Housed within the School of Art + Design and Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC), NJIT’s game development program blends digital design and information technology curriculums to offer students access to faculty and resources that cross disciplinary boundaries and cultivate innovation and creativty.
Here, Glenn Goldman, founding director of the School of Art + Design, discusses the uniqueness of the university’s multidisciplinary program, and what kind of students fit the mold — and explains why an assemblage of disciplines will continue to unite the world of game design.
NJIT earned a No. 33 ranking on The Princeton Review's list saluting the Top 50 undergraduate schools for game design for 2018. The new MIXRLab in YWCC and the Motion Capture Studio in the College of Architecture and Design enables students to study several forms of entertainment design — animation, visual and special effects — that facilitate self-discovery to find different applications for their skills.
NJIT doesn’t offer a degree in game design, game production or game development. Instead, the university offers tracks within existing accredited degree programs. This means students interested in coding and the mechanics of creating games can major in IT or computer science, while students with an interest in the creative aspects of game design (think character development, object design and storyboarding), can major in digital design, with a concentration in entertainment.
“Game designers get to use their discipline-specific talents for therapeutic applications in the context of biomedical research, educational endeavors — and find employment in a variety of diverse fields after graduation,” says Goldman. “Students use several special-purpose labs in each department and work together in courses.”
A DAY IN THE LIFE
First-year digital design students generally take five courses per term, half within the School of Art + Design, the rest being general education courses. As a studio-centric school, by the second year, students spend 10 to 12 hours per week with their design critic, working more hours outside of scheduled class time.
Based on the year and personal situation, game design students will still take two to four additional courses that can include design-related or general education courses, with three contact hours each, and an expectation of three to six additional hours of work per week. Several upper-level classes taught by professionals are offered in the evening.
On the production and development side, IT and computer science students focus on the engineering and programming techniques required for game creation. They will learn how to write code, study system architectures, create game engines and program game logic. Courses include: game architecture and design, game modification development and advanced game production, which is a hands-on class that teaches students the development styles and revision techniques used in the professional game industry. Upon graduation, students will have a portfolio of completed games they have programmed from scratch and implemented on multiple platforms.
OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
“There are a ton of clubs, students, gamers and professors who can help you grow and make your games better,” says computer science alumna Angela Vitaletti ’18. She published the hand-drawn game Doodle Doo on Google Play last spring and currently works as the junior programmer at EarthCam, Inc.
“Our students do have time for extracurricular activities, community service or participation in NCAA Division I sports,” says Goldman. “During the fourth year, a portion of the student population has a limited schedule and works for design firms as interns.”
NJIT also serves as the key location for the Northern New Jersey sector of Global Game Jam, the world’s largest game development event, and encourages students to join student chapters of the Association for Computing Machinery, SIGGRAPH and the International Game Developers Association.
Curious. Aware. Eager. Open. Passionate. These are the traits of successful game design students at NJIT. Students who are equally comfortable with art and technology. Students who aren’t afraid to study game design in the context of broader majors that promote the development of additional skills and talents. Students who approach game design, development and programming as a form of artistic expression.
“Game design is different from playing games,” Goldman stresses. “This is a field that creates original content — and story counts. Students need to develop their own unique abilities. They must be able to fit into a team yet offer any group they enter something the group does not yet have. Good games are not the result of individual efforts, but of the sustained collaborative efforts of unique individuals.”
THE FUTURE IS NOW
There continues to be an increased demand for augmented and virtual reality products, services and technologies, which are expected to reach $27 billion this year, according to a study released by International Data Corporation. And this accelerated interest will certainly require new ways to deliver and enhance immersive experiences for entertainment, education and business.
“We will see greater convergence within and between disciplines like game design, haptic feedback, physical computing and therapeutic applications,” says Goldman. “Everything is ‘more’ today: more virtual, and at the same time, more physical. We are constantly moving back and forth between the two. But they really form one world, and our graduates must be prepared to contribute to this complex environment.”