HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — According to new international rankings from The Princeton Review, Rochester Institute of Technology was named Tuesday as having some of the best game design and development programs for aspiring game developers.
Think of game design and development as the difference between the “art” and “engineering” side of a project. Development involves creating the mechanics, gameplay rules and balancing, whereas design might be creating the art direction, emotions of the characters, and the narration of the game.
RIT’s game design and development program was ranked fourth at the undergraduate level and fifth at the graduate level on the 2021 list.
RIT officials said the school jumped in the rankings from last year — from fifth and 12th respectively. RIT’s program is housed in the School of Interactive Games and Media (IGM) within the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.
“I was actually relieved,” said David Schwartz, Director of IGM. “We had had gone down last year, and I was like ‘YES!’… And a bit of pride.”
Schwartz says that getting in the top ten on these lists is getting harder every year. After all, gaming is now a billion-dollar industry, and many schools are making new programs.
So, how has RIT been able to stay in that coveted range? Schwartz at least this year it’s been due to the not school not only adjusting a lot of their programming for the pandemic, but planning ahead as well.
Overall though, he says the key to the long-term success of these programs is lockstep with something the university is already known for: cultivating job-preparedness for their game design and development students.
“What makes us unique at IGM is that we retain our focus on computing,” Schwartz said. “Students can come here and get the skills for a career in game design.
“Picture the complexity of a game like Skyrim or No Man’s Sky,” Schwartz continued. “You can get that job… But if you don’t get that job, your ‘fallback plan’ is a job that pays probably better, that is still super creative… And you can do all kinds of exciting and visual things anyway.”
Take for example Coehl Gleckner, a Game Design and Development major in his fifth year at IGM. For his capstone project, he is working on an original DOOM-inspired game “A Demon Killed By Babushka,” which takes inspiration from Valve classics like Team Fortress 2, Portal, and others like Mirror’s Edge and Dead Cells.
Even with all of his skill and expertise — and a reel with perhaps a dozen other games to boot — he already has many interviews and leads lined up for after school. But he demonstrated how these skills can be applicable in so many other fields, beyond making the next AAA-game masterpiece.
“We you think of ‘game design and development,’ you don’t really think ‘software’ or ‘computer science,’ typical jobs of a tech coding major,” Gleckner said. “But thankfully through all the courses we take, they open your mind a bit to how applicable games are to things outside of the games industry.”
Schwartz is often quick to point out that tech that originally came from games is everywhere, particularly in blockbuster movies when the viewer sees 3D modeling. Gleckner points out that everyone has gamed, even if it’s just a simple game like Pong on a flip phone.
But Gleckner got a real life chance to use his game design and development degree in something other than for his student development team.
“At Booz Allen Hamilton, which you wouldn’t think has anything to do with games, we worked on this project that essentially was a virtual fire escape simulator,” Gleckner said, referencing his time at the consulting firm. “It showed people how to be prepared in case of their office being set on fire; since most people don’t really take fire drills seriously.”