to become creative thought leaders and innovators in the evolving fields of games and interactive entertainment. As with the undergraduate degree, M.F.A. students are immersed in hands-on project development, gaining skills in design, development, collaboration and creative leadership, culminating in a year long thesis project. The M.F.A. program draws on the strengths of the School of Cinematic Arts, including Game Design, Animation, Sound Production, Screenwriting, Producing and Critical Studies, bringing these resources together in a vibrant community of innovative digital media practice.
The Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media with an emphasis in Games and Health is focused on designing and evaluating interactive entertainment-based with applications in neuroscience, public health and medicine. The program is for already admitted MFA students who may declare this emphasis, typically by the end of their second year. Besides completing the required coursework for the emphasis, students must also initiate, lead and complete a thesis project in this area.
The Master of Arts in Cinematic Arts with an emphasis in Media Arts, Games and Health is administered by the Graduate School in conjunction with the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center. The curriculum is based on center crosscutting initiatives that represent the broadest descriptions of our vision and mission. Students benefit from emerging research, tools and methodologies that converge at the center, as well as the wide range of backgrounds represented by faculty, students and visiting scholars.
Viterbi School of Engineering, EGG building
The goal of the BS in Computer Science (Games) program is to graduate students with a solid grounding in computer science and a cross-disciplinary background in game development. Topics covered include game production, visual design for games and interactives, computer animation, video game programming, game hardware architectures, game engine programming, serious game development, introductory and intermediate game design, and two semester-long final game projects. Additionally, graduates from this program will be able to further their education in graduate programs in game development and computer science.
The goal of the M.S. in Computer Science (Game Development) program is to graduate students with a core in computer science, an engineering-oriented game development core, and a concentration in one of the key research directions in game development infrastructure, cognition and games, immersion, and serious games.
Game Design – Design for games is a young, exciting field applicable to media artists working all over the world, in different aspects of the industry and with as many different tools as possible. The Game Design minor teaches iterative design and prototyping skills while providing students the opportunity to explore design for new technologies and the skills of user assessment and usability testing.
Game Animation – The skills of the modern animator, visual effects artist, performance capture professional and many others are of great value in the games industry when paired with an understanding of how these assets can be used in games and systems. The Game Animation Minor provides an educational path that teaches both systems thinking and the skills and creativity of an animator.
Game Audio – Game audio professionals must not only be competent in one area (e.g., expressly in music composing, or in audio recording), but in other areas of audio and in theories of procedurality and interaction. This minor provides grounding in game design and systems thinking, while also providing theoretical backing and skills in audio design and composition to prepare students to design successful audio for the games industry.
Game Entrepreneurism – The modern media, technology and entertainment fields are built on the backs of new businesses and new ideas. To start a successful business, a young video game entrepreneur needs specific knowledge of the processes for setting up a business, finding investment and turning their creative project from prototype to finished project. The Game Entrepreneurism Minor provides an educational path that teaches hard business thinking for creative entrepreneurs.
Game User Research – Game and interaction design are deeply dependent upon human-computer interaction and the ability to use research methods to improve player experience. Game user research is a critical aspect of game design and development that involves management of playtests and usability tests of the software, technology and rules. Along with the ability to analyze and design for optimal player experience, this field combines the ability to analyze large batches of data, and an understanding of how to build applications that mine data from users; these skills form the backbone of an incredibly valuable team member for digital entertainment products.
Themed Entertainment – Who designs theme parks, museums, fireworks shows, water fountain spectaculars, and parades? Themed entertainment designers do. From cruise ships to casinos to immersive educational retreats, the Themed Entertainment Minor teaches students to design almost anything that involves submerging a real, live human being into a story in a truly robust, physical way.
Video Game Design and Management – The video game design minor integrates theoretical concepts and practical skills to prepare students for a career in interactive entertainment, specifically the video game industry. Students will be exposed to a variety of design concepts related to creating video games including: level design, game-play control, user interface, multiplayer, game mechanics and storytelling. As opposed to the video game programming minor in which students will be writing code and programming game engines, students in the video game design and management minor will apply design concepts to different game genres and use game design software tools to create a working demo of a video game during the course of the minor program.
Video Game Programming – Through integration of two major disciplines (computer science and information technology), students will be exposed to a variety of programming concepts related to creating video games including: 3-D graphics, artificial intelligence, particle systems, rendering, collision detection, game algorithms, physics concepts, and math formulas. In contrast to the video game design minor where the focus is applying design concepts and using software design tools, students in the video game programming minor will evaluate, write and debug code, in addition to creating a game engine during the course of the minor.
3D Computer Modeling and Graphics – The 3D Computer Graphics and Modeling minor merges theoretical concepts with state-of-the-art techniques to prepare students to apply 3D computer graphics across a wide range of industry applications. Hands-on courses build from a core foundation throughout the spectrum of advanced cutting edge technologies as they are used in real-world application and culminate with the production of a portfolio of work commensurate with the needs of 3D industries.
Computer Science – The computer science minor introduces the concepts, tools and techniques that are involved in the programming of computers. The minor prepares students to achieve mastery in several current programming languages. In addition, the student will learn about creating effective user interfaces and how to build applications that are available on the Internet.