In the Fall 2019 semester, Villa Maria College will launch a new four-year degree program, the Game Design (FBA). This is the first full program of its kind in the Buffalo area.
Video games continue to grow in popularity, so it only makes sense that the need for game designers is also growing. From 2016 to 2026, employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow 8 percent, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. This projected growth is due to an increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television. Multimedia artists and animators boast a medium pay of $70,530 per year.
I had the benefit of talking to Brian Emerson, the Vice President of Enrollment Management, to find out more details about the Game Design program.
Why did Villa Maria College want to launch a Game Design program?
We looked at how it would fit in with our campus, the overall job market, the potential for growth in the field, and who else is offering this program. Since no one else is offering the program in the area, it made sense for Villa Maria to add it as a degree program. This pathway is driven by the strengths we have in other programs here. Villa Maria sees a lot of local interest because of animation program. Our animation program acts as a foundational aspect of the Game Design program while we also add in other experiences. Additionally, Game Design is a blossoming area nationally.
What makes Villa Maria College’s Game Design program stand out in comparison to others?
From a national look we are building off of strengths with our well established animation program and arts programs. Over 50% of our student body is in the arts. Additionally, we will look at game design from an applied perspective. All majors at Villa Maria are preparing students to be marketable through our applied perspective. Our applied perspective drives us to utilize a hands on approach. While we provide an excellent foundation for the artistic side, there are also opportunities to see the project management side.
I know employers are constantly looking for individuals who have experience, even for entry level positions. Are there opportunities to obtain on the job experience?
This is actually a huge aspect of the applied aspect of our program. Everyone is required to complete an internship. We are working with local industries to help our students. Our local advisory board is working with the local industry to ensure that students are learning what the industry wants/deems is important to be successful in the field.
What types of classes are required for this degree program?
There are a wide variety of classes that are part of the program. Without getting too specific there are foundational courses in basic game design, artistic courses for both 2D and 3D, designing worlds/levels, project management design, and electives like psychology of games. Additionally, every student will have both an individual and group senior project.
Are there extra curricular activities that tie into this degree? IE is there a game design club, etc?
We have an e-sports club along with scholarships for interested students. Additionally we have the Gamers Guild. They sponsor a lot of activities on campus including a comic con.
What type of person would be successful in this program/game design in general?
Anyone who is interested in creating, especially in an interactive environment. While there are opportunities in the traditional sense of gaming, gaming is a much bigger field than just traditional games. There is huge opportunity to get into really anything. Many field need to be gamified. Games are a great way to present education and other challenges in unique ways.
Anyone with interest in any side from the programming to artistic side to project management can be successful in our program.
What types of skills do you need to be a game designer?
Game designers have creativity, logic, a sense of how things within world can interact – cause and effect, the ability to solve problems, can work together as a team, are dedicated, and are focused.
Currently, I work with 7th and 8th graders – what things can they be doing as they transition into high school to prepare themselves for this program/a career in this field? As middle schoolers and high schoolers, they can develop their artistic, creative, and logical side. They should also develop their reasoning and problem solving skills. There are more and more opportunities for students to engage with robotics, STEM, and coding. These are all important opportunities to take if possible. Also, look online to get exposure to gaming industry. Plus, it’s never too early to visit a college or shadow someone in college or on the job.
What types of credentials do your professors have? Are they game designers themselves?
We have some individuals with advanced degrees in game design. We have also made sure to have professors with actual game design experience who will be teaching. We think it is important to have individuals with real gaming experience in the department so that our students can benefit from their experience.
How many students are you expecting to be in the program in the first year? How fast do you expect this program to grow?
We are hoping to have at least 10 students in the fall semester. Our Animation program has close to 30 students every year so we are hoping that our Game Design program will grow to approximately this amount.
The Game Design program will be delivered at Villa Maria with a student-centered experience. Everyone at Villa Maria are really focused on helping students achieve goals along with individual attention that students need to succeed. Students have almost unlimited access to facilities and faculty members due to our 9:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Villa Maria offers academic, athletic, and student life programs that give students the total college experience and sets them up for success following graduation.