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Game Design School at the New York Film Academy

Game Design School

All MFA, BFA, AFA, and One Year programs give you hands-on experience:
  • Leading your own student game studio with classmates each semester
  • Building winning portfolio pieces – games, artwork, stories, other
  • Engaging with game industry leaders who are your faculty, mentors, and guest speakers

Review Of The Game Design Program

Game design and development is dynamic and exciting. As one of the best game design schools in the world, the New York Film Academy, offers students the remarkable opportunity to study under leading game designers and developers from the industry. Follow your passion for games and learn the art and technology of making them hands-on. Join passionate, creative people like you and gain invaluable practice.

Running Your Own Student Game Studio

At the core of the NYFA Game Program is the Game Studio course—repeated multiple times in each degree. In this course students lead their own game studio with 2 or more classmates. Student studios build a functioning digital game in one semester with mentorship and hands-on coding from professional game programmers, developers, and instructors. Inclusion of a professional programmer on student teams is unique to NYFA. The programmer both codes as part of the student team as well as educates the team members on how to code and how to manage using Agile software development.

This teaching approach—of teaming students with professional game programmers and developers who code with students on their projects—is unique to NYFA and one of our most popular features.

Mastering Playcentric Design

All students are immersed in the Playcentric Design methodology. It is infused throughout the curriculum. The student will:

  • Understand Fundamental Theory – See how to deconstruct any game experience into Formal, Dramatic, and Dynamic systems and learn how the three interrelate.
  • Learn Core Development Process – Acquire the skills of game prototyping, playtesting, iteration, presentation, and collaboration. These are timeless skills that can be applied to the full range of existing game types—mobile, browser-based, console, free-to-play, social, location-aware, multiplayer, etc.—and also to new game types in the future.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice – All students will prototype multiple games hands-on regardless of technical skills. Class assignments are designed to provide great additions to a student’s portfolio. In addition everyone gets lots of experience critiquing and analyzing games via playtesting with fellow students.

Story and Narrative in Games

Games are the literature of the 21st Century. Students learn to compel audiences via story in their games. Telling a story with games involves a blend of good system design—e.g. the story emerges from gameplay—and classic cinematic techniques. Students learn established interactive story structure models—such as Emergent versus Embedded Narrative—and gain the tools to expand upon them. Students deconstruct story in seminal narrative games—e.g. Bioshock, Mass Effect, Deus Ex, Final Fantasy VII, Red Dead Redemption, Portal, Uncharted 2, Skyrim, etc.

Learning Industry Standard Tools

All students get extensive hands-on practice with state of the art digital tools.

Art and Animation tools:
You will be exposed to art direction and 3D animation via coursework. Tools include Adobe Creative Suite and Maya 3D. You gain hands-on expertise and—equally importantly—you gain an understanding of how to collaborate with and lead artists, animators, and developers in the industry.

Programming tools:
You do not need to be a programmer to attend NYFA. Whatever technical skills you have—zero to expert—will be expanded upon and honed during your time as a student. The exact languages you use in your studio classes will be decided by you and your instructor each semester depending on what’s best for your project. Right now Unity is one of the most popular. You will get individualized help and coding support from your studio class instructors—all of whom are A-list professional game programmers and developers.

Agile Tools:
You will conduct Agile Development using industry-standard collaboration tools like JIRA, BitBucket, and Confluence. These skills alone will differentiate you in interviews with game studios and amongst other developers.

Agile Development

Your studio classes run exactly like professional game studios. The leading professional game studios follow the Agile software development methodology. Here are some principles of Agile development:

- Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.
- Working software is the primary measure of progress.
- The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
- The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
- At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly. (Source: Principles behind the Agile Manifesto)

Understanding the Business of Games

Digital distribution technologies—such as Steam, the App store, and the internet in general—have ushered in an era where small teams of designers and developers can compete on a level playing field with giant game publishers. For this reason it is valuable for students to have an understanding of the business of games. Students gain exposure to principles of publishing and marketing, as well as how to break into the game industry as an individual.

