DePaul ranks in Princeton Review’s Top 50 game design programs due to creativity, innovation


Photo courtesy of DePaul University

In this file photo, game design students work in a CDM lab.

In March, DePaul’s game design program ranked 41st out of the Princeton Review’s top 50 ranked national undergraduate game design programs and 25th of all graduate programs. 

“There are a lot of different components that go into making a video game. An engaging video game involves designing, programming, artistry and writing,” said Layla O’Malley, a sophomore game design major at DePaul University. DePaul’s recently ranked game design program appears to have many of the needed qualities for students to create successful games. 

To ensure that a program like DePaul’s ranks highly, art, media and design professors like Brian Schrank emphasize that personal qualities in students help make the game design program so reputable. 

“The students are mature, but they appreciate the expression,” Schrank said. “And they appreciate the importance of games. Games are a huge industry, but also a very contemporary medium captures the imagination.”  

Aaron Ho, a sophomore game design major, said that DePaul’s game design program constantly challenges students in order to prepare them for future professional experiences.  

“A great game designer is someone who can come up with creative and unique ideas despite being placed with a lot of restrictions,” Ho said. 

DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media equips game design students with the necessary skills to excel in the industry. One of the most prominent and successful alumni that can tell a great example of this is DePaul Class of 2015 Alumnus Chris Wade. He created the 2018 Nintendo Switch game “Sausage Sports Club” in July 2018, which has garnered positive reviews for its variety of controllable characters in the game, making for a more interesting “choose your own adventure” kind of story in the game. 

An integral part of the program is learning how to make a game design document (GDD), which serves as a blueprint to developing a game, according to students like O’Malley. 

“GDDs are used to guide developer teams from pre-production all the way through release in order to make sure everyone involved in the game is staying on pace and is remaining true to the original vision of the game’s concept,” O’Malley said. 

DePaul’s program teaches students essential game development skills including timelines, concept art, diagrams, character descriptions and prototypes. Students use these methods to influence every step of the design and development process. 

Qualities within DePaul’s game design program, like creation and collaboration, also led to the program’s high national ranking and recognition. 

According to the Princeton Review, students say “instead of only learning from a textbook, I am able to gain real experience from professors who have worked in the field for decades at a time.”

Administrators hold the staff and faculty to a professional standard, thus ranking DePaul where they are for game design, along with a DePaul student-to-faculty ratio of 17-1 which ensures that meaningful and collaborative relationships are developed. 

“I think the greatest skill a game designer can have is the ability to collaborate,” O’Malley said. “As with any creative field, you are surrounding yourself with individuals who are always bursting at the seams with new ideas for game mechanics or storylines. As such, being able to work together to synthesize everyone’s thoughts into one cohesive project is an integral part of working in the game industry.” 

DePaul’s framework inherently encourages students like O’Malley to participate in a collaborative environment. It allows students to structure their courses in a way that promotes communication and collaboration. Professors like Schrank and students like O’Malley say that many game design projects are group-based, which fosters cooperation from other majors such as animation, film and computer science. 

Even in settings where a student will have to work independently, the professors offer plenty of room for communication, allowing everyone to ask questions and work with one another to meet a variety of project goals, according to many College of Media and Design students like O’Malley and Ho. 

While delays of months or years are a common phenomenon in the video games industry, there is a flip side to the game design process. At DePaul, there are games that are realized in mere days or hours, and can be much more exciting to talk about, such as VR and iPhone games created at the university’s in-house virtual and augmented design lab. 

One of DePaul’s professors, Susan Gold, is a co-founder of an annual event known as the Global Game Jam. 

The Global Game Jam is a game developer event that spans over the course of three days where attendees go to create a fully realized game with others. Several successful games have come out of Game Jam’s collaborative environment, such as “Goat Simulator” and “Quiet, Please!”

DePaul’s program also teaches prospective game designers the importance of networking, according to O’Malley.  

“I will say that networking is a huge part of the game design industry though,” O’Malley said. “Keep in touch with everyone you meet, take advantage of every resource you can find and always be kind. You never know who is listening.” 

DePaul’s game design program is offering study abroad opportunities in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto, Japan, where students can strengthen their design skills and expand their networks overseas.