We’re in the Princeton Review for Something Good!
A few weeks ago, the Princeton Review put out their yearly “Best Game Design Schools” list. If you haven’t already found out, NJIT is listed as number 22 on that list. This is a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, because a lot of the professors and students are finally being recognized for all of the hard work they have been putting into the program. No, because even though we’re now in the big leagues, we still have a lot more to prove.
Being a sophomore currently in the game design program at NJIT has given me a whole mixed bag of feelings. I’ve never felt more stressed out than having a game project due the next day while having a broken control system that needs some sprucing up. At the same time, seeing the faces of my play-testers light up as they play my creation never felt more rewarding.
The current game design program at NJIT has gone through a lot of changes, from its original roots as a subset of the Information Technology major. It was then moved to Computer Science, but the department at the time didn’t know what to do with the program, so it went to Communications and got a lot more confusing. Then, it came back to the Information Technology Program. It’s been one hell of a ride for game design and development at NJIT, from guys like Alwin Ventura and Jason Chin getting all of the glory back in 2008 and 2009 to today where some students have worked on Steam Greenlight games while still taking classes.
The talent pool at NJIT is immense. A lot of the guys and gals at the ACM Game Development SIG and SIGGRAPH have proven time and again how talented they are. There are so many students working on games aiming for the Independent Game Festival or for getting internships at Nickelodeon Games and Rockstar New York. Don’t even get me started on the Global Game Jam because games like Insight, Fireflies, and Instinct show just how much talent exists in the program. However, we need to foster this talent even more.
The game design program of NJIT is still relatively new. There are great classes being offered, including new classes like Game Design Studio over the summer and Game Asset Production this fall. The various clubs with students that are doing a lot of work around games are trying to inspire more students to take the plunge into their creative sides. A good number of students are able to find work and internships within the game industry. But despite all of the great things happening with the program, now, we are nowhere near perfect.
First, I have to mention the issues of student involvement with various video game making-related events on campus. Being a frequent game jammer, having participated in Ludum Dare 25 and 27, alongside Global Game Jams 2013 and 2014, where are the jammers? NYU across the bay is prestigious, but we definitely have more students in the game design programs in Digital Design and Information Technology. Also, what about the Mobile Game Jam? How does that always end up with only 5 people?
Second, I rarely see a form of communication between game developers and game designers about the kinds of games they’re working on. Building a bigger community of designers and developers actively helping each other’s work would only help to build better games as a whole.
Third, we need more student exposure to the industry and player feedback. Walking through the halls of IndieCade East 2014, I saw NYU. Drexel went for the Dream cup and has won. Digipen students are still almost everywhere, including GDC and IndieCade. Where are the NJIT students trying to get out there to show their stuff? The only game worked on by NJIT students, besides Fireflies, that I have seen gain recognition was The Dead Linger, which the student involved came in almost as soon as the game passed Steam Greenlight. We have talented students, but we need bigger pushes to get them out there.
Finally, it’s time that the game design program gets proper recognition for consistently placing within the top 35 game programs in the country. We need more events relating to our talented students and staff. We need the Game Expo to come back. We need more panels like the Future of Games panel run by PBSoldier. We need to show what NJIT students are capable of.
We are just as good a school as Drexel and NYU. Mind you, they’re tough competition but I see NJIT students winning that Independent Game Festival award. Generally, students from schools outside the top ten win the student award. But why stop there? The University of Southern California’s been number one in undergrad since forever. It’s time for a new number one. It’s going to be hard work, but seriously, we can be a top game design school, now.
As awesome as we currently are, it’s time that we show the world that awesomeness. We have the staff and we have the students. NYU’s game center and Drexel’s summer research program shouldn’t faze us because they haven’t seen the kinds of creations only possible at NJIT.