SAE Expression College, Emeryville, CA
Mick Mancuso, Program Chair, Game Development Program and Game Art and Design Program
SAE Expression College offers two bachelor’s degrees in the field, one in Game Art and Design, and another in Game Development. Students study an array of subjects, from math to psychology to 3D modelling. All of that culminates in a senior game development project.
Mick Mancuso helms the game programs. SAE is a largely vocational school, and as such, most students are looking to get into work making games immediately upon graduation. The Game Art and Design program focuses on both 3D and 2D modelling for games on PC and tablet. Students focus on creating a polished game that uses the skills they learn in class.
These student projects include a wide array of genres, such as 2D sidescrollers, puzzle games, adventure games, and many more. The most popular platforms are PC and mobile games, which are created using popular engines like Unreal, Unity, and Gamemaker Pro.
Art and Design students have graduated to become 3D artists and dart producers. The Game Development program is still fresh, with no graduates as of yet, but the first class is expected to find work as designers, producers, and coders.
"It is a disservice to our students to prepare them for a shrinking market."
The fledgling nature of their development program reflects a recent shift in growing with the industry. SAE is currently phasing out their Game Art program in favor of the Game Development focus to provide students with a broader set of skills to meet the needs of the industry. However, SAE is also trying to protect Game Art students from a shrinking market stateside. Manusco explains:
“The employment outlook for pure artists has changed over the last five years. More and more art is being outsourced, usually out of the country. We feel that it is a disservice to our students to prepare them for a shrinking market.”
The up and coming development program will feature art, but also expands into coding, audio, and group game development projects that walk students through the entire game development process, from creating a concept to the final build while learning valuable lessons in teamwork.
While some opportunities in games are fading out, Mancuso is still excited about game design and its applications in other areas. “Students are exposed to everything from architecture to narrative to color theory to statistics to game theory. It is the ultimate in a general education,” he says. “More and more industries are coming to the conclusion that the skills learned by game designers are applicable to their fields.”
However, Mancuso looks further into the future as well. “The nature of what a game is is constantly changing - expanding into new technologies and exploiting new ways of looking at the world,” he posits. “Games have always been on the cutting edge of the computer revolution, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.”