Combining computer programming and creativity, the new BS in game design and development releases its first promotion

Computer game images created by 2022 graduates of the Game Design and Development major.

Established in fall 2020, the BS in Game Design and Development in the School of Information, equips undergraduate students with the skills and real-world experience needed to create virtual interactive environments that span on all devices and platforms.

In the major, students learn to create games for entertainment but also virtual reality simulations for training, education, healthcare, and other purposes. For example, Lila and Ren Bozgeyikli, senior faculty members in game design and development, study virtual reality simulations for people with traumatic brain injuries in the Extended Reality and Games Lab.

This spring, the first class of five students are graduating in game design and development, and two more students are graduating this summer. Students shared how the mix of technical skills and creativity offered in the major made it an ideal choice for their career goals.

creative course

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A screenshot of an image of “Dungeons of Akazarn” from Javier Perez’s Capstone Project.

US Navy Veteran, Javier Perez changed his major from computer science to game design and development once it became available.

“Once I started taking game programming classes, it quickly became clear that this department was interested in letting me experiment and grow based on my own gaming interests,” said Perez, who is studying in computer science. “These were honestly the hardest classes I’ve taken, but they were also the most rewarding and fun I’ve had in college.”

Perez said his interactions with lecturer Drew Castalia had the biggest impact on his college career. “He ignited my passion for learning and encouraged me to dive into advanced programming architecture,” Perez said.

image of "Fatal Strike"

A screenshot of an image of “Fatal Strike” from the wrap-up project by Amir Ameri and Brendan Schofield.

Amir Ameriwho double majored in game design and development and computer science, is also president of the university’s video game developer club.

“I chose to major in Game Design and Development because I have a passion for game design and thought it would be a great way to sharpen my skills,” Ameri said. “I enjoyed working on hands-on projects for months and then being able to show the finished product to players and see what they think of it.”

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A screenshot on the home page of “Stellar Drift”, Nathan Whinnery’s flagship project.

Nathan Winnery has always enjoyed playing and creating his own games, ranging from backyard games when he was little to “simple games using another game’s free/creative build mode”, he said.

Whinnery started at UArizona in engineering but wanted to move into something more gaming-related. He switched to computer science, but when the Game Design and Development major became available, “I immediately changed with little ‘hesitation”.

“One of my favorite parts of majoring was making games with freedom,” said Whinnery, who majored in computer science and math. “Some classes have an open-ended approach, like ‘make any game you want, any way you want, but it has to include ‘a, b, c’ so now we can solve problems in different ways.”

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A screenshot of ISTA 451’s “Out of the Box” project, which Brendan Schofield and Amir Ameri worked on.

Brendan Schofield first majored in electrical engineering and then computer science before choosing game design and development due to the emphasis on creativity.

“ISTA 251 was the class that really roped me into the major for sure, where we basically studied the science of how to make games fun for players,” Schofield said.

“I decided to stay with GD&D because of the amazing teachers and speakers, being able to create fun and creative games in the classroom, and continuing to learn programming,” Schofield said. “It’s also a plus when the other students in the program are just as passionate about creativity as you are.”

And after?

Perez is applying for various game development jobs that will allow him to work on “fun and rewarding” projects.

Ameri also wants to get a game design job after graduation. “I want to work my way through the industry until I can be a designer on a competitive fighting game, especially on the new fighting game Riot,” Ameri said.

Whinnery hopes to teach game design and develop his own games.

“Long term, I’d like to be an environmental artist for a game company – it’s the people who take various assets (trees, boxes, buildings, anything visible inside a game world) and create the physical levels that players explore,” Whinnery said.

Schofield says his career plans after graduation are still up in the air, but he wants to “work on my own skills and build a portfolio.” He hopes to intern at a game company or work as a freelancer.

Schofield is happy he decided to major in game design and development: “I think it’s an amazing program and I’ve never learned so much in my life.”

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