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New York Film Academy Associate of Fine Arts

ASSOCIATE OF FINE ARTS (AFA) IN GAME DESIGN

A video game sniper has a target in view

Overview of our AFA in Game Design

The Academy makes the accelerated two-year schedule possible by creating an extended academic year allowing students to complete three full-length semesters in each calendar year.

New York Film Academy AFA degree programs are offered only at our Los Angeles Campus.

Qualified students have the option of completing course work at the New York Film Academy in New York City in a one-year non-degree program and then applying their course work to be accepted for advanced standing in the AFA Game Design degree program.

Candidates earning the AFA Degree in Game Design at the NYFA gain exposure to the fundamentals of game design and development in four semesters.

Students who want to focus on their professional goals as game designers can earn an Associate (AFA) degree in Game Design at the New York Film Academy. In this two-year, four-semester program, candidates get a full complement of game design and development training that includes exposure to Playcentric Design™, Agile development, Programming for Non-Programmers, and storytelling studies. Just as important, the program incorporates NYFA’s Game Studio course each semester wherein students lead their own digital game studio with classmates and create a functioning digital game. Game Studio includes one-to-one mentorship from faculty, industry advisors, and a professional programmer who works with each student team.

The program’s strength is in the intensity of hands-on workshops in game design, game narrative, and game analysis– necessary for anyone wishing to work in the commercial game world. Students collaborate with leading game development companies from industry and the world of independent games, providing direct experience with working professionals and leaders in the industry. Internships and externships are formal components of the program.

Programming experience is helpful but not a prerequisite for entrance into the Associates Degree in Game Design. Familiarity with programming will smooth the path for a student seeking to build sophisticated games in the NYFA Game Studio class each semester and will boost the students’ job-hire potential in industry.

The NYFA path to game design proficiency in two years

Over the AFA candidate’s two-year, four-semester program, the AFA game design student works through a studio-based design and development program that explores the craft of games. The strict regimen is comprised of workshops, classes, lectures, and seminars and hands-on studio work.

In Year One, instruction focuses on fundamentals of playable system design, analysis of games, Programming for Non-Programmers, and Story. Weekly guest lectures provide insight on where the industry is today and where it will be in the future. At the completion of the first year, AFA students achieve the following:

  • Paper prototype game portfolio
  • Digital art portfolio
  • Game narrative story and character portfolio
  • Game programming primer
  • Two functioning digital games suitable for the student’s online portfolio. These games will be created in collaboration with classmates and mentors
  • Exposure to Agile development methodology and professional tools


Course Description

Narrative Design Workshop
2D Game Design
Introduction to Game Analysis
Game Design Studio I
Playcentric Design
Introduction to 3D Art
Systems Literacy
3D Game Design
Publishing Video Games
Usability Testing for Games
Game Design Studio II
Art Direction for Game Developers
Mobile Game Design
Game Design Studio III
Level Design
History of Video Games
Storyboarding
Narrative Theory
Object Oriented Programming
Improvisational Acting
The Great Video Games
Collaborative Thesis
Game Design Studio IV
Thesis Production Workshop
Ethics of Video Games
Storyboarding
Narrative Theory
Advanced Level Design

Narrative Design Workshop

This course examines the critical elements that make strong story concepts and how they can be shaped to create the foundations of great games. Students will design, narrative, game play, physical environment (world, gameplay spaces), and other key elements. Guest speakers will include veteran game designers and writers.
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2D Game Design

This course exposes students to the beginning technology of 2D games. Each student gets the experience of running her own game studio in collaboration with 1-4 classmates. Students deliver a working digital game at the end of the semester. Industry standards such as Agile, Scrum, Confluence, and JIRA expose students to state of the art production methods and enable teams to deliver software efficiently.

Students are supported by a technical instructor/mentor who assists with programming as an active member of their team.

Students take increasingly advanced variations of this course in the course of their degree so they will acquire more sophisticated skills each successive semester.

