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Unlocking Potential: What Makes A Great Game Design Program?

In our rapidly evolving educational landscape, schools are constantly searching for innovative ways to engage students. Due to social media, post-pandemic life, teacher shortages, etc. - getting students excited about learning has become increasingly difficult. That’s why many are turning to more out-of-the-box solutions.

One such avenue gaining popularity is the integration of game design programs. Students love video games - and these programs not only captivate their interest but also offer a lot of benefits supported by data and research. Let's take a look at why game design programs are making waves in schools, and dive into what makes a great one!

Boy on a computer in a game design program designing  video games

Benefits of Game Design Programs in Schools:

Career and Technical Education (CTE):

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, CTE programs significantly increase high school graduation rates. Game design programs typically fall under the CTE umbrella, providing students with practical skills that can lead to exciting career opportunities in the thriving game industry.

Some of these skills include animation, coding, programming, 3D modeling, 2D design, project management, etc. With the right program, your students can leave their game design class with a portfolio of work - ready to take on their futures!

STEM Education:

The integration of STEM education is a critical focus in modern schooling, but it goes far beyond the traditional disciplines. Game design naturally incorporates STEM principles, making it a dynamic and effective approach to STEM education. For example, students in game design need to think like engineers, solving complex problems related to game mechanics, level design, and user interfaces. Increased Engagement and Participation:

Research done by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center indicates that game-centered learning can boost student engagement and participation. Since game design is something that truly meets the interests of students where they are, it improves their participation massively! Better engagement means increased attendance, GPAs, and even graduation rates. 21st Century Skills:

The World Economic Forum identifies critical 21st-century skills, including creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. Game design programs nurture these skills, empowering students to excel in the digital age. The interdisciplinary nature of these programs means that students can be successful across many future careers, not just in the gaming industry.

A castle explorer video game that was created in game design software, BlocksmithXR

So - you understand the benefits of implementing a game design program in your school, but how can you ensure it’s going to be GREAT?

With all of the new tools and resources that are out there, it’s hard to figure out what’s best for your school.

Here are the top 6 things to consider when implementing a Game Design program, that takes it from good to GREAT:

  1. Hands-On Learning: Great game design programs prioritize hands-on learning, allowing students to create, test, and refine their own games using industry-standard tools and practices. Integrating hands-on learning not only makes the curriculum more fun but also improves students’ attention and cognitive understanding of the subject material. Cole Smith, the Director of Curriculum at STEM Forged, says: “Something that I love about using game design as a medium for teaching is that it teaches an increased speed cycle of identifying a problem, finding solutions, working through them, and then moving on to the next one. It’s such a fantastic environment for students to learn how to problem solve.”

  2. Open to Creativity: Game design programs can encourage students to unleash their creativity, empowering them to design characters, stories, and gameplay that reflect their unique perspectives. Making sure your program is project-based, with a rubric that is open to interpretation, allows students to freely express themselves, all while teaching them technical skills. If done right, your students can leave their game design program with a portfolio of work that represents them. Some of our favorite game projects to encourage creativity in students are escape rooms, architectural projects, and multiplayer obstacle courses!

  3. Multidisciplinary Approach: A really great game design program teaches way more than coding. It incorporates art, design, storytelling, themes, and more. An effective program fosters a holistic understanding of the game development process. Multidisciplinary game design programs call on students’ lessons from their English, Math, and Science classes to help create well-rounded games and reinforce learning. This also helps engage students no matter what their interests are!

  4. Accessible and Age-Appropriate Software: Accessible and user-friendly software, tailored to the appropriate grade level, serves as the foundation for a smooth learning experience in game design. Such software allows students to immerse themselves in mastering game design principles without the frustration of navigating complex tools. Furthermore, it's essential to seek a comprehensive solution that consolidates all necessary functionalities in one platform. This streamlines the process, preventing confusion for both educators, students, and IT teams. Additionally, opting for web-based software offers valuable advantages. It eliminates the need to download applications, ensuring accessibility across various devices, even low-end ones like Chromebooks, commonly found in schools today. Our favorite software to use for game design programs is BlocksmithXR. It provides the opportunity to learn 3D modeling, programming, and animation all in one place. It’s also Chromebook-compatible and VR-capable, in case your students want to view their games in virtual reality! Some more common, but less accessible, game design engine options that you can look into are Unity or Unreal Engine.

  5. Career Pathways: Game design programs introduce students to potential career paths in the game industry, inspiring them to pursue roles in design, programming, art, and more. A GREAT game design program also teaches the tools that would be needed to succeed in careers outside of the gaming industry as well. Cross-discipline career skills that can be taught in game design programs include digital literacy, project management, problem-solving, content creation, collaboration, and more!

  6. Community Involvement: Game design programs have the remarkable ability to cultivate a strong sense of community among students who share a passion for game development. These programs not only encourage collaboration but also offer valuable platforms for students to proudly showcase their creative work. As a piece of advice for schools considering the implementation of a game design program, I would strongly recommend organizing events that involve the families of the students. Whether it's a captivating STEM night or an engaging talent show, brainstorm ways to seamlessly incorporate the games created by your students into these events. The active participation and support of the school community can have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of your students and their families, reinforcing the significance of such programs in education.

Girl designing a video game in a classroom

Extras that Take it to the Next Level:

All-in-One Ecosystem for Learning Game Design:

An all-encompassing ecosystem for learning game design can provide students with seamless access to resources, support, and collaboration tools, enhancing their educational journey. There are great benefits to bringing in subject-matter experts to implement your game design program. At STEM Forged, we offer full programs that include an instructor, curriculum, IT support, marketing materials, student progress tracking, and more!

To delve deeper into the world of game design programs and their impact on education, visit our game design page at Discover how these programs are shaping the future of learning, empowering students to become the innovative creators of tomorrow.

Boys looking at a computer in game design class

In conclusion, game design programs have emerged as a potent educational tool, offering a multitude of benefits ranging from CTE opportunities to the development of vital 21st-century skills. When implemented effectively, these programs create an engaging and transformative learning experience that prepares students for a future brimming with possibilities!

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