A close-up view of a board game with colorful pieces.

Board game by students Namhi Kwun, JJ Tan, and Laksh Agrawal in the Animal Games course.

BFAGame Arts

Create meaningful works of digital, analog, and mixed-media game art and design

Overview

Level-up your gaming

CCA’s BFA in Game Arts, launching fall 2021, explores the full potential of game work—analog, digital, video, experimental, installation, social practice games, and whatever new game forms come next. This future-oriented, fine arts-focused program is designed for students who want to make the next new media game and develop an artistic practice that will constantly evolve through creativity and curiosity. Game Arts students, in other words, learn more than just how to be a game industry professional. They learn how to be artistic leaders shaping the future of games and play.

Video game design senior thesis project by Babak Saadat.

A still from an in-progress video game with a group of characters prepared to fight. Video game design senior thesis project by Babak Saadat.

Learn the rules, then break them

Games are an increasingly popular and influential form of fine art, commercial entertainment, and cultural exchange. Game Arts students at CCA venture into both the theory and practice of these possibilities, taking coursework in game arts, design, development, programming, animation, and production, to build a strong foundation of game making today. Students also explore a range of art and design forms and practices—beyond what some consider traditional gamer territory—to gain skills that can help them push what’s possible in game creation.

French Fry the Campuss Cat, a game by students Jonathan Gonzalez, Mary Hammer, Kyle Ryan, Ryan Segal, Nathaniel Wisdom in the Senior Thesis Project in Animation course.

Bay Area bonus points

San Francisco is one of the gaming industry’s most vital hubs, and CCA’s centrally located campus puts students in the center of the action. Game Arts faculty work in the industry and the arts, providing students opportunities to team up with or learn from some of the world’s largest game studios and producers that call the Bay Area home, such as Electronic Arts (EA), 2K Games, Sledgehammer Games, Disney Games and Interactive Experiences, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Location for the win.

A social justice and fine arts perspective

The program’s interdisciplinary framework is also strengthened by CCA’s commitment to fine arts and our mission to make art that matters. Situated in one of the best art and design schools in the country, the BFA in Game Arts emphasizes the impact game makers can have on culture and society, while teaching students how to responsibly consider and propel equitability, inclusivity, and cultural fluency throughout their creative practices. Graduates stand out in a field of other game makers because they enter the professional sphere with a singular artistic practice as well as a unique critical capacity, having spent four years making games that engage with the ethical, historical, and social dimensions of a wider world beyond the college.

Studios + Shops

From audio to analog, visual to virtual

The Game Arts program is part of the college’s Fine Arts division, which means we operate from an expansive view of what games can be. With 24-hour student access to our San Francisco campus facilities, you’ll have opportunities to develop game systems and interactive play for application in entertainment, education, industry, and the arts.

A storyboard for a puzzle video game.

A storyboard for a puzzle video game, Jenny Shin’s Game Design course senior thesis.

Dedicated to digital and analog

Enter multiple realities in the Digital Play Lab, Alternate Reality Play Lab (opening fall 2022), and Analog Play Studio. In these spaces, check out game and console libraries; experiment with social and physical gameplay; and learn how to work with XR, AR, VR, motion capture, 3D, and sound engineering equipment.

Fine arts techniques and technology

Our interdisciplinary curriculum teaches artmaking and prototyping techniques that will enhance how you think about and structure gameplay. Scan or print physical game elements in the Digital Fine Arts Studio; build characters with sanders and vacuum forming machines in the Model Making Studio; or create brand new worlds and gaming adventures in the Rapid Prototyping Studio, where you can practice everything from laser cutting to CNC routing.

Foundational skill development

Full institutional resources of check-out equipment are available to Game Arts students, like laptops, drawing tablets, cameras, and more. Advanced computer labs are loaded with a suite of industry-standard game development software, such as Unity Game Engine, Unreal Engine, Twine, ZBrush, Maya, and Blender.

Access state-of-the-art tools

  • Oculus Rift VR stations
  • HTC VIVE virtual reality system
  • CNC router
  • Integrated Cintiq desk PCs
  • Pro-Tools soundboard
  • 3D printers in the Digital Fabrication Lab

Develop a versatile game arts portfolio

Hands-on experiences in our top-notch shops and studios, combined with opportunities to collaborate with students and faculty in programs across the college—from animation to writing to sculpture—gives Game Arts students maximum exposure to disciplines that can inform their personal style, aesthetic, and creative voice. You’ll graduate with experience making professional-quality games for a variety of media, audiences, and dimensions.