At the end of the degree they will have a portfolio of working software projects.
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Introduction to Game Analysis

The focus of this course is the study and deconstruction of video games. Students learn how to break any game down into Formal Elements, Dramatic Elements, and Dynamic Elements and become versed in the language of Playcentric Design. Students are exposed to the video game canon via study of both seminal games as well as contemporary masterpieces. Deliverables are game deconstruction presentations suitable for a student portfolio.
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Game Design Studio I

This is a companion to the 2D Game Design class. Students work in teams to build their working digital game and receive individualized tutelage and direct coding support from their instructor. Students learn that they can produce working software—even with beginner skills in a short time. They sharpen their skills by practicing this process multiple times in the degree.
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Playcentric Design

This course provides a foundation of knowledge for understanding games as playable systems. Students learn the language of Playcentric Design and practice the craft of prototyping, playtesting, and iteration in an environment independent of computers. This is to provide the student hard skills that can be used throughout a career in games—transcendent of changing technologies.

The student will:

1) Understand Fundamental Theory – See how any game breaks down into Formal, Dramatic, and Dynamic systems. And learn how the three interrelate.

2) Learn Core Development Process – Acquire the skills of prototyping, playtesting, iteration, presentation, and collaboration. These timeless skills can be applied to all game types present and future.

3) Practice, Practice, Practice – All students prototype multiple games -on paper regardless of technical skills. All students gain extensive experience critiquing and analyzing games via formal playtests with fellow students.

At the end of the course each student will have a portfolio of paper game prototypes.
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Introduction to 3D Art

This course introduces students to Autodesk’s Maya Animation, Visual Effects, and Compositing software, a robust application used throughout the video game industry for the creation of visual assets. Students learn how to optimize the Maya interface for enhanced productivity. They are introduced to polygon tools and taught polygonal modeling in a hands-on environment.

Students gain practical understanding of polygonal modeling for organic characters, and hard surface models. Students will also learn the basics of UV mapping, nurbs modeling, texturing, and three-point lighting using D-map and raytrace shadows.
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Systems Literacy

This course builds upon the foundations established in the Playcentric Design course, and focuses on advanced study of system design and play mechanics. The course is workshop-focused, meaning a substantial portion of time is spent actively engaged in the paper prototyping process. Readings and lectures supplement discussions as we explore more sophisticated facets of the playable systems and user experience design. Creating system literacy is the primary goal; and everything else we do supports that aim. Students will leave the course with multiple portfolio-ready game prototypes.
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3D Game Design

This course exposes students to the intermediate technology of 3D games. Each student gets the experience of running her own game studio in collaboration with 1-4 classmates. Students deliver a working digital game at the end of the semester. Industry standards such as Agile, Scrum, Confluence, and JIRA expose students to state of the art production methods and enable teams to deliver software efficiently.

Students are supported by a technical instructor/mentor who assists with programming as an active member of their team.

Students take increasingly advanced variations of this course in the course of their degree so they will acquire more sophisticated skills each successive semester. At the end of the degree students will have a portfolio of working software projects.
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Publishing Video Games

This course provides the student with an understanding of the business of video games with a special focus on game publishing, deal structures, and product lifecycle. Students learn to see the world through the publisher’s eyes and in the process gain insight in how to plan, budget, pitch, launch, and monetize games. Students are exposed to these topics via lectures, exercises, and assignments. Students leave the course with a practical and state of the art of the game business including perspective on mobile games, console games, browser games, free to play games, and other business paradigms.
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Usability Video Games

Usability testing enables game developers to systematically identify and resolve issues that detract from the player experience. Students learn and practice formal usability testing using real test subjects. Students learn best practices for how to get valid (non-skewed) data and how to communicate findings to a dev team effectively.
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Game Design Studio II

This is a companion to the 3D Game Design class. Students work in teams to build their working digital game and receive individualized tutelage and direct coding support from their instructor. Students learn that they can produce working software—even with beginner skills in a short time. They sharpen their skills by practicing this process multiple times in the degree.
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Art Direction for Game Developers

This course examines the role of visual design in building games. The course exposes students to the craft of the Art Director via a combination of theory and practice. Students learn basic skill set presentation (art history, color theory, composition, typography, basic digital media skills). Students learn to think about projects in terms of the constraints of technology, client needs, and end-user experience. The course covers basic UX/UI concepts. Students learn formal ideation and problem solving for visual design. Students learn to master the look and feel of an experience.
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Mobile Game Design

This course exposes students to the intermediate technology of mobile games. Each student gets the experience of running her own game studio in collaboration with 1-4 classmates. Students deliver a working digital game at the end of the semester. Industry standards such as Agile, Scrum, Confluence, and JIRA expose students to state-of-the-art production methods and enable teams to deliver software efficiently.

