USC ranks No. 1 in Game Design

For the fifth year in a row, USC has been ranked the number one school for game design at the graduate level by the Princeton Review. Additionally, the ranking marks the fourth year that the undergraduate program has been distinguished with the honor.

The ranking was released Tuesday morning. USC’s program is a joint effort between the Interactive Media and Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts and the computer science department with a games emphasis in the Viterbi School of Engineering. Students can earn either a Bachelor of Arts or Master of Fine Arts degree from the School of Cinematic Arts, or either a Bachelor of Science or Master of Science degree from Viterbi through the program.

Michael Zyda, a professor at the Viterbi School of Engineering’s computer science department and director of the GamePipe Laboratory at USC Games, credits much of the success of the organization to the collaboration between the two departments.

“Cinema and engineering programs mashed together — that’s what’s excellent,” Zyda said. “The game industry right now is three times larger than the film industry, and in five years it’s going to be five times larger than the film industry. Hopefully by then, USC will have a school of games.”

Another unique aspect of the program is that students have the opportunity to work on large-scale projects throughout the course of the year. Some of these groups consist of almost 40 students, said Graham Hawes, a senior majoring in computer science with an emphasis in games.

“As the projects get bigger, they become more ambitious, and with bigger teams of people they can accomplish many things and students can participate in these big projects at least once if not two or three times,” he said.

Hawes said he switched from the pre-med track to games after his sophomore year and has not looked back since. He contributed to the engineering aspect of the The Maestros game for one of his major projects.

Another aspect of the program that Hawes enjoys is the professionalism of the staff and faculty.

“A lot of the staff and faculty are professionals in the field which is better than if they had been in academia for the last 10 years because they have more experience,” Hawes said.

Ebonka Agboje, a freshman majoring in computer science with an emphasis in gaming, shared similar sentiments to Hawes’. He said he has been nothing but impressed with the program since coming to USC this year.

“USC pools the biggest names that I can imagine for its staff and faculty and I realize why they are the number one program in America — because they offer things that no other school is doing,” Agboje said.

Ida Abhari contributed to this report.