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Distance Learning Game Design Degrees with Sample Coursework

Get information about online degree programs in video game design. Read about program requirements, common course topics and degree levels, as well as career options.

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Essential Information

Fully online degrees in game design are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. While undergraduate programs focus on the fundamentals of game design, a graduate program typically deals with game production and management.

Those seeking to complete an online associate's or bachelor's degree program in game design generally just need to have a high school diploma or GED to be eligible for admission. Students who are interested in obtaining a graduate-level education must have a bachelor's degree before enrolling. For some programs, students may also need access to field-specific software or hardware. Once admitted, students can earn their game design degree in about two to four years, depending on enrollment status and program level.

Game Design Programs

To help students get ready for working in the industry, programs often require students to develop a professional portfolio of their work in addition to possibly completing an internship. Students can find these online degrees primarily at private distance learning art schools.

Program Information and Requirements

Distance learners log into their school's virtual classroom environment to view lectures, work on assignments and interact with instructors or fellow students. While due dates must be followed, online students can generally review course materials whenever it fits their schedule to do so. Game design is obviously heavily focused on digital graphics and animation, so students need an up-to-date computer capable of running various design and editing software programs. Some schools have affiliations with companies so that online students can purchase software or hardware at a discount.

List of Common Game Design Courses

Programs with game design classes typically offer introductory content before delving into advanced topics. Students will likely have the opportunity to complete special projects to highlight their design skills.

A.A. in Game Design

Associate's programs typically consist of about 60 credit hours and include general education classes. Students learn about the basics of game design, including how to develop an effective idea and choreograph it. Production of 2D and 3D animations is also covered. Online students can expect to study the following areas:

  • Introduction to Game Design - Fundamental techniques of design and visualization
  • Communicating with Color - Color theory applied to traditional and digital design
  • 2D Design - Two-dimensional visual elements in traditional media
  • Critical Game Studies - Introduction to critical techniques of game study analysis and theory
  • Level Design - Role of level designer and strategies to perpetuate game interest

B.A. in Game Design

Consisting of around 120 credit hours, the bachelor's program is made up general education coursework in addition to classes in the major. These online programs cover the essential components involved in producing a high-quality and entertaining game, including narrative methods, character creation, game levels, aesthetics and design tools. Distance learners can expect to study some of the following subjects:

  • Storyboarding - Applying visual story telling techniques to scripts, accurately showing camera angles and placement of characters.
  • Game Scripting - High-level scripting languages used for rapid game scripting and automation
  • Game AI Concepts - Using artificial intelligence to create realistic behavior from a design point of view
  • Serious Game Design - Games that teach, test, train and present realistic challenges to the player
  • Casual Game Design - Studying and designing accessible, easy-to-play games that introduce customers to the video game market

M.S. in Management and Game Production

Students are usually required to maintain a 3.0 GPA as they complete about 36 credit hours in this distance learning master's program. While developing their abilities, emphasis is generally placed on the completion of several projects from the point of concept through design, development, testing, production and marketing. Typical online classes may include the following:

  • Business of Gaming
  • PC Game Production
  • Console Game Project
  • Handheld Game Project
  • Advanced Applied Game Design

Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for software developers will increase by 17% in the 2014-2024 decade. A degree in game design can be used as an entry into fields directly linked to software publishing, including:

  • Film and Television Animation
  • Level Designer
  • Artificial Intelligence Programmer
  • Digital Video Production
  • Special Effects
  • Advertising
  • Education
  • Gaming-Gambling Industry

To summarize, online AA and BA in Game Design programs provide an overview of the artistic and technological aspects of interactive game development, while MA in Management and Game Production programs offer more advanced courses that provide instruction on how students can successfully bring a game to the market.

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