Students are supported by a technical instructor/mentor who assists with programming as an active member of their team.

Students take increasingly advanced variations of this course in the course of their degree so they will acquire more sophisticated skills each successive semester. At the end of the degree students will have a portfolio of working software projects.
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Game Design Studio III

This is a companion to the Multiplayer Game Design class. Students work in teams to build their working digital game and receive individualized tutelage and direct coding support from their instructor. Students learn that they can produce working software—even with beginner skills in a short time. They sharpen their skills by practicing this process multiple times in the degree.
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Level Design

In this class students work on paper and with level editor tools from commercial games to create high quality play experiences within existing games. Students learn and practice scripting to optimize the play experience including pacing, save points, ratio of obstacles versus power ups, and other game play concepts.
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History of Video Games

This course focuses on the rich history of digital games starting with MIT’s Spacewar from 1962 and showing how and why the medium transformed through the 1970s when Pong and Atari first had mass cultural impact—all the way through each successive era to today’s world of connected consoles, smart phones, and Google Glass.
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Storyboarding

This course teaches the student how to communicate stories and ideas effectively using visual storyboarding. Students learn storyboarding best practices and practice the craft. Case studies are presented from animation, motion graphics, and interactive media. Students get hands on practice making storyboards for game concepts and formally test whether they communicate what the student intended to an audience. Students learn about rapid storyboarding using hand-drawn sketches as well as state of the art storyboarding software.
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Narrative Theory

This course builds on the knowledge developed in Intro to 3D Art and explores deeper technical, workflow, and artistic aspects of 3D visuals.
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Object Oriented Programming

This course educates the student on the principles of OOP. OOP is a model organized around objects as opposed to actions and data rather than logic. Students learn using the C++ programming language and learn that other, less popular object oriented languages operate on the same core principles.
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Improvisational Acting

Students learn by doing that improvisational acting helps them develop skills in team communication and collaboration. They also learn about problem solving, spontaneity, and listening skills through group performance.
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The Great Video Games

This course explores both the concept of games as art including opposing scholarly points of view. The artistic merits of commercial games is explored through case studies of seminal works. And the nascent field of art games is explored via a survey of the field.
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Collaborative Thesis

This hands-on course exposes students to the advanced responsibility of choosing her own technology (in collaboration with teammates) for her or his AFA thesis project.

Each student gets the experience of running her own game studio in collaboration with 1-4 classmates. Students deliver a working digital game at the end of the semester. Industry standards such as Agile, Scrum, Confluence, and JIRA expose students to state of the art production methods and enable teams to deliver software efficiently.

Students are supported by a technical instructor/mentor who assists with programming as an active member of their team.

Students take increasingly advanced variations of this course in the course of their degree so they will acquire more sophisticated skills each successive semester. At the end of the degree students will have a portfolio of working software projects.
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Game Design Studio IV

This is a companion to the Collaborative Thesis class. Students work in teams to build their working digital game and receive individualized tutelage and direct coding support from their instructor. Students learn that they can produce working software—even with beginner skills in a short time. They sharpen their skills by practicing this process multiple times in the degree.
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Thesis Production Workshop

This course provides students with thesis mentorship, support, and guidance through their final AFA semester.
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Ethics of Video Games

Ethics refers to standards of right and wrong in society. Students study and debate ethics in play experiences and how play is a way of learning about the real world. Poignant case studies are presented from games such as: September 12 (an anti-terrorism simulator), Grand Theft Auto (an amoral, open world), Populous (a god game), Bioshock (a game with a morality engine) and other games. Students learn about meta-game behavioral issues such as cheating, violence, and the four types of players found in online worlds—Explorers, Achievers, Socializers, and Killers.
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Storyboarding

This course teaches the student how to communicate stories and ideas effectively using visual storyboarding. Students learn storyboarding best practices and practice the craft. Case studies are presented from animation, motion graphics, and interactive media. Students get hands on practice making storyboards for game concepts and formally test whether they communicate what the student intended to an audience. Students learn about rapid storyboarding using hand-drawn sketches as well as state of the art storyboarding software.
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Narrative Theory

This course builds on the knowledge from Narrative Design Workshop I and delves deeper into core concepts. Works of scholars such as Henry Jenkins, Jesper Juul, and Gonzalo Frasca provide the student with an intellectual venture through advanced narrative theory supported by case studies. Examples include Emergent versus Embedded Narrative, Narratology versus Ludology, and the Neuroscience of Narratives.
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Advanced Level Design

This course builds on the knowledge from the previous Level Design course and delves deeper into core concepts. Student’s work with level editors from the games Minecraft, Little Big Planet, and Warcraft III to make sophisticated play experiences. Students are required to make YouTube videos of game play as potential portfolio pieces.
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More Information

More details about the AFA Game Design degree program is available here.


