The Growing Impact of Game Design Programs

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Ed Games Expo, held at 1776, Washington, D.C., December 9, 2015

Bev Vaillancourt, M.Ed.

Educator, Editorial Director for Zulama

The Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA) is a “professional organization of video game scholars and programs at universities across the county and internationally.” Attending the 2015 HEVGA mid-December conference at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., was inspiring and enlightening. It simply was delightful being part of an environment inclusive of incredibly bright individuals who not only believe in the value of game design, but work hard to foster growth of game design programs and game-based learning for all ages.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), today there are fully 496 post secondary game design programs found in colleges and universities across the county, including Hawaii and Alaska. Students graduating from these programs have high paying jobs waiting for them as they navigate over 1,640 game design companies just in the United States.

With consumers in the United States spending upwards of $23B on the game design industry, opportunities abound for qualified and talented game designers and programmers. As one game design company executive told me at the Ed Games Expo, “Send us your students. We start at $65K per year.” Zulama is proud of its contribution in addressing the ever-expanding need within the game design industry for talented and highly skilled individuals who understand the design process and know how to work within a design team environment.

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Texas A & M University presenting a student-designed art history game at the HEVGA conference, December 10, 2015.

As I listened to professors at the HEVGA conference share their game design curriculums and student projects found at their universities and colleges, I felt more and more proud to be part of all that Zulama does to bring those same experiences to students in grades 6 – 12. “Work in design teams to create a game.” – our Zulama students do that. “Develop content driven games.” – Zulama students do that. “Work in Unity” – Yes. “Have internship opportunities.” – That, too! Zulama offers a four-year game design, programming, and 3D modeling standards-based curriculum to high school students, opening a wide horizon of college and career opportunities. As Zulama’s founder and CEO, Nikki Navta’s vision of creating a game design curriculum for high school students just a handful of years ago truly was visionary, and today a vibrant reality.

“It’s not the facts that matter, it’s the connections between the facts that matter.” —Dave Rejeski, Wilson Center, Washington, D.C.

It is a joy for me to meet Zulama students in their classrooms and hear their enthusiasm for learning and for game design. It is refreshing to see so many engaged school administrators and teachers dedicated to remaking learning for their students, with an eye to the future rather than being tethered to tried and failed educational systems of the past.

The collaborative social space of game design is seen in every Zulama classroom, and certainly powered every conversation at the 2015 HEVGA conference. To think analytically, collaboratively, and creatively builds agency for critical thinking and innovation. This is game design at its core. From computer science programs for young children to the Zulama Entertainment Technology Curriculum through the myriad of higher education game design program offerings, the future is bright and the horizons wide for future game designers and the limitless and collective ability to “connect the facts” they bring to the global learning network.