How to Succeed in the Game Design Master's Degree Program
Published on May 1, 2019 by Amy Cassell
In the U.S., video games are a multi-billion dollar industry, according to research from Forbes. And as the industry's revenue is forecasted to increase, so are the job opportunities. That said, finding work at a game design studio is no easy task – companies want employees who have technical skills, gaming experience, and dedication.
The Game Design master's degree program prepares students for real-world work in the game industry. In the 12-month online or on-campus programs, students choose one of three tracks – production, user experience research, or game design – and then work with their classmates to create, design, develop, test, and launch an entire game from scratch.
"Students who take full advantage of the opportunities offered by this program will gain portfolio pieces, practical experience in studio and lab environments [for on-campus students], and valuable networking opportunities," says Robin Koman, Full Sail's Game Design program department chair.
Here are some of the traits and skills you need to bring to the table – or in this case, the studio – to succeed in the Game Design program:
Before entering the Game Design program, you should have practical experience in game development – programming, 2D art, 3D art, or game design. "This is not a degree for fans of games, this is a degree for people who are passionate about making games," Koman says. Before entering the program, you'll ideally have worked on a game from start to finish – it's okay if it was on an amateur level; it doesn't have to be a professional release.
Adds Koman: "Students should be strong readers and communicators – in both spoken and written form – and well-versed in the approaches and terminologies of the industry."
Be Ready For: Students can expect courses in user experience, production methodologies, game design, and more. Throughout the program students will design, prototype, and develop games. Depending on their selection of online or on-campus degree programs as well as capstone projects, students will have the opportunity to work on student or internal studio game and simulation projects, conduct user experience research on games in development, and manage clients. Students also have the opportunity to take part in networking events and game jams on campus. The bottom line: You've got to be ready to live and breathe gaming while you're enrolled in Full Sail for a year.
"This is a demanding program, with high expectations for both academic and applied performance," Koman says. "Our capstone options are all interviewed positions, so students must prove that they'll be able to contribute to a track to get their first choice."
Some other traits great Game Design students have: determination and focus, an ear for feedback, the ability to understand and speak the language of the game industry, and great time management skills, which is one of the most important elements of being a successful Full Sail student. The university's accelerated track means you're getting a master's degree in one year instead of the typical two. It's a huge benefit – you'll get a head start in the industry – but it definitely requires commitment and organization.
Post-Graduation: Many Full Sail Game Design master's grads have gone on to work for major game studios or develop their own indie games. Grad Erin Eberhardt is a senior project manager for esports at Blizzard Entertainment, working with events for Overwatch and Hearthstone competitions; Ari Patrick is a Senior Producer at Epic working on the Fortnite franchise; Juliana Goriounov is a game designer at Ubisoft, working on the Far Cry and Assassin's Creed series; and Paul Heath is a senior user experience project manager at Epic Games. Bonus: The Princeton Review has cited Full Sail as a top graduate program for Game Design for several years running.
More questions? Check out the Game Design degree page or call an admissions representative at 800.226.7625.
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