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New York Film Academy Game Design

ONE-YEAR HANDS-ON CONSERVATORY IN GAME DESIGN

A scene from the video game Hedgehog Roller A scene from a video game battle

Overview of our 1-Year Game Design Program

This program is offered in NYC and Los Angeles. It is for students who would like a high-intensity, hands-on immersion in the study of game design with like-minded creative and technical people. The program is two semesters.

The New York Film Academy (NYFA) One Year in Game Design is a two semester (16-weeks per semester) conservatory-based, full-time study certificate program. The curriculum is designed to immerse gifted and energetic prospective Game Developers in a survey of the key aspects of the discipline. The New York Film Academy One Year Certificate in Game Design provides a creative setting in which to challenge, inspire, and perfect the talents of its student body. Students follow an intensive curriculum and achieve multiple learning goals.

The strength of the NYFA One Year Certificate in Game Design is in its combination of storytelling studies, game design theory, game arts education, game programming education, and the hands-on direct application of each. Based on a high concentration of intense narrative and game prototyping workshops designed to challenge the individual student beyond his or her status quo and into a new realm, the program is further enhanced by concentrating on the commercial realities of the medium.

Program Objectives

The educational objectives in the One Year Certificate in Game Design are to give students an introductory education in the art and craft of professional game writing and design, and to instruct students through a regimen consisting of lectures, seminars, and total immersion workshops to excel in the creative art of game writing & design.

All students will:
  • Be able to deconstruct any game experience into Formal, Dramatic, and Dynamic systems.
  • Acquire the skills of game prototyping, playtesting, iteration, presentation, and collaboration.
  • Know how to prototype multiple games regardless of technical skills.

Year One

In Year One, students receive a deep education in Playcentric Design and Systems Literacy. Students work in collaboration to deliver working software each semester.

Learning Objectives

One Year Certificate in Game Design students at NYFA will be introduced to the key facets of game design, from writing to art to development to programming. They are expected to create their own 30+ page game design wiki, a portfolio of their game art, and demonstrate their knowledge of game programming by delivering two functional digital games in collaboration with classmates.

Skills learned as a result of successful completion of this program include:
  • The ability to work collaboratively in a high-pressure creative environment.
  • Intermediate knowledge of the theories of narrative storytelling in video games.
  • Intermediate knowledge of the techniques and practices of game art and animation.
  • An introductory knowledge of the language and processes of game programming.
  • A firm foundation in the theories, methods and execution of game development, through participation in the creation of a working video game.
  • Intermediate understanding of the Maya 3-D Art Software.

Requirements

One Year Certificate in Game Design requires successful completion of the following creative projects in partial fulfillment of the graduation requirement:
  • 2 functional digital games (in collaboration with classmates)
  • 3-D Art Portfolio
  • Graphic Design Portfolio
  • Satisfactory Participation in Narrative Design Workshop
  • Satisfactory Participation in the crafts of Playcentric Design and Systems Literacy

Curriculum

See the full One-Year Game Design Conservatory Program here.


Course Description

Game Design Workshop
Narrative Design Workshop
Game Studio: Agile Development
Game Studio: Coding Lab
3D Art and Animation
Game Analysis: Playable Systems
Improvisational Acting for Game Designers
Game Design Workshop II
Art Direction for Game Designers
Narrative Design Workshop II
Game Studio: Producing
Game Studio: Coding Lab II
Game Analysis: Industry


Game Design Workshop

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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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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Game Studio: Agile Development

This hands-on game studio course is focused on the production and development of digital games and is at the heart of the program. Students will form their own game studio development teams comprised of fellow students (2-4+). Students will conceptualize and build a working game then learn and employ Agile and SCRUM methodology and Playcentric Design. Using online tools such as Confluence to document their work and JIRA to manage their tasks, course will teach game production workflow. Emphasis is placed on managing the design, development and testing of a working game by end of semester.

