Game Design and Development Master of science degree

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Explore the simulation, edutainment, or visualization landscape as you enhance your game design and development skills to create truly innovative games.

In the game design and development masters, students explore the entertainment technology landscape as well as other related areas. The program simultaneously covers the breadth of the game design and development landscape through study in topics such as computer graphics, game engines, interactive narrative, and game world design. The program is characterized by a clear focus on development, but also educates developers in the design process. The degree is intended specifically for students who aspire to hold careers within the professional games industry or a related field such as simulation, edutainment or visualization.

The program's curriculum consists of required courses, a choice of five advanced electives, and a capstone experience. This is a two-year, on-campus, cohort-based program in which students are admitted through a portfolio review process. During the second year, students form development teams that construct a working game engine and software title as the program capstone experience. This requirement includes both individual and group expectations. The capstone culminates in a defense before program faculty, as well as a public exhibition. Combined, these requirements provide a unique and comprehensive educational experience for individuals who aspire to a career in the game development industry.

Capstone experience

During the second year, students complete a team-based capstone experience where students present and defend their work. This presentation includes a faculty review, which constitutes the capstone defense, a public presentation, and a demonstration.


  • Computer Networking

  • Defense

  • Electronic and Computer Hardware

  • Internet and Software

  • Manufacturing

  • Movies, TV, and Music

  • Other Industries

  • Scientific and Technical Consultant

Typical Job Titles

Game Developer Game Designer
Mechanic Designer Level Designer
Programmer Modeler
Audio Programmer Producer
Quality Assurance Tester Technical Artist
User Interface Programmer Tools Programmer
Network Programmer Graphics Programmer
Artificial Intelligence Programmer Lead Programmer
Developer Software Engineer
Mobile Engineer Interactive Developer


outcome rate of graduates


median first-year salary of graduates


Game Design and Development, MS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Game Development Processes
This course examines the individual and group roles of the development process model within the game design and development industry. Students will transform design document specifications into software and hardware needs for developers, testers, and end users. Students will examine team dynamics and processes for technical development, content development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. Students will explore the design process through the deconstruction of the game industry's software lifecycle model.
Game Design
This course presents students with core theories of game design, informed by research results from media theory, narrative methods and models, theories of ideation, and the nature of games, play and fun. Specific emphasis is placed on the examination of historical successes and failures, along with presentation of ethical and cultural issues related to the design of interactive software. Students will engage in formal critique and analysis of media designs and their formal elements.
Gameplay and Prototyping
This course explores the pragmatic issues of creative concept development through story-boarding, pitching, prototyping and play-testing. Students will use various tools and techniques to build game prototypes that they will evaluate through play-testing in an incremental design process informed by market research and analysis.
Colloquium in Game Design and Development
This required colloquium will introduce students to a range of emerging topics and themes in the field of game design and development. Students will attend lectures by and discussions with RIT faculty and visitors, complete related readings, and offer both oral and written responses to readings and presentations.
Game Industry Themes and Perspectives
This required course prepares students for a career in the field of game design and development. Students will attend lectures by and discussions with RIT faculty and visitors and produce material to assist in their career preparation.
Advanced Electives
Second Year
Colloquium in Game Design and Development
This required colloquium will introduce students to a range of emerging topics and themes in the field of game design and development. Students will attend lectures by and discussions with RIT faculty and visitors, complete related readings, and offer both oral and written responses to readings and presentations.
Capstone Design
This course allows students within the game design and development program to develop a capstone proposal and design document. The capstone design document specifies the scope and depth of the capstone project. In addition, it defines the group and individual responsibilities for the cohort capstone project experience.
Capstone Development
This course provides master of science in game design and development students with capstone project experiences. Students are expected to work in cohorts towards the implementation of a game system that properly illustrates proficiency in the application of theory and practice towards a large-scale project. For each student, individual responsibilities for the group project will be defined in consultation with both the group and the faculty. Students must successfully complete the Capstone Design course and present a satisfactory capstone project proposal to the faculty before enrolling in this course.
Advanced Electives
Total Semester Credit Hours

