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Master’s Degree in

Game Design

Game Design student working in studio

What issue are you passionate about? Bring your creativity into play with a Master’s in Game Design. Through game theory, development, and design, our students bring about behavior change, expand awareness, and make a difference.

With award-winning faculty and real-world experience, our Master’s in Game Design program prepares students for a career in all facets of game design, play theory, and engagement strategies. Students leave with the skills and experience they need to succeed in applying game theory to non-game contexts.

Do you want to impact next-generation engagement? Apply today or learn more below.

Practice the Power of Play

Game Lab Class at American University

As the only program of its kind in the US, the master’s program drives students to stretch their capacities as designers, developers, consumers, and game administrators and apply that to their unique field of interest.

Students bring to the program their own experiences—whether in politics, science, art, history, marketing, or international studies—and can choose from multidisciplinary courses across our schools of communication, business, and arts.

Benefit from one-on-one interactions with program faculty, led by Director Lindsay Grace, an internationally exhibited game artist and designer in Critical Gameplay.

And in our Game Lab Studio, gain real-world experience building a professional portfolio and developing games for actual clients in the non-profit, educational, and health related sectors.


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4:1 student to full-time faculty

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50% of students working with corporate, NGO and government partners

Connect in a City of Advocacy

Game Lab Community Indie Arcade 1450x637

Consistently ranked as one of the best cities for job seekers, Washington, DC, offers game design master’s students unparalleled access to private and public sector opportunities.

Take advantage of institutional relationships with government agencies, locally based companies, and not-for-profits alike. Clients you may contract with include the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM).

Connect through renowned DC-held events, such as Indie Arcade at the Smithsonian Museum, Global Game Jam, the Diversity Summit, and more.

Whether your next career step is local or global, you’ll gain the skills and network you need to succeed.

Latest News

Q&A with Game Design Student Rae Heitkamp

August 22, 2016

Rae Heitkamp is one of American University’s innovative Game Design students.

Upping the Game at The Undefeated

September 19, 2016

AU Game Design Master's student exploring news, game design and interactivity at The Undefeated.

American University Game Lab Levels Up

May 6, 2016

With only two years under its belt, AU’s game design MA program is ranked 22nd in the world by Princeton Review and number 13 in Animation Career Guide's ranking of East Coast games program.


The Game Lab Studio is part of the American University Game Lab, which serves as a hub for professional education, persuasive play research, and practice. Students get hands-on experience that includes working with clients to develop games that will engage and influence around a campaign, concept, or brand. Clients include Educational Testing Service (ETS), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), and the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM).

Persuasive play is the application of game design to influence player’s interests, activities, or opinions. This fundamental concept is informed by documented evidence that games serve humanity as a universal means for practicing skills, experimentation, and solution finding. Persuasive play leverages these abilities to convert playful experiences into meaningful ones.

The use of games in non-game contexts has recently seen a meteoric rise in a wide range of settings. As educators seek more effective ways to engage with broader and more diverse populations, games have proven successful. As policy-makers and advocacy groups grapple with increasingly intransigent populations, games have helped players understand alternative perspectives. These uses are supported by a growing population of native digital-citizens who demand more highly evolved means of participation.

Yes. Students have addressed diverse topics such as mental health, social justice, journalism, politics, money management, and advertising. The program can lend itself to your particular area of interest.

The Master’s in Game Design degree requires 36 credit hours of approved graduate work and a grade point average of 3.00 maintained during all work toward the degree. The program consists of the following classes:

GAME 601: Game Design and Art Pipeline Production
Developing foundations, skills in building games using simple tools

GAME 605: Games and Society
Comprehensive survey of the intersection of play, games, and society

GAME 610: Game Research Methods
Research techniques, best practices, and evaluation for purpose-driven game design

GAME 615: Game Development
Computer game development techniques, implementation, and programming

GAME 620: Games and Rhetoric
Construction and evaluation of effective argument through play

GAME 625: Advanced Game Development
Advanced game development, including procedural content generation

COMM 640: Principles of Strategic Communication
Strategic elements of public communication strategies with focus on communication campaigns, public opinion, the media, the role of research, audience identification, message development, and communicating to various publics

GAME 696: Special Topics Class
Rotates in timely courses in the latest game design practices
(Examples include games for health, community game design, narrative games, 3D Modeling and animation, and 2D game strategy.)

COMM 702: Capstone in Film and Media
6 credit hours in electives from varied programs. Students may design a focus with director and advisor approval.