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

Students take two variations of this course in the course of the program so they will acquire more sophisticated skills in successive semesters. At the end of the program they will have multiple working software projects.
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Game Studio: Coding Lab

This is a companion to the Game Studio: Agile Development 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 program.
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3D Art and Animation

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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Game Analysis: Playable Systems

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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Improvisational Acting for Game Designers

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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Game Design Workshop II

This course builds upon the foundations established in the Game Design Workshop I course, and focuses on advanced study of systems literacy 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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Art Direction for Game Designers

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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Narrative Game Design Workshop II

This course builds upon the learnings from Narrative Design Workshop I. It provides the student with more in-depth understanding of the art and craft of narrative and storytelling in games. Lectures and case studies provide advanced level exposure to story structure, character, and how Dramatic Elements and Formal Elements of games interrelate. Examples include Embedded versus Emergent Narrative; Ludology versus Narratology; and others. Students will craft their own interactive narratives via in-class exercises and multi-week assignments.
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Game Studio: Producing

This is a second hands-on game studio course focused on the production and development of digital games. Students will form their own game studio development teams comprised of fellow students (2-4+). Students will conceptualize and build a working game then employ Agile methodology with a special emphasis on good creative producing techniques. Students will continue honing skills with tools such as Confluence and JIRA.

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

The reason students take two variations of this course is so they will acquire more sophisticated skills in successive semesters. At the end of the program they will have multiple working software projects.
back to top

Game Studio: Coding Lab II

This is a companion to the Game Studio: Producing 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 program.
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Game Analysis: Industry

This course educates the student on many of the fundamentals and various business models found within games industry today. Included are an in-depth review of the online, social and mobile business models, the proposal and contract development process and success metrics associated with a successful game. In addition students will be exposed to best practices for acquiring work in the game industry through hands on assignments.
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More Information

More details about the One-Year in Game Design Conservatory is available here.


Dates & Tuition

Fees Per Year

Tuition: $30,000 (USD) +
Lab Fee: $2,000(USD)

Number of Semesters: 2




Location & Available Dates

For New York City:
September 2016 - May 2017
January 2017 - September 2017
September 2017 - May 2018

