USC Game Design Program Nabs No. 1 Spot for 4th Consecutive Year

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-By Kristin Borella

For the fourth straight year, USC has been named the No. 1 game design school in North America for its graduate program by The Princeton Review. This ranking is shared by the Interactive Media and Games Division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science.

The university took the No. 2 spot for its undergraduate program.

“This ranking is a tremendous honor for us, and it recognizes the effort we put into constantly growing and improving our program,” said Tracy Fullerton, holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair of the Interactive Media and Games Division.

“I’d say this has been a banner year for us in that regard, with some outstanding new faculty joining us from industry, our brand new interactive building, the 10th anniversary of the program and the amazing achievements of our alumni, [such as] those at thatgamecompany who won eight D.I.C.E. awards last month,” she added. “It’s all very gratifying to see how our efforts are having real impact for our students and in the industry.”

USC has held this top spot for each year The Princeton Review has released the rankings, which evaluates schools with the best programs to study video game design. The ranking is based on a survey conducted in 2012-13 of 150 programs at institutions in the United States and Canada offering video game design coursework and/or degrees. The survey asked schools to report on a range of topics from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. Among criteria The Princeton Review weighed to make its selections: school curriculum, faculty, facilities and infrastructure, career services, student scholarships and financial aid.

The Princeton Review gave Honorable Mention designations to 20 additional programs — 15 undergraduate and five graduate. Overall, the report saluted 50 game design programs at 35 institutions.

“We are thrilled to once again be named the No. 1 game design program for graduate students. It validates our students’ talent, innovation and collaborative efforts,” said Mike Zyda, director of the USC GamePipe Laboratory and professor of engineering practice at USC Viterbi. “One of the most distinguishing features of the USC Games Program is its yearlong joint games course. In that course, our students build the games of their dreams, work closely with our distinguished faculty and have the opportunity to present their work to professionals in the game design industry.”

The USC Games Program is a joint effort between the SCA’s Interactive Media and Games Division and USC Viterbi but encourages collaboration across all schools and divisions at USC. Incorporating elements of design, artistry and engineering, the program offers a unique educational experience for students and serves as the launching pad for significant roles in the game design field.

Some of the program’s successes include fLow, Cloud, Flower and Journey, all created by alumni Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany; The Unfinished Swan, developed by Ian Dallas and Max Geiger; The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, developed and designed by Matt Korba and Paul Bellezza; Puzzlejuice, developed by Asher Vollmer; Darfur is Dying, developed by Susana Ruiz; Bharathwaj Nandakumar online programmer for three games that are in the Guinness Book of World Records for most successful entertainment products of all time – Modern Warfare 3 ($1B in revenue in 15 days), BlackOps 1 ($1B+ in revenue) and BlackOps 2 ($1B in revenue in 15 days); Farmville and Farmville 2, which had Raymond Xiang as senior software engineer; and Starwars 1313, which had Pol Jeremias as a graphics engineer.

For the full report and rankings, visit princetonreview.com/game-design