Building a Winning Portfolio

Graduating students will leave NYFA with a portfolio of Game Studio games as well as smaller prototypes, game deconstructions, business analyses, pitches, and stories. These portfolio pieces are crafted to provide the NYFA graduate the best foundation for breaking into the game design and development industry and enjoying a career as a game professional. NYFA will teach you best practices for posting your portfolio online and getting attention with it in industry.

Game Design Courses

Students in the Game Design & Development School can expect to take the following courses depending on the degree you enroll in. To see the full list of Game Design courses specific to your program, please click here.

2D Game Design 3D Game Design Game Design Studio I, II, III, IV
Playcentric Design Systems Literacy Narrative Design Workshop
Intro to 3D Art Level Design Art Direction for Game Developers
Mobile Game Design Intro to Game Analysis Usability Testing for Games
Sound Design for Games History of Video Games Multiplayer Game Design
Publishing Video Games Marketing Video Games

New sessions start each semester. A list of program start dates can be viewed here.


Offered exclusively at the Academy’s Los Angeles campus, students may obtain a game design degree through one of the following options.


If a student wishes to enroll in a non-degree game design program, it is advised he or she looks into the Academy’s one-year conservatory program.

Game Design Faculty

One of the hallmarks of the New York Film Academy’s Game Design & Development School is the distinguished and experienced faculty. Faculty members work one-on-one with students and the game studio faculty provide hands on coding support for student projects. Each faculty member is dedicated to providing students with hands-on experience alongside the tools and know-how to succeed in the game industry. The Academy’s game design faculty includes:
NYFA game design school chair Phoebe Elefante Phoebe Elefante: Ms. Elefante joined New York Film Academy as a Narrative Design instructor in 2014. She has a Masters in Media & Creative Management from Indiana University, and has been working across media platforms as a Writer, Designer & Producer since 2003.

NYFA game design school faculty member Andrew Garrahan Andrew Garrahan: Mr. Garrahan is an experienced software engineer and game designer. He has led a variety of game projects for such companies OMGPOP, Adult Swim, IBM, A&E, History Channel, Syfy, This Is Pop, and NBCUniversal.

Geoffrey Fowler NYFA Game Design School faculty Geoffrey Fowler: Mr. Fowler created his first online game in 1995 and has twenty-one years of experience as a professional digital artist and eighteen years of experience developing educational games across multiple platforms. Geoffrey held the title of Muppet Art Director at Sesame Workshop (Children’s Television Workshop) where he was in charge of digital design and character branding for multiple global children’s properties including Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Pinky Dinky Doo, DragonTales, and others, going on to start his own design company GreenPig Interactive.

Caitlin Burns NYFA Game Design School faculty Caitlin Burns: Having spent a decade working with narrative intellectual franchises, independent property franchises, and independent artists as a transmedia producer, Ms. Burns currently serves as Vice Chair of the Producers’ Guild of America New Media Council. She has worked on past projects that include Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron Legacy for the Walt Disney Company, James Cameron’s Avatar for Fox, and Halo for Microsoft.


Click here to see samples of work created by NYFA student game studios.

Career Opportunities

The game industry is growing four times faster than the US economy and annual compensation for game industry employees is around $95,000 (Source: ESA Video Games in the 21st Century: The 2014 Report). The Academy’s superior training prepares students to achieve professional success in addition to building essential skills. Academy students practice honing skills prototyping and playtesting games, practice honing skills with industry-standard software tools, and practice honing skills being a creative leader. Successful completion of the program comes with a personal digital portfolio of games for you to post online. Academy programs prepare students for a variety of career opportunities for numerous companies in game design and development.

Contact Us

If you wish to learn more about the Game Design & Development School at the New York Film Academy, you can call us at +1 (212) 674-4430 or click the below links to receive more information and apply online.

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