Advanced electives

Board and Card Game Design and Development
This course explores issues pertaining to design, mechanics, development, and production of analog, tabletop “hobby” games, which include board games, card games, wargames, and other non-digital games catering to multiple players. Students will analyze and apply concepts and mechanics of modern tabletop game design, and build and test both competitive and cooperative tabletop games, designed specifically for a global audience. Students will work with development and prototyping tools, explore component design and art direction, and work with desktop publishing technologies. In addition, they will work directly with board game publishing and manufacturing technologies and services, and study factors pertaining to the business of tabletop games, and produce a professional, polished tabletop game.
Game Balance
This course is an in-depth exploration of the sub-field of game design known as balance. Topics include: transitive mechanics and cost/power curves; economic systems in games; probability and the psychology of randomness; pseudorandom numbers; situational balance; level/XP curves, advancement and pacing; tuning; statistics, metrics, and analytics; intransitive mechanics, game theory, and payoff matrices; and the applied use of spreadsheets.
Theory and Design of Role Play and Interactive Narrative
Tabletop Role-Playing Game Design and Development
This course explores the concepts and mechanics of analog role-playing games, such as tabletop "pencil-and-paper" and live-action role-playing games, from a practical, hands-on perspective. In this project-based course, students will develop their own rule systems to facilitate various facets of role-playing and associated game mechanics, then playtest and publish their games. Students will also use desktop publishing tools to produce game rules and supplemental materials suitable for publication. Note that this course assumes that students have extensive experience in playing tabletop role-playing games.
Digital Audio Production
Technologies and techniques for producing and manipulating digital audio are explored. Topics include digital representations of sound, digital audio recording and production, MIDI, synthesis techniques, real-time performance issues, and the application of digital audio to multimedia and Web production.
Interactive Game and Audio
This course provides students with exposure to the design, creation and production of audio in interactive applications and computer games. Students will become familiar with the use of sound libraries, recording sounds in the studio and in the field, generating sound with synthesizers, and effects processing. Students will create sound designs for interactive media, integrating music, dialog, ambient sound, sound effects and interface sounds within interactive programs.
IGM Production Studio
This course will allow students to work as domain specialists on teams completing one or more large projects over the course of the semester. The projects will be relevant to experiences of the interactive games and media programs, but they will require expertise in a variety of sub-domains, including web design and development, social computing, computer game development, multi-user media, human-computer interaction and streaming media. Students will learn to apply concepts of project management and scheduling, production roles and responsibilities, and their domain skill sets to multidisciplinary projects. Students will complete design documents, progress reports and final assessments of themselves and their teammates in addition to completing their assigned responsibilities on the main projects.
Innovation & Invention
In this course, students explore the process and products of innovation and invention. Each semester we conceive and develop a different outside the box project in a multidisciplinary tinkerer's lab. Readings, lectures, student presentations, and discussions deal with the interplay of technology, human nature, and a human environment in which emerging technologies and new modes of interaction are pervasive and ubiquitous. Students from multiple disciplines are guided through a series of collaborative experiences inventing, designing, implementing and studying emerging technologies and their educational and artistic potential. Presentations, projects and individual research papers are required.
IGM Graduate Seminar
This is intended to allow for special one-time offerings of graduate topics. Specific course details (such as the course topics, format, resource needs, and credit hours) will be determined by the faculty member(s) who propose a given seminar offering. (Varies)
Game Design and Development for Casual and Mobile Platforms
This course explores the design and development of casual and mobile game applications. Students will begin by exploring the design practices relevant to casual and mobile games, including hardware constraints, player expectations, play experiences, mechanics for casual and mobile experiences, as well as the aesthetics and presentation of casual and mobile game elements. As students learn the theoretical concepts, they will also learn the development process for casual and mobile games. Development topics will include technology platforms, physical and logical interface control, graphics and interaction, tools and APIs, connectivity, data management, data persistence, delivery mechanisms, and systems integration with desktop and web-based platforms.
Game Graphics Programming
Students will explore the use of an advanced graphics API to access hardware-accelerated graphics in a real-time graphics engine context. The course will involve discussion of scene graphs, optimizations, and integration with the API object structure, as well as input schemes, content pipelines, and 2D and 3D rendering techniques. Students will also explore the advanced use of the API calls in production code to construct environments capable of real-time performance. Students will construct from scratch a fully functional graphics engine, with library construction for game development. Advanced topics will be explored, including real-time special effects, custom shading pipelines, and advanced deferred rendering techniques.
Level Design
Game Engine Design and Development
This course will provide students with theory and practical skills in game engine design topic areas such as understanding the graphics pipeline as it influences engine design, hardware principles and the relationship to game engine construction, mathematical principles involved in game engine design, scene graph construction and maintenance, texture and materials management, collision systems, physics systems, particle systems, and control systems. Furthermore, this course will examine software and toolsets that assist game engine designers in their tasks. Students will be expected to design and implement a game engine in teams as well as properly document their design and development strategy.
Console Development
This course explores the history and modern implementation of software for game consoles. Cross-platform development will be emphasized along with software concepts such as memory management, scheduling, parallelization, graphics, and virtual reality. Programming projects are required.
Artificial Intelligence for Gameplay
This course explores artificial intelligence concepts and research through both a theoretical perspective and a practical application to game development. In particular the course focuses on AI concepts and paradigms such as search and representation, reasoning under uncertainty, intelligent agents, biologically inspired computing and machine learning to real-time situations and applications as relevant to the field of entertainment technology and simulation.
Graduate Seminar in IGM
This is intended to allow for special one-time offerings of graduate topics. Specific course details (such as the course topics, format, resource needs, and credit hours) will be determined by the faculty member(s) who propose a given seminar offering.
Advanced Topics in Game Design*
This course examines current topics in game design. Specific course details (such as prerequisites, course topics, format, learning outcomes, assessment methods, and resource needs) will be determined by the faculty member(s) who propose a specific topics course in this area.
Advanced Topics in Game Development*
This course examines current topics in game development. Specific course details (such as prerequisites, course topics, format, learning outcomes, assessment methods, and resource needs) will be determined by the faculty member(s) who propose a specific topics course in this area.
Independent Study
The student will work independently under the supervision of a faculty adviser on a topic not covered in other courses.

