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Subject: Game Design Degree Programs? rss

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Andrew Faehnle
United States
Cincinnati
OH
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Does anyone know of any schools (USA, preferably) that grant degress in board game design or game design (specifically with emphasis not on electronic/video games)?

Thanks!
 
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Jeremy Carlson
United States
Wheaton
Illinois
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In board game design? I don't think there is such a thing.
 
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Kent Reuber
United States
San Mateo
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You'd probably do best by majoring in business and/or English. You shouldn't need a degree to design a game. But learning the business model to make a game succeed and writing clear rules...
 
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Nils "Atlatl" Devine
United States
Sherman Oaks
California
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If you go to a school where you design your own major you can come close. I went to Hampshire College in Amherst Massachusetts and they allowed me to devote my entire senior year to designing a game. The school part was more about "can you plan and and execute a project from start to finish?" than the game itself. Actually getting published is another story altogether. Great learning experience though, and very applicable to the working world. I'm still working on the game too.

After you get your bachelors you might look and see if Jesse Schell is still teaching his game design course as part of the entertainment technology masters program at Carnegie Mellon University. He may not be – this article I read is a little old – but you'll undoubtedly find good material to help pitch that interdisciplinary/design-your-own major.
http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/JesseSchell.shtml
 
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J. Green
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Game design is a craft, not an academic discipline. You get to be a game designer by doing it. If you wanted to go to school to learn specific skills that would help you design attractive, interesting games, I would suggest a course of study that includes the following:

Bookbinding: This will give you the skills necessary to produce a professional looking finished prototype, including working with the actual board used to make boardgames, along with how to cut, measure, glue and fabricate interesting structures with cardboard and paper.

Graphic Design: A game designer who is also proficient with graphic design techniques will save himself a lot of money doing his own artwork. Graphic design skills will also help you develop better prototypes and help you visualize and communicate gameplay ideas better. It will also help you design games that are printer friendly to cut initial costs and maximize profit.

History: Many, many games are either simulations of historic events or draw on historic themes.

Philosophy and Logic: The realm of game design begins at the borders of these two subjects. Some excellent boardgames began as computer programs, which are based on logic.

Mathematics: Good board games have a lot to do with the underlying math that makes for smooth, balanced gameplay. Reiner Knizia is a math professor, and look where it got him.

German Language: If you want to really succeed, you'll have to learn German fluently to make friends with other good designers at Essen and become part of the Game Design community. Many published games reflect collaborations between various combinations of designers. Germany is also the biggest market for boardgames, and has a professional association of designers you'll want to join.

Communication: You'll have to learn to write well and communicate effectively with your playtest groups, which are essential to the iterative design process. Step one of good human relations is rational, calm, thoughtful communication.

Business Administration: You'll need to be savvy in the ways of business to deal with publishers and attorneys with regard to copyrights, contracts, production schedules, and it will help you in negotiations and forming networks of contacts.

In my opinion, if you have a wide interdisciplinary education that includes several of the above fields, you will learn more about game design by simply studying and playing lots of games, de-constructing mechanics, writing and thinking and talking about games, and recruiting and developing loyal, patient, intelligent playtest groups for your games than trying to get everything you need from a course.

Until some school develops a Master of Fine Arts degree in Game Design, like they have with writing and poetry and music, you're pretty much on your own. Instead of looking for such a course, I'd save your money for prototype materials and start networking and playing games. Move to a city with an active boardgame community, and get plugged into as many regular groups as possible. Build your playtest group. Start making and testing prototypes as early in the design process as possible. Save up and go to conventions, especially GenCon and Essen. Meet and greet. Pass out business cards and start keeping a gamer/designer address and contact book.

Buy the book Rules of Play by Katie Salen: it's the best and only academic book on game design out so far. Buy Game Design Workshop, because it deals so much with playtesting, which is the essential second step in game design.

Become a regular on BGDF, and enter lots of game design contests. All this stuff will get you a lot farther down the road to game design than taking a course, and with the money you save you can buy more games, and study them. Study the winners, the top games with the most staying power, from Go to Chaturanga to Chess to Backgammon to Poker to Puerto Rico.

Again, game design is not a science, it's a craft, like woodworking or glassblowing or film photography. The end product is art, but you have to develop the craft first, and you need an interdisciplinary background, a jack-of-all trades breadth of experience, in my opinion, to do well at it.

good luck!
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John Bohrer
United States
Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania
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Whatsamatta U

 
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June King
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Miskatonic U
 
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James Nelson
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I don't know of any schools offering game design degree courses, but I do know that you can study toy design at F.I.T (Fashion Institution of Technology) in New York City. Its not exactly game design, but many of the CEO's of companies such as Hasbro, Mattel and other successful companies have attended this school.

I believe its more important to have a firm understanding of how the business works rather than learning how to design a game. Just about anyone can design a game if they really wanted to, but most designers have no clue what it takes to actually publish, market and distribute their finished work(s). These areas are more important to learn and understand than any game design techniques.

Most designers design games in different ways and I don't really know if we could ever get every designer to agree on the best way to actually design a game. The only thing that I am sure we can all agree on - is playtest everything with many different groups and have fun. Nothing is ever worth doing if you don't enjoy doing it.

Good Luck!

James (nventit)
 
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Gary Krockover
United States
Georgetown
Texas
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See: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/wsg/consim.html
 
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'Bernard Wingrave'
United States
Wyoming
Ohio
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I haven't heard of any degree programs, but the link below might be of interest. It's to a description of Britannia designer Lew Pulsipher's course on game design.

http://pulsiphergames.com/teaching1.htm
 
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Tony Richardson
Australia
Melbourne
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No such animal and if it was offered at Uni or College as a degree, they would butcher any creative thinking that you may express.
A few tips that might be handy if you are going to have a go at game design are:

1) Always have an object to the game.
2) Game mechanic must work 99 times out of 100 plays.(Can't sieze-up)
3) For Euro-game stlye the game must be heavily based on stategy and can
exceed 30 mins game time.
4) For general public keep it simple, fun and easy with a mix of luck
and strategy. Game time 15-30 mins.

Finally the game should always flow and should try not have a player looking at the ceiling wondering "Is that a beige or cream colored paint job". Good Luck.
 
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