RIT’s Game Design and Development Program Wins Microsoft Research Award

$20,000 award will fund innovation in curricula using Xbox 360 consoles

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Rochester Institute of Technology has won a Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express Innovation Award, recognizing the university’s strong gaming degree programs at both the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

The $20,000 award is one of only six awarded internationally by the commercial games division of Microsoft. The award provides funding to RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences for state-of-the-art equipment, increased curriculum development, complimentary XNA Creators Club accounts for faculty and students and collaborative opportunities with the Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express development team.

XNA Game Studio Express is a technology platform that makes it easier for beginners such as students to write games for Windows PCs and Xbox 360s. As part of the award, RIT faculty and students can use the XNA Game Studio Express tools to innovate, create and deploy their own games on Xbox 360 free of charge.

Microsoft is also providing support to RIT faculty members in the creation of curriculum materials. Several RIT alumni are currently part of the XNA team.

“Building upon our existing expertise in this area along with receiving this award, students at RIT will receive an exceptional educational experience with resources and specialized knowledge not found elsewhere,” says Andrew Phelps, director of game design and development at RIT. “As part of the award, RIT will be disseminating portions of its curriculum that deal with XNA Game Studio Express as models for other universities to adopt and expand. In serving as a role model for curriculum development in this area, RIT continues to innovate and provide experiences several years ahead of its peers.”

Chris Satchell, general manager of XNA at Microsoft, adds: “We made the award to RIT in recognition of the extremely high standards we saw in the courses created by Professor Phelps. This applies both to the education component and the actual output from the students. RIT was one of the first academic institutions in the world to adopt XNA Game Studio Express and has been at the forefront of driving innovation in its courses using the technology ever since.”

RIT offers both a master’s and bachelor’s degree in game design and development. The Bachelor of Science in game design and development provides a broad-based undergraduate education in computing while exposing students to the breadth of game development processes. Students are required to complete coursework in the liberal arts, social sciences, and the laboratory sciences.

The degree is intended specifically for students with career aspirations in the professional games industry or a related field such as simulation, edutainment or visualization, and focuses on producing graduates that understand the technical roots of the medium.

The master’s degree in game design and development complements the bachelor’s degree for those RIT students who choose to further their studies. Students take a series of core courses in such areas as business, law, electronic entertainment and history of games. Majors are offered in game engine development and artificial intelligence for games. Students also declare a minor in art, design or an area of computing that relates to gaming. The master’s degree culminates with a capstone project in which students create their own games.