Worcester Polytechnic Institute's (WPI) major in Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD), the first of its kind in the nation, is one of the top eight game design programs in the United States and Canada, according to a new survey by The Princeton Review. WPI was ranked No. 7 on a list of the 50 best places to study game design that will be published in the April 2010 issue of GamePro magazine, which reaches more than three million gamers each month.
The Princeton Review, known for its annual "best" college rankings, developed its "Top 50 Undergraduate Game Design Programs" list with GamePro magazine, one of the most respected publications in the video game industry. In addition to appearing in the April issue of GamePro, the list is published on the GamePro and Princeton Review websites. Of the 50 schools listed, eight are singled out as "the best of the best."
"Our students don't just study how to make things, they actually do make things;" said Mark Claypool, professor of computer science and director of WPI's IMGD program, which launched in 2005. "That's why WPI's game design program is so different from the others. Whether those things are games, interactive fiction, virtual environments, art installations, collaborative performances, or forms of new media that haven't been invented yet, we expect our students to be at the forefront of exploring worlds that we can currently only imagine. The fact that so many of our students are already shining in the game industry—many even before they graduate—is an indication of the high quality of the students that are being attracted to our program."
The four-year undergraduate IMGD program integrates the artistic (art, music, and story) and technical (programming) aspects of game creation. Students receive a base education in both areas, and then select an artistic or technical concentration as the focus for the remainder of their program. They also study social and philosophical issues associated with games and related media. The IMGD major is supported by WPI's computer science and humanities and arts departments, with 16 full-time faculty members, 11 industry advisors, and four IMGD-specific laboratories.
The major is rich with success stories. In the past two years, WPI students have placed in the top three in former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling's 38 Studios Massachusetts Game Challenge (Schilling, who sits on the IMGD Advisory Board, will be the keynote speaker at WPI's Commencement on May 15). Most recently, two WPI students, Tamlyn Miller and Ryan Chadwick, landed coveted credits for design, writing, and voiceover work on a newly released video game by Cambridge, Mass.-based Dejobaan Games LLC. The game – "AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! – A Reckless Disregard for Gravity" – has been nominated for an "Excellence in Design" award at the 12th annual Independent Games Festival, which will be held March 11 in San Francisco.
Of the approximately 500 programs where students can study game design in the United States and Canada, The Princeton Review selected 50 based on a survey of administrators at institutions offering game design coursework or degrees. The survey covered such areas as academics, faculty credentials, and graduates' employment and career achievements. The Princeton Review also considered data on scholarships, financial aid and career opportunities.
Robert Franek, Princeton Review senior vice president and publisher, said, "We salute Worcester Polytechnic Institute for its exemplary work in game design education. It has long been our mission at The Princeton Review to help students research and get in to the education programs best for them. We are also committed to helping them carry that training to rewarding careers in fields they are passionate about. For the burgeoning numbers of students aspiring to careers in the rapidly growing field of game design and the companies that will need their creative talents, we hope our list will inspire many wonderful candidates to apply to these programs."
Franek acknowledged the assistance The Princeton Review received from a 10-member national advisory board, including administrators and faculty from respected game design programs and professionals from some of the top gaming companies, which helped design the survey and methodology.