Admission Requirements

To be considered for admission to the MS in game design and development, candidates must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Complete a graduate application.
  • Hold a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited university or college in a relevant field such as information technology, computer science, software engineering, or computer graphics. Students with undergraduate degrees in related disciplines such as digital media or human-computer interaction may be considered.
  • Submit official transcripts (in English) of all previously completed undergraduate and graduate course work.
  • Have a minimum GPA of 3.25 (or equivalent) or a first-class international degree with distinction.
  • Submission of a portfolio and/or scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required. If you choose to submit a portfolio it should include evidence of individual and group projects (clearly marked as such) relevant to the area you wish to study within the degree program.
  • International applicants whose native language is not English must submit scores from the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE. A minimum TOEFL score of 88 (internet-based) is required. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. The English language test score requirement is waived for native speakers of English or for those submitting transcripts from degrees earned at American institutions.
  • International applicants are required to submit scores from the GRE.
  • Due to the cohort nature of the program, students are admitted for fall semester. Admission to the program is highly competitive. While GRE scores are not required for domestic applicants, students may submit scores to strengthen their application. Those applicants with a GPA below 3.25 are required to submit GRE scores.


Students are expected to have at least one year of significant programming experience in a current object-oriented language—preferably C++ or Java—and a solid working knowledge of website development and interactive multimedia concepts. If students do not have these prerequisites, additional course work may be recommended to bridge any educational gaps.

Learn about admissions, cost, and financial aid 

Additional Info

Maximum time limit

University policy requires that graduate programs be completed within seven years of the student's initial registration for courses in the program. Bridge courses are excluded.

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