Digital Gaming Teaching and Research at Michigan State

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


In Fall 2005, the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University launched the Game Design and Development Specialization. The specialization  brings together undergraduate students majoring in digital media arts and technology within the department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Computer Science, and Studio Art. Combining these perspectives and talent, students explore the history, social impacts, technology, design fundamentals, and the art of team-based digital game production.

The specialization culminates in a Collaborative Design capstone course where students work in teams with a client in the full design cycle encompassing specification, design, prototyping, implementation, testing, and documentation. Throughout the specialization, students are expected to develop a portfolio of game design and development, and to explore internship opportunities. The core undergraduate Game Design and Development curriculum is enhanced by additional classes in human computer interaction and user centered design, interactive media design, and digital storytelling. In addition  to exciting courses, students have the opportunity to participate in FuturePlay, an international conference on the future of game design, game technology, and game research sponsored and hosted by Michigan State University.

MSU states about digital gaming as an academic field, “Video games have grown to become an important medium in our society. Like film, radio, television, and the Web before it, games have become worthy of academic study, analysis and research. In academia today it is the hot research focus across many diverse disciplines, including education, computer science, communication, psychology, and economics, just to name a few.â€?

An example of the importance of digital games in social research and other fields is MSU’s Digital Media Arts and Technology project funded by the National Science Foundation called “Girls as Game Designers,â€? which is research on how girls and boys approach games, and how games affect them.  One of the projects that has grown out of the Girls as Game Designers research is the “Alien Gamesâ€? project, which “will be… integrated, out of this world fun interactive science learning and play about extraterrestrials and astrobiology designed to appeal to high school and middle school girls to interest them in astrobiology, space science, and game designers . . . .â€?