Jul 19, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2019-2020 
Rensselaer Catalog 2019-2020 [Archived Catalog]

Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences

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Director: Benjamin Chang

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences offers a program called Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) consisting of a B.S. degree in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Critical Game Design.  The B.S. in GSAS provides the option of concentrations and dual majors in the following areas: Electronic Arts (dual: Electronic Arts), Cognitive Science (dual: Cognitive Science), Computer Science (dual: Computer Science), Management (dual: Business and Management), Music (dual: Music), and Writing (dual: Communication, Media, and Design). This interdisciplinary major is offered through the Departments of the Arts, Science and Technology Studies, Cognitive Science, and Communication and Media.

GSAS has two components stressing the acquisition of fundamental principles and skills in a range of disciplines, while also obtaining depth in a single area of concentration within the framework of the curriculum. The first component fulfills the requirements for the B.S. and is designed to ensure that every graduate develops a set of integrated skills that external reviewers, industry leaders, academics, and GSAS faculty have identified as important for leaders in the field: experience working in interdisciplinary teams, proven abilities in producing work as demonstrated by having a portfolio in hand at graduation, analytical and communication skills, and experience pushing the boundaries of present-day genres and technologies through research. The second component allows students to concentrate in one of several disciplines directly related to existing or emerging career paths in the games and simulation/entertainment industry: Electronic Arts, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Management, Music, and Writing. The curriculum in both components provides many team experiences and cycles of design, analysis, and iteration, as well as a formal research component. The curriculum is designed to help ensure that graduates can develop as leaders in the game industry as well as in other fields that make use of highly interactive media, e.g. training and simulation applications found in business, education, and government; business management in emerging new media fields.

The study of games and the game experience offers fascinating new opportunities for collaboration among academic disciplines in engineering, arts and visual design, cultural studies, social and behavioral sciences, computer sciences, and information technology. The commercial and entertainment function of games and the industry’s explosive economic growth stimulates the study of digital games. Equally important, emerging applications for interactive simulation will create breakthroughs in communication, education, training, artistic expression, modeling complex systems, and social simulation and prediction. These burgeoning areas use games as software interfaces, simulation platforms, and as virtual communication environments and pose important questions for research and education.

The keys to success in this dynamic area of intellectual pursuit are a balance of disciplinary competence, a comprehensive understanding of interactive digital media, and a mastery of a clearly defined set of related disciplinary choices. One signature of GSAS graduates is their ability to communicate and interact effectively within teams composed of individuals with highly diverse backgrounds while bringing a strong disciplinary background and developed skill set of their own to the team.

The M.S. and Ph.D. in Critical Game Design are designed to graduate entrepreneurial, critical-theory savvy game developers who work to change the face of games research and the games industry.

Games have become one of the major entertainment forms of the 21st century.  However, games also have tremendous transformative power as forms of artistic expression, as social spaces, as platforms for learning, and as tools for critical inquiry.  Through simulation, interaction, and narrative, games provide new ways to portray and to grapple with complex cultural, environmental, and ethical questions.  Terms such as “serious games”, “impact games”, “games for change”, and “games for learning” all point to a rapidly evolving understanding of the nature of games and interactivity that goes beyond entertainment.  Games have the capacity to express the full breadth and depth of human experience but historically have often been constrained by limited definitions of an audience and by limited diversity in the games industry. As with many STEM-based fields, games as a discipline suffers from a lack of participation of women and minorities. To help address this core challenge, the proposed graduate programs in Critical Game Design will incorporate essential elements of cultural theory and the social sciences into design classes in order to facilitate an understanding of games as a force for positive social and technological change across multiple diverse audiences.

Outcomes of the Undergraduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete this program will be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to work effectively in goal-oriented game development teams and have well-developed leadership and management skills.
  • a strong sense of “procedural literacy” (how to construct, analyze, and manage processes), through scripting and programming.
  • fluency in at least one programming or scripting language used in the production of interactive games or interfaces, with expertise in at least one game development platform.
  • an ability to produce written, oral, and visual communications that clearly express their ideas.
  • an ability to explain and apply basic psychological theories of human perception, learning, motivation, social interaction, and play.
  • an ability to develop a solid portfolio illustrating abilities and work experience (e.g. examples of industry experience, research, writing samples, and creative works).

Outcomes of the Graduate Curriculum

Students who successfully complete these programs will be able to:

  • transform the medium of games and the games industry through building innovative games.
  • prepare students to take leadership roles in game design across the world.
  • provide a platform for GSAS faculty and the Rensselaer brand to contribute to an emerging, cutting-edge field. 

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