Faculty

Multidisciplinary artists with significant expertise

Game Arts faculty are industry professionals, artists, and designers with distinction in various game media, including experimental forms. They teach software and hardware skills, as well as how to develop conceptual and technical expertise. Many represent related programs—animation, interaction design, critical ethnic studies, architecture, and others—providing robust and varied learning opportunities for Game Arts students.

Portrait of Zachary Walter, Chair of Game Arts

Zachary Walter, Chair of Game Arts

Chair Zachary Walter, PhD, is a game designer, writer, artist, and scholar whose work explores the role of fantasy, games, and play in the realization of systemic change and utopian communities. Walter has more than two decades of experience within the film, technology, and gaming industries, having worked with Vivendi-Universal, Warner Bros. Television Animation, Sony-TriStar, 20th Century Fox, CBS, Sierra Interactive, Berkeley Systems, and others. His experimental game works have appeared at the Open Engagement conference, Haverford College, Kadist, and conventions and events across the country.

Curriculum

We think with our hands

Make compelling games that move everyone forward

Game Arts at CCA views play as a platform for empowerment, social critique, and personal expression. Whether we’re studying system rules and objectives or player dynamics and agency, we apply a philosophical and historical lens to widen the context of our game making beyond the board and screen. The program’s tiered curriculum begins with core studios that address spatial, visual, temporal, and interactive elements of gameplay. Upper-division coursework reinforces these elements; develops competencies with sound and motion features of digital games; and culminates in a senior capstone project of individualized study in digital 2D, 3D, XR (AR, VR, MR), experimental, installation, or analog and tabletop genres.

Investigate ideas through every dimension

Before diving into their chosen major, every undergraduate participates in the First Year Experience. Students explore a wide range of materials and tools over the course of two semesters. Faculty from different disciplines guide studio projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions, setting students up for success throughout their major coursework.

BFA Game Arts

Core Studio

Drawing 1
3.0 units
2D, 3D, and 4D
9.0 units

Game Arts Major Requirements

Game Arts 1
3.0 units
Game Design Studio
3.0 units
Games Development
3.0 units
Game Arts Workshops
6.0 units
Interactive Storytelling
3.0 units
Game 2: Technologies
3.0 units
Game 3: Animation
3.0 units
Critical Game Design
3.0 units
Junior Game Project 1
3.0 units
Junior Game Project 2
3.0 units
Advanced Games Production Studios
6.0 units
Senior Game Project 1: Development
3.0 units
Senior Game Project 2: Production
3.0 units

Additional Studio Requirements

Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio
3.0 units
Critical Ethnic Studies Studio
3.0 units
Studio Electives
9.0 units

Humanities + Sciences Requirements

Writing 1
3.0 units
Writing 2
3.0 units
Introduction to the Arts
3.0 units
Introduction to the Modern Arts
3.0 units
Foundation in Critical Studies
3.0 units
Media History: Games and Play
3.0 units
Literary and Performing Arts Studies (2000 level)
3.0 units
Philosophy and Critical Theory (2000 level)
3.0 units
Social Science/History (2000 level)
3.0 units
Science/Math (2000 level)
3.0 units
Humanities and Sciences Electives (2000 or 3000 level)
3.0 units
Critical Ethnic Studies Seminar
3.0 units
Humanities and Sciences Electives (2000 or 3000 level, at least 6 units must be 3000 level)
12.0 units

Total 120.0 units

Careers

Achieve your creative and career aspirations

Video game design senior thesis project by Babak Saadat.

Why study Game Arts? It’s a field that lets you choose your own adventure. The global professional gaming industry is on a roll, with unprecedented employment growth in tabletop and video games alike. Entrepreneurial makers can distribute digital games directly to consumers through app marketplaces, work as independent sellers of 3D-sculpted designs, or produce art assets to sell directly to game software engines. Throughout CCA’s curriculum and an internship, you’ll have opportunities to explore what direction you want to take and connect with game and animation studios in the Bay Area.

Potential career paths

  • Independent game artist
  • Game producer
  • Game designer
  • Game concept or production artist
  • Game animator
  • User interface artist and designer
  • Environmental artist
  • Level designer
  • Narrative designer
  • Game writer
  • Game programmer
  • Game engineer or technical director

How to Apply

Reimagine how the world games

CCA’s BFA in Game Arts is a specialized interdisciplinary degree that teaches the technical and technological skills of professional game making, as well as the conceptual, critical, and cultural theory necessary to build a fine arts-informed game practice that is all your own. Located in the center of the gaming industry’s global home base, CCA is an ideal launchpad for a lifelong career in game art and design.

Find your creative community at CCA

Apply now