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

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.
  • Matt Plotecher Matt Plotecher
    Associate Chair
    Matt Plotecher has been working with interactive media for over 15 years, and has been part of the NYC game industry since 2007. Working with clients including Microsoft, Nokia, Lionsgate, Konami, and the NFL, Matt has worked on all forms and genres of games: causal, core, Facebook, mobile, ARGs, and, of course, live-action chess-dodgeball. He has had several articles and opinion pieces about gaming and game culture published in websites such as gameindustry.biz and Develop Online, and has handled the duties of Lead Game Designer, Project Manager, Producer, Audio Design, Writer, Q&A, and Happiness Officer. In his spare time, Matt can be found tinkering with his own games, playing any and all games, laying it down on the basketball court, DMing his local gaming group, and helping little old ladies cross the street.
  • 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
  • Naomi Clark Naomi Clark
    Instructor
    Naomi Clark has been making games for over two decades, from building early online worlds as a teenager to working as a freelance game designer and creative director in New York City. She's helped design and build games for many different platforms and audiences, from early multiplayer web games (Sissyfight 2000) to web games and creativity tools for kids (LEGO World Builder, Gamestar Mechanic) and games for casual audiences and social networks (Miss Management, Dreamland, Trash Tycoon). She's taught courses on games at Parsons: the New School for Design and master classes at the NYU Game Center, blogged for many years about games and feminism, and is currently working on an experimental game with her independent game development group, the Brooklyn Game Ensemble.
  • 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.
  • Brian Fountain Brian Fountain
    Instructor
    Brian Fountain is an award winning developer and game designer with more than a decade of experience in transmedia storytelling. He has designed experiences that span multiple platforms, including: mobile, web and live events. His outdoor game, ZOWN, recently debuted at the 2012 Come Out and Play Festival. He and three teammates won the first ever Story Hackathon held at Lincoln Center. He is a co-lyricist and co-composer of the musical Freak Dance which was selected as part of the 2011 Austin Film Festival's Comedy Vanguard Series. He is a co-founder of Prototype161, a transmedia gaming company twice-recognized for excellence by Indiecade. He is also a Senior Agent with the international comedy group Improv Everywhere.
  • Geoff Fowler Geoff Fowler
    Instructor
    Geoffrey Fowler created his first online game in 1995 and has twenty years of experience as a professional digital artist and fifteen years of experience developing educational games across multiple platforms. Geoffrey held the title of Muppet Art Director at Sesame Workshop (Children¹s Television Workshop) where he was in charge of digital design and character branding for multiple global children¹s properties including Sesame Street, The Electric Company, Pinky Dinky Doo, and DragonTales. After a decade of service to Sesame Street, Geoffrey founded his own design company GreenPig Interactive Inc. whose clients include Viacom, Sesame Workshop, Barnes&Noble, Kodak, Basic Fun, This is Pop! (Adult Swim, A&E, History Channel, Bravo TV, Red Bull, VH1). Currently an instructor at NYFA and a consultant to the Advanced Cognitive Training Systems Group at Aptima, Inc. He received his BFA in Illustration from The School of Visual Arts in 1993.
  • Andrew Garrahan Andrew Garrahan
    Instructor
    Andrew is a software engineer and game designer. He has led game projects for OMGPOP, Adult Swim, IBM, A&E, History Channel, Syfy, NBCUniversal, This Is Pop and many other companies.
  • 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.
  • Bryan Ma Bryan Ma
    Instructor
    Bryan Ma is a designer and producer from California and New York. Since 2006, he has been an active part of the international game industry community as a developer, educator, and advocate. Previously Senior Game Designer for 2K Games’ Shanghai studio, he has worked on AAA, mobile, social, and independent games for international and Asian markets. His broader project focuses on investigations of global cultural intersections of games, technology, art, and emerging media. He writes about games and design, built an indie arcade cabinet, is a committee member of the Global Game Jam, and has curated experimental game exhibitions in New York and around the world.
  • 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.
  • Alvaro Olsen Alvaro Olsen
    Instructor
    Al Olsen is a game designer, specifically, in games for learning. He has a multimedia development experience of over 10 years and his latest interests reside in "neuro-games", cognitive science and affective learning.
  • Joost Rietveld Joost Rietveld
    Instructor
    Joost Rietveld is a doctoral candidate in strategy at Cass Business School (London) and a visiting scholar at NYU's Stern School of Business. Joost's research interests include competitive dynamics between complements in platform-based markets, and the impact of digital distribution on business model design in content-driven industries. Joost has a profound interest in the market for video games in which he was active as a consultant before entering academia. During his time as strategic manager at digital games developer Two Tribes, Joost helped setting up a digital publishing subsidiary and assisted in bringing to market successful games including Toki Tori (WiiWare, iOS) and a game based on the popular Ice Age movie (iOS). Recently, the UK trade association for interactive entertainment (Ukie) embarked on a research project with Joost investigating business model design for game producers in the setting of digital distribution. Joost's research has been published in a number of academic outlets including Research Policy, as well as in various trade publications including Gamasutra. Joost started teaching for NYFA in spring 2014. Come fall 2014 Joost will also be a part-time faculty at NYU's Game Center.
  • Noah Sasso Noah Sasso
    Instructor
    Noah Sasso is a game designer with a background in music production and sound design. His work has appeared in the LA Times, Pitchfork Media, Polygon, Kotaku, Real Tokyo, Vice Magazine, XLR8R and more.
  • 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.
  • Neal Sinno Neal Sinno
    Instructor
    Neal Sinno brings 15 years experience in market opportunity assessment, product development, and sales management. Prior to joining Arkadium, Neal was Vice President of Business Development at Game Trust. There he managed key relationships with partners to develop network, channel, search and advertising opportunities, and was a member of the executive team responsible for the company's acquisition by Real Networks. Prior to his role at Game Trust, Neal worked at Mellon Financial Corp, where he was the Director of E‐Commerce Product Development. Within his role there, he led a global team of developers, designers and actuaries to create state of the art web‐based financial applications. A seasoned sales and e‐business product specialist, Neal has also held key leadership roles at The New York Times and Lucent Technologies. Neal sits on the board of advisors for the Casual Games Association and frequently speaks at key industry events.
  • Emily Treat Emily Treat
    Instructor
    Emily has an extensive background as a producer and designer of educational games. Working as a Senior Producer, Emily is extending her expertise to oversee social impact game projects at the Games for Change Lab. As a designer-producer, she works closely with impact partners, designers, developers, and other team members to produce and advise on high quality games that meet the high standards and mission of Games for Change. Emily began her career at Leapfrog where she worked on a range of e-learning platforms and products for children and teens. Since then, she has worked as coordinator of the Scratch software and online community at the MIT Media Lab, produced learning games for 360KID, and worked in Kaplan Inc’s international office in London as lead designer and producer of an expansive online virtual world for language learning. Emily graduated from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center in 2006 and earned her BA in Fine Arts and Cultural History, also at Carnegie Mellon.
  • Greg Trefry Greg Trefry
    Instructor
    Greg Trefry has wide array of experience designing games—everything from web-based MMOs to hit casual games to alternate reality games. He co-founded the game design studio Gigantic Mechanic to explore the bounds of game design through mobile games that interact with the real-world. He serves as director of the Come Out & Play Festival, a festival of street games in New York City. Greg also teaches at New York University and recently wrote the book, Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in All of Us.
  • 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.
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