Building upon the successful launch of one of the nation's first undergraduate degree programs in Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will begin offering a master of science degree in this burgeoning discipline in the fall of 2011. The interdisciplinary graduate program will be one of only a handful in the country to incorporate a strong emphasis on design as it engages students in technical, serious games, and management focus areas.
The program will prepare graduates for advanced positions in one of the nation's fastest-growing industries, according to Mark Claypool, professor of computer science at WPI and director of the university's IMGD program. "Computer and video game software have been growing by about 10 percent a year for the past half-decade—much faster than the economy as a whole—generating more than $10 billion in sales in 2009 alone," he said. "Employment opportunities in these fields have been growing rapidly, as well.
"As games and interactive media come to play ever greater roles in entertainment, education, art, and scientific research, we can expect to see a great demand for professionals with advanced training in the creative and technical aspects of these fields—particularly professionals who can also formulate a high-level and cohesive design vision. This is exactly the type of graduate who will emerge from our new degree program."
Since its launch in 2004, WPI's BS program in IMGD, which is offered jointly by the departments of Computer Science and Humanities and Arts, has become one of the university's top 10 undergraduate majors and has been recognized as one of the top game designer majors in the country. (This spring, The Princeton Review ranked WPI No. 6 in the nation among the 10 best places to study game design; it was No. 1 in the East.). Undergraduate IMGD majors will be able to earn the new MS degree by completing a fifth year of study.
The IMGD MS program is designed for college graduates interested in the design of immersive, interactive environments; game industry professionals who want to prepare for leadership positions; professionals from other fields interested in changing careers; and students who want to pursue scholarship in interactive media. The 30-credit program will be offered by faculty members in the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Social Science and Policy Studies, and the WPI School of Business, along with two IMGD professors of practice who have extensive experience in the game development industry.
All students will study core subjects, including immersive human-computer interaction, design of interactive experiences, the history and future of interactive systems, and production management for interactive media, and then select one of three focus areas: technical, serious games, or management. The "technical" focus is designed for students with a software development background who wish to expand their understanding of IMGD. The "serious games" focus is meant for students who want to apply IMGD in such areas as education, simulation, the social sciences, or interactive art. The "management" focus is for students who intend to work on the business side of game development and interactive media. A thesis or substantial group project is also a degree requirement.