Available from four-year universities and colleges, online game programming master's degree programs teach students to take creative concepts and turn them into cutting-edge video or computer games. It is important to note that few programs are actually offered under the specific game programming title; the topic is covered within broader master's degree programs in software engineering or interactive design and game development. Many of these programs can be completed totally online, but there are some that may require internships. Distance learners may also be required to complete a thesis or final project as their culminating experience.
This highly technical field of study requires a background in math, physics and computer programming. In fact, students must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in computer science, software engineering, game development or a related area in order to be admitted into an online graduate program. As with on-campus graduate programs, online students typically must submit GRE scores.
Master of Science (MS) - Software Engineering
In an online MS in Software Engineering degree program, students explore the setup, development and maintenance of the same computer programming software often used by game programmers to create and enter codes for video, computer and arcade games.
Topics covered may include the following:
- Architecture of software platforms
- Theories of computer software
- Programming project management
- Real-time sharing systems
- Parallel data processing
Master of Arts (MA) - Interactive Design and Game Development
An MA in Interactive Design and Game Development degree program emphasizes the various elements of game development, such as user video game art and user interface design.
The distance learning curriculum may incorporate the following subjects:
- Programming of gameplay elements
- Interactive scripting
- Visual character coding
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) - Interactive Design and Game Development
The MFA in Interactive Design and Game Development is essentially a more involved version of the MA program described above, with twice the required coursework and more credits devoted to electives. Earning an MFA degree may require completion of a game development internship, teaching internship and thesis in a relevant area of interest.
In addition to the typical courses covered in an MA degree program, an MFA may require the following classes:
- Contemporary art
- Game animation
- Game production
How Online Learning Works
In general, students access their school's virtual classroom environments to download readings, lectures, videos and assessments. Programs may require mandatory group discussions that utilize discussion boards, class chat rooms or other methods of communication.
Graduate students who want to study game programming online can enroll in an MA or MFA in Interactive Design and Game Development, both of which are tailored specifically for future game developers. It is also possible to earn a broader master's degree in software engineering, which covers a wider range of information technology, through online study.