Dates & Tuition

Fees Per Semester

Tuition: $15,000 (USD) +
Lab Fee: $1,000 (USD)




Location & Available Dates

For Los Angeles:
September 2016 - January 2018
January 2017 - May 2018
September 2017 - January 2019

Faculty

  • Chris Swain Chris Swain
    Chair
    A leader in the games industry for more than 20 years, Chris built the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab at USC and was an adjunct, assistant, and research professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts from 1999 to 2012. He has led 20+ award-winning games and products for companies that include Disney, Microsoft, Sony, Acclaim, Activision, BBC, Discovery, Children's Television Workshop, and many others. Examples include the world's first massively multiplayer casual game, NetWits (Microsoft), the original Multiplayer Jeopardy! Online (Sony), the original Multiplayer Wheel of Fortune Online (Sony), and webRIOT (MTV). Chris speaks regularly about game innovation in the press and at events around the world. Publications include CNN, NPR, Forbes, NY Times, Wired, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, LA Times, others. Venues include Game Developer's Conference, MIT, Harvard, SIGGRAPH, University of Tokyo, Games for Change, DARPA, Columbia University, Sorbonne, City U of Hong Kong, many others.
  • Jeremy Bernstein Jeremy Bernstein
    Instructor
    Writer / Story Editor on TNT's Leverage, Writer / Producer on games for Talkie, inXile, ITVS. Writer for EA Visceral Games, Designer many companies including USC EA Game Innovation Lab, Snap TV, Alchemic Productions, and others. MFA in Screenwriting, USC; MA Biochemistry, Wesleyen, BA Biochemistry, Wesleyen.
  • Lara Fedoroff Lara Fedoroff
    Instructor
    Lara is the founder of UX-radio, Inc. a podcast about IA, UX, and Design. The guest line-up includes well-known industry experts and the purpose of the show is to inspire, educate and share resources. With seven years of User Experience design and Information Architecture experience, Lara has a knack for balancing her business acumen with user-centered design. She is a holistic and strategic visionary, helping companies and users identify solutions for their pain points.

