From the Chair
Nobody can teach you how to make games.
As the Director of the NYU Game Center, I probably shouldn’t say that. But it’s true. We learn by doing. Great games happen because creative people find their voices and express themselves to the world.
The Game Center MFA is the place where that happens. We are game designers, theorists, storytellers, artists, hackers, musicians, visual designers, curators, educators, entrepreneurs, and much more.
We live in a time in which games are evolving in radical and important ways. Our students and faculty are defining the cultural landscape for the next hundred years.
Come join us.
Director, NYU Game Center
What is the Game Center MFA?
The NYU Game Center MFA is a 2-year Master of Fine Arts degree in Game Design. Located within NYU’s famous Tisch School of the Arts, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other forms of art, media, and culture. Our students study the design and development of games in a context of advanced critical literacy, becoming game designers and developers, artists and curators, critics and scholars.
Our curriculum includes classes in the following areas:
- Game Design – the fundamentals of how games work and how to create meaningful interactive experiences on and off the computer
- Game Production – oriented towards the creation of digital games, such as our Code Lab series of game programming courses
- Game Studies – critical theory and scholarship around the idea of games as a form of designed human culture
- Game History – including our foundational Games 101 class, which traces the history of games from ancient boardgames to today’s videogames
- Studio Courses – where the emphasis is on the collaborative group creation of digital games
- Thesis – the focus of the program’s second year, where students work alone or in groups on a project of their choosing
- Play Labs – classes that take a deeper dive into the play of a particular game genre or designer’s work – such as indie tabletop RPGs or tournament Starcraft play
- Electives – a wide range of classes that explore everything from games journalism the psychology and emotions of game play
And don’t forget the rest of NYU! Our highly flexible structure means that students can take classes from any department or program across New York University. Our MFA students have studied interactive design at NYU’s ITP design program, crafted stories with screenwriters in NYU’s world-class film program, and hacked into hardware at NYU’s School of Engineering.
Your guide to the MFA
Every student that is accepted into the program gets a copy of the NYU Game Center Student Guidebook. You can download a past version of that here for an introduction to the Game Center MFA program and culture.
If you want even more details, check out the Game Center MFA FAQ which has answers to all of your burning questions.
Structure & Curriculum
The MFA curriculum takes students through a two-year journey where you closely study the theory and practice of games, learn new skills, and have many, many opportunities to create games. The program begins with a highly structured first semester, but quickly becomes more flexible so that you can design and define your own course of study.
The school year kicks off with orientation, a week of socializing and intensive programming workshops immediately before school begins. Orientation gets everyone comfortable with each other and with making games. Then the first semester begins. Every MFA student takes the same courses during their first term:
- Game Design 1 – the fundamentals of creating meaningful choice, with an emphasis on designing non-digital tabletop and physical games
- Game Studio 1 – individually and in groups, students create digital games and learn best practices for a successful creative process
- Game Studies 1 – introduction to the scholarship of games and critical theoretical approaches to game design
- Games 101 – a history class that spans ancient to contemporary games, with an emphasis on actually playing as many of the games as possible
- Code Lab Zero – for students less experienced with programming, this optional mini-class serves as a programming support workshop for Game Studio 1 projects
After the highly structured first semester, things open up considerably in the second. There is only one required class, and it is up to you to fill the rest of your schedule with classes that are meaningful to you.
- Game Studio 2 – students work in groups and spend an entire semester creating a single digital game, allowing you to work on a more ambitious videogame project
- Electives – the rest of your schedule is determined entirely by your interests and passions, usually three classes in addition to Game Studio 2
Thesis Jam. As the spring semester comes to a close, our students shift their focus to the thesis project they will complete their second year. One way we help students explore their thesis ideas is through the Thesis Jam – a one-week intensive game creation experience that happens after the end of classes.
Summertime. After the second semester ends, many of our students find jobs and internships at game companies – both locally and elsewhere. Other students decide to spend the summer getting a head start on work towards their thesis project.
SEMESTERS THREE & FOUR – THE SECOND YEAR
In the second year of the MFA program, your main focus will be your thesis project. A Game Center MFA thesis can take many forms – many are collaboratively created digital games, but a thesis can also be a tabletop game, a LARP or other live-action game, a game-related conference or event, or some kind of research project.
- Thesis – this class provides a structured place for you to work on your thesis project, including research and collaboration, as well as faculty support and critique
- Survival Skills – this 2-credit class gives your glimpses of what life is like after graduation. You will hear from speakers in indie development, triple A, and other career paths you may not have considered. At the end of this class, you will have a completed career plan and updated resume and portfolio.
- Electives – in the fall and in the spring, you will take additional classes from the NYU Game Center or from across NYU, based on your interests
Spring show. The semester ends with a celebration of NYU Game Center student work, focusing on thesis projects of graduating students.
Who should apply?
Our students can arrive as programmers, designers, and visual or audio developers. But they are just as likely to have backgrounds in theater, economics, education, engineering, political activism, philosophy, journalism, or a hundred other fields. The diversity of our student body reflects the collaborative, interdisciplinary nature of game design.
You DON’T need to have experience in making games in order to be in the program. You DO need to have creative talent, a passion for games, and a unique point of view about why you want to study game design. The NYU Game Center strives for a diverse student body. American students are often in a minority, and we strive for a rich mix in terms of culture, gender, and background.
Life at the Game Center
What’s it like to be in the MFA program? Our Student Life section gives you a peek at the day-to-day experience of the NYU Game Center. You can also check out our Faculty pages for a glimpse at who might be teaching your classes. And we have lots of Student Projects online to give you a sense of what our students create here.
Life after the Game Center
At the NYU Game Center, we don’t just focus on what happens during your time here. We also make sure that after you graduate, you are set up to follow your dreams in games. Here are some of the ways we help you figure out internships during your two years here as well as your first career moves when you graduate.
- Workshops and events – Each spring we host Strategy Guide: Breaking Into the Game Industry, a panel discussion with studio heads and working Game Center grads that also doubles as a job fair. There are other events as well, like workshops on writing resumes and cover letters for the game industry.
- Making connections – The NYU Game Center is a hub for the game industry and on any given week, we have multiple industry speakers, guest critics in our classes, and local developers playtesting their games on site. There are lots of opportunities for students to network with working game industry professionals.
- The Game Center Incubator – Launched in the summer of 2014, the incubator provides space, funding, and expertise for graduating students. Through a competitive application process, the incubator selects projects that have commercial potential and sees them through to a public launch. More info on our incubator here.
- Help from NYU & Tisch. In addition to all of our game-centric efforts, students can also take advantage of NYU’s extensive Wasserman Career Center. Tisch School of the Arts has its own Office of Career Development dedicated to helping students with creative careers. These two offices host regular sessions on a wide range of topics, from giving great job interviews to figuring out international work Visa issues.
Our students have gone on to work at top game companies, including Riot, Arkadium, and Avalanche Studios. They have been honored with awards like IndieCade Audience Choice, multiple recognitions from IGF, and the Randy Pausch Scholarship.
More questions? Get in touch!
While we normally give two MFA info sessions in October that allows us to meet you all in person, COVID-19 has made that unwise. If you’d like to learn more about the program and ask questions, feel free to set up a one-on-one virtual info session with our admissions coordinator, Jessica Lam, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.