student designing art for a video game

Presented by DigiPen Institute of Technology

It’s one thing to be passionate about video games, perhaps enough to feel as if you were born with a controller in your hand! If your passion for playing extends to a desire to create your own games, you might be ready to explore what it takes to become a game designer yourself.  To help you turn any game design dreams into a reality, DigiPen Institute of Technology—ranked #5 in The Princeton Review’s Top 50 game design programs—has shared their insights for aspiring game designers.

Q: What advice do you have for a student who is interested in becoming a game designer? Are there extracurricular activities or additional skills that are important to develop?

A: It’s always important to have outside interests regardless of your career choice, not only to inform your professional work but also to give you an outlet for growth and fulfillment outside of work. For game design professionals, you need to be able to work with a wide variety of professionals and understand their perspectives, so anything you can do to gain collaborative experience—whether in sports or music or something else—is time well spent. Beyond these outside interests, at your core you are a creator, and creative people want to create.  If you want to make games, don’t just think about it. Start making games! Try new ideas and share them with others. Never stop thinking, creating, and growing.

Q: What does it take to be successful in DigiPen's game design programs?

A: Successful students certainly need to be hardworking and dedicated to their education, and willing to develop their time-management skills. Game design students thrive when they work well with other people, including their peers from other majors. In fact, students must work in teams to complete their game projects; student game teams that flourish are often the teams that focus not only on creativity but on communication and project management. Don’t worry if you don’t have those skills just yet, but be ready to build them during your time in the classroom because professional game development is rarely a solo endeavor.    

Q: What are you most proud of with respect to DigiPen's game design programs?

A: Our game design and development programs are focused on the intersection of technology, innovation, and design creativity. We offer two distinguishing features:

  1. Students must apply classroom knowledge to create their own systems, tools, and game engines—not just the software tools currently being used by the industry, although they do get to learn those as well.
  2. Students must work in teams to create a game every year. Students are responsible for overseeing and managing time, resources, personnel, and the product itself during the entire production lifecycle.

Q: What does a game design student accomplish after four years in the program? 

A: Game design students, as noted in the previous question, will have created their own game by the end of the program. But HOW they do it is one of the hallmarks of a DigiPen education; building games in a cross-disciplinary, collaborative team structure. Project classes are required every semester and are organized to simulate a real-world team studio environment. The project classes effectively operate as a large game publisher, while each student team functions as an independent studio. Instructors are the executive producers who help guide each team and set the requirements they must meet. To make the experience as realistic as possible, the teams often consist of a mix of software engineers, game designers, sound designers, artists, and more, all working together to create a game.

Q: Do you have any success stories to share with regard to recent graduates? What kind of game design jobs have they landed?

A: Yes! Within the past two decades alone, DigiPen grads have gone on to work for more than 1,000 professional game studios and have been credited on more than 2,000 commercial games. Our alumni span the globe, boasting work on some of the most successful games of the past few years, including Fortnite, Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Diablo IV, and many more. (In each of those three examples, multiple DigiPen alumni worked together as professional co-workers.) At the same time, we’re equally excited to see our graduates take their game design experiences into new fields altogether. We recently spoke with a game design graduate who is creating simulations in Unity for NASA, and another graduate making games for AI at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.

Pumped up by the prospect of studying game design? Learn more about DigiPen and other top programs here.

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