    Her deep knowledge of business process and strategy balanced with her creative simplicity in visual and interaction design enable her to do the work she loves for clients like UCLA, Mitsuwa Japanese Grocery Store, Audio-Digest Foundation and Wilshire Axon.
  • David Fratto David Fratto
    Instructor
    Executive Producer, BBC Worldwide; Sr. Director of Development, Scholastic Inc.; Director of Development, Vivendi Universal Games, Executive Producer, Knowledge Adventure; Education: Harvard University, BA.
  • Scott Gillies Scott Gillies
    Instructor
    Creative Director, Fourth Wall Studios; Game Designer Disney Imagineering; Designer EA Pandemic, EA Maxis; MFA in Interactive Media, USC, BA, USC.
  • Bryan Jaycox Bryan Jaycox
    Instructor
    Graduating from USC in 2010 with a M.F.A. in interactive media Bryan's experience has spanned multiple fields including design for mainstream gaming, serious games, virtual reality, wearable technology, and interactive fine arts. Bryan has been deeply involved in serious games for the past decade creating games and virtual reality simulations for the treatment of Post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans returning from Iraq, games for physical rehabilitation, and games spanning the educational sector teaching fields ranging from foreign language to neurology. In the mainstream gaming sector Bryan has worked on AAA titles for LucasArts and at Hollywood director Gore Verbinski's pioneer game studio Blind Wink games developing original IP for the Xbox console. Bryan also works in the physical design and engineering sector with his business The Build Shop. The Build Shop was founded by Bryan in November of 2011 with a desire to take specialized high tech fabrication tools needed for his own craft and make them available to the public at large at a rate everyday people can afford. This shop follows in the footsteps of the larger Maker Movement that has seen instances of shops, hackerspaces and makerspaces like this one sprouting up across the United States and abroad.
  • Thomas Lee Thomas Lee
    Instructor
    Digital Media Executive and pioneer in F2P online game business and virtual economies, managing projects and people, with ability to coordinate across a diverse set of disciplines. Extensive background in international business cultures, game licensing, and game development. Passionate about technology, content, and “games as service” on connected devices.
  • John Mahoney John Mahoney
    Instructor
    John Mahoney moved to Los Angeles to work for Disney feature Animation as a Visual Development Artist on such films as Atlantis, Treasure Planet and Emperors After working on ten Disney feature films John decided to pursue his passion as an independent film maker. Since then, John has produced over twenty short films and two independent features. He has directed numerous documentaries on such prominent people as Doug Chaing, designer of the new Star Wars films and Tyrus Wong, designer of Bambi. He taught such diverse classes as figure drawing, sculpture, film design, storyboards, stop motion animation, and character design in the United Stated as well as in Singapore and Taiwan. John has had several gallery exhibitions around the Los Angeles area, including a main show at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena.
  • David Mershon David Mershon
    Instructor
    David has over ten years of experience working in the video game industry. He has held a variety of positions including artist, designer, and engineer. He was an artist in residence at the UCLA Game Lab. Companies: Artist, Rockstar Games; Artist, Sony Online Entertainment; Artist, Pandemic Studios. Education: Academy of Art University. BFA; University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, MFA.
  • Joe Shochet Joe Shochet
    Instructor
    Joe Shochet has been developing award-winning interactive experiences for 20 years. He has a passion for designing and programming world-class games across many platforms and audiences. Previously he was Vice President of Creative at Rebel Entertainment, a division of IAC, focused on social and mobile games. Their first product was Dungeon Rampage, an award-winning, and highly rated online game played by over 12 million people worldwide. Prior to joining IAC, Joe led game development at Hangout.net, a small startup building one of the first 3D games on Facebook. His career started in 1996 at Walt Disney Imagineering R&D building virtual reality attractions for the theme parks and designing ride concepts and interactive technologies. After transitioning to Creative Director at Disney Internet Group, Joe was a lead designer and developer of several virtual worlds including the popular Toontown Online, one of the first 3D virtual worlds for children. Joe has a Computer Science degree from the University of Virginia, where his research focused on virtual reality, user interface design, and teaching programming to novices using Alice3D.
  • Colin Windmuller Colin Windmuller
    Instructor
    Colin Windmuller is a graduate of USC's Interactive Media & Games Division. He has been an instructor at New York Film Academy for a year, teaching in the Animation and Game Design departments. Before that, he has worked as a User Experience Designer and a freelance Visual Effects artist. Growing up in a digital age, he has a particular fascination with analog technology and maintains an impressive vinyl collection. His idea of art is creating whimsy through math.
  • Richard Wyckoff Richard Wyckoff
    Instructor
    Richard Wyckoff is CEO and co-founder of Reverge Labs, LLC and Reverge Studios, Inc. Since the videogame industry's breakout success in the mid 1990s, Richard has been a videogame designer and manager at industry leaders such as Electronic Arts/Pandemic Studios, Vivendi Universal, and Dreamworks Interactive. He has been a guiding force on critically-acclaimed titles such as THQ's Full Spectrum Warrior and Looking Glass Technologies' Flight Unlimited, and collaborated with creative luminaries such as Steven Spielberg and Warren Spector. Richard led Reverge Labs to ship cult hit 2D fighting game Skullgirls in 2012.
  • Ed Zobrist Ed Zobrist
    Instructor
    Entrepreneur, General Manager, consumer marketing executive, game designer/producer. Successful experience in the video game, social network game and toy industry on both a local and global basis. 20+ years of experience at increasingly senior levels in marketing and general management, founder of two game development companies, advisor to numerous entertainment focused companies. Involved with hit products totaling >$2B in sales such as Fast & Furious Facebook game (producer/designer), The Simpsons Hit ‘n Run video game (marketing), Who Wants to be a Millionaire pc game (marketing), TipTop downloadable web game from PopCap (producer/designer) and He-Man: Masters of the Universe toys (marketing, episode writer). Companies: General Manager, RockYou; President, Sierra Online; SVP Global Marketing, Vivendi Universal Games; Founder, Zono Games; Sr. Marketing Director, Mattel. Education: Columbia University, BA, University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, MBA.
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