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Degree Spotlight: Game Design Bachelor's at Full Sail University

The Game Design Bachelor of Science at Full Sail University

The Game Design bachelor's degree program at Full Sail University focuses on the skills and experience that will set our graduates apart in the highly competitive gaming industry. Its approach is based on in-depth focus areas, applying game design theory with hands-on projects, and developing communication skills through extensive teamwork. Plus, according to Game Design Program Manager Fernando De La Cruz, it's a really fun degree.

The Game Design program is split into three specific specialities: technical design, level design, and systems design. "Technical designers are designers who are hybrid between programmers and designers," says Fernando. "Our level designers, they block out spaces. They don't necessarily do the art for those spaces, but they functionally block out a physical space so that game play can take place in that space," he explains. "Then our systems designers are folks who are spreadsheet wizards."

That means systems designers make decisions on things like character levels: how much damage a character can do, when they can learn spells, how much experience they need, how effective they are against an enemy, etc. And they document it all across complex spreadsheets.

Students in the Game Design degree program will take classes in and get a taste of all three types of specialities. "These three specialties cover the technical skills that you need in order to improve your chances of getting hired as an entry level position for design," Fernando explains.

Programming, experience with game engines like Unity and Unreal, understanding of level design theory and construction, math, and spreadsheets: These are typical types of skills companies are looking for. So that's the types of skills students learn in the Game Design bachelor's program.

However, Fernando says, "If narrative design, or visual design are elements that are passions of yours, there are other areas where you're going to be better served, exploring that passion." For example, if you're more interested in the look and feel of a game, check out Full Sail's Game Art degree program. If the crafting a compelling story is your passion, take a look at our Creative Writing degree program.

"I think that the main focus of the game design degree program is to teach people how to prototype," says Fernando. "So it's not really a program that's focused on coming up with ideas... It's what you do with that idea that matters."

He touches on a common misconception that the Game Design degree program is for people who have an idea for a game they want to create. In fact, the program is designed for helping students take an idea and design processes to prototype it. Although, Fernando admits, if you have an idea for a game, that's a good start.

"If you're going to rely on other people to build it for you, then no, this isn't the right place for you. Those kinds of positions in the industry don't exist... They're looking for people that know how to execute, that know how to build, know how to prototype, and test, and iterate," he explains.

But one of the most important factors gaming companies look for in a new hire has nothing to do with technical skills. Fernando explains that statistical studies of job openings at gaming companies have shown the most required or most desirable skills and traits are professionalism and communication, by far.

At Full Sail, students learn professionalism and communication skills through team-based collaboration, problem solving, and conflict resolution. For example in the Game Design capstone project, students join a team of five or six designers to create a game from the ground up. Students will decide the kind of player character, the genre, the perspective for the camera, and the gameplay features as a team.

"You'll get exposed to it over, and over, and over again," says Fernando. "So it's going to be a constant companion, and something that I think sets our students apart from other institutions, which shows how much of a focus we have on that."

Full Sail's Game Design program is also set apart by its level of focus. Fernando says that many other schools provide a jack-of-all-trades approach in art, design, and programming, "Really, I think that that spreads you really thin. All three of these disciplines are really difficult, time consuming. They're all full crafts."

"So instead of watering down, we've really focused on technical design, level design, systems design, and how they work together," he explains. That level of focus, plus the number of hours students spend applying what they've learned is what makes our program stand out to employers. "I'd put us against any other institution in terms of the number of hours that we spend in application," says Fernando.

That includes the midterm project where students individually build their own game level and work with a team to combine each level in seamless transitions – a favorite among students. "This is fun, this is a really fun degree," says Fernando. "There's never been a better time to explore a passion in game design."

Want to learn more? Explore our Game degree programs.

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