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Students' hands working on a game over a map of Washington, DC

Practice the Power of Play

As the only program of its kind in the United States, the Master of Arts in Game Design drives students to stretch their capacities as designers, developers, consumers, and game administrators and apply that to their unique field of interest. Students bring to the program their own experiences—whether in politics, science, art, history, marketing, or international studies—and can choose from multidisciplinary courses across our schools of communication, business, and arts.

What issue are you passionate about? Bring your creativity into play with a Master’s in Game Design. Through game design theory, development, and design, our students bring about behavior change, expand awareness, and make a difference. With award-winning faculty and real-world experience, our program prepares students for a career in all facets of game designplay theory, and engagement strategies. Students leave with the skills and experience they need to succeed in applying game theory to non-game contexts.

The Master of Arts in Game Design is a unique, multi-disciplinary 36-credit hour program focused on game design and game engagement mechanics intended to influence non-game contexts and challenges. 

The program will develop students' intellectual capacity as designers, developers, consumers, and games administrators. Beyond traditional game design and development, students learn to tailor play design for distinct education purposes

Required courses such as Games and Rhetoric and Games and Society take students beyond the fundamentals of building a great game. With their 9 credit hours of electives, students are able to choose from a variety of concentrations, or create one of their own.

Complete Degree and Course Requirements

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC, offers game design master’s students unparalleled access to private and public sector opportunities. 

Take advantage of institutional relationships with government agencies, locally based companies, and not-for-profits alike. Clients you may contract with include the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), and WAMU 88.5.  

Connect through renowned DC-held events, such as Indie Arcade at the Smithsonian Museum, Global Game Jam, Games+, and more. 

Whether your next career step is local or global, you’ll gain the skills and network you need to succeed.

Program Director Lindsay Grace is an internationally exhibited game artist and designer whose Critical Gameplay collection has been exhibited in Asia, Europe, North and South America. Together, with a team of impressive faculty, he is leading AU's Game Lab to a superlative position in persuasive play and public purpose games.

With a 4:1 full-time student to faculty ratio, Game Lab students benefit from one-on-one interaction with world-renowned faculty. From working with Game Studio clients to performing scholarly research, students are able to learn from, and work side-by-side with faculty.

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Joyce Rice working at a desk in the Game Lab

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Curriculum Highlights

In the core curriculum, the average student completes:

Game Prototyping
400+ hours of tools like Processing, GameSalad, Twine, Construct 2.
Unity
270 hours of building 3D games and creating playable experiences in a production level game engine.
Game Production Methodology
200+ hours of iterative design, user testing, press kit creation.
Adobe Suite
180+ hours including significant Photoshop, with access and elective exposure to InDesign, Illustrator, etc.
Game Design Methodology
150+ hours of personas, user stories, wireframing.
Project Collaboration and Coordination Tools
100+ hours including Slack, git, Google Docs.
Programming for Games
45 hours of C#
Mobile and augmented reality tools
1-2 courses possible including storytelling tools like ARIS, museum exhibit systems with Raspberry Pi, smart city sensor systems (RFID, GPS, sound triggers, etc.)
Bonus Platforms
You’ll be exposed to an exceptionally broad range of custom platforms, from Twine to Twilio (cloud-based telephony), from LAMP to Google Analytics, survey systems like Qualtrics and more!

Inspiring Empathy with a Game

Games embrace ambiguity and create safe spaces to take risks.

Through studying play, as well as games, Joyce Rice has had the opportunity to look closer at why certain activities engage us, make us think and inspire creativity. 

As a fellow with the JoLT project, Joyce worked in partnership with WAMU 88.5 on Commuter Challenge, a game created to inspire empathy for commuters in Washington, DC at the mercy of Metro. She also presented at the Game Developers Conference in 2016.

The AU Game Lab has a 4 to 1 Student-Faculty ratio

50 percent of Game Design students work with corporate, NGO and government partners

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no typical Game Lab student! Students bring their unique backgrounds and passions to the program, having addressed diverse topics such as mental health, social justice, journalism, politics, money management, and advertising. The program can lend itself to your particular area of interest.

You do not need to have a background in coding to become a Game Lab student, just a love for games and the desire to learn.

The Certificate in Game Design is a shorter program, typically attainable in only one year and offering a more flexible class schedule for the working professional. The MA program is a full-time, two year Master's program offering students a robust foundation for pursuing a career in game design or development.

Still have questions? Send us an email: augamelab@american.edu

 In the core curriculum, the average student completes:

Game Prototyping
400+ hours of tools like Processing, GameSalad, Twine, Construct 2.
Unity
270 hours of building 3D games and creating playable experiences in a production level game engine.
Game Production Methodology
200+ hours of iterative design, user testing, press kit creation.
Adobe Suite
180+ hours including significant Photoshop, with access and elective exposure to InDesign, Illustrator, etc.
Game Design Methodology
150+ hours of personas, user stories, wireframing.
Project Collaboration and Coordination Tools
100+ hours including Slack, git, Google Docs.
Programming for Games
45 hours of C#
Mobile and augmented reality tools
1-2 courses possible including storytelling tools like ARIS, museum exhibit systems with Raspberry Pi, smart city sensor systems (RFID, GPS, sound triggers, etc.)
Bonus Platforms
You’ll be exposed to an exceptionally broad range of custom platforms, from Twine to Twilio (cloud-based telephony), from LAMP to Google Analytics, survey systems like Qualtrics and more!