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March 11, 2014

Number One in Game Design

USC Games Retains Top Ranking

USC has been named the number one School for game design in North America for both its graduate and undergraduate programs. The graduate ranking marks the fifth straight year USC has been on top. This ranking is shared by the Interactive Media & Games Division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science.The #1 ranking for its Undergraduate Program marks the fourth year the program has held the distinction.

“It is a tremendous honor for the program to continue to be recognized year after year. Game Design has become an incredibly competitive academic category and this ranking really reflects the immense amount of work that our faculty and students have put into living up to our reputation,” says Tracy Fullerton who holds the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair of the Interactive Media & Games Division and is director of the USC Games Innovation Lab.

She added, “With the opening of the new Interactive Media Building within the School of Cinematic Arts, we’ve really begun to establish a center for cutting-edge, groundbreaking work in interactive media and storytelling.“

USC has held this top spot for each year The Princeton Review has released the rankings, which evaluate schools with the best programs to study video game design. The ranking is based on a survey conducted in 2013-14 of 150 programs at institutions in the United States and Canada offering video game design coursework and/or degrees.

The survey asked schools to report on a range of topics from academic offerings and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and professional achievements. Among criteria The Princeton Review weighed to make its selections: school curriculum, faculty, facilities and infrastructure, career services, student scholarships and financial aid.

Mike Zyda, founding director of the USC Gamepipe Laboratory and Professor of Engineering Practice says that “One of the things that keeps USC Games #1 is our year-long Advanced Games course. That course is something like a Maker Faire for games - students build games together over the course of a year, games never seen before. It really recreates the experience of running a small studio, from conception to final product, students get a look at the whole process.”

The Princeton Review ranked 50 schools this year — 25 undergraduate and 25 graduate. Overall, the report saluted 50 game design programs at 39 institutions.

The USC Games Program is a joint effort between the SCA’s Interactive Media and Games Division and USC Viterbi but encourages collaboration across all schools and divisions at USC. Incorporating elements of design, artistry and engineering, the program offers a unique educational experience for students and serves as the launching pad for significant roles in the game design field.

Some of the program’s successes include flOw, Cloud, Flower and Journey, all created by alumni Jenova Chen MA ’06 and Kellee Santiago MFA ’06 of thatgamecompany; The Unfinished Swan, developed by Ian Dallas and Max Geiger; The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, developed and designed by Matt Korba and Paul Bellezza; Puzzlejuice and Threes! developed by Asher Vollmer; Paralect developed by Loan Verneau ‘13; Darfur Is Dying, developed by Susana Ruiz; Modern Warfare 3, which had Bharathwaj Nandakumar as lead programmer; Farmville and Farmville 2, which had Raymond Xiang as senior software engineer; and Star Wars 1313, which had Pol Jeremias as a graphics engineer.