UNM Named One of the Top 10 Schools for Undergraduate Video Game Design

March 6, 2012

“The Princeton Review” has named UNM as one of the top 10 schools in the U.S. to study video game design. UNM’s Advanced Graphics Lab run by Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Pradeep Sen, is No. 9 in the rankings for undergraduate programs.

The new list, “Top Schools to Study Video Game Design for 2012,” recommends 50 schools in all. It names 10 undergraduate and 10 graduate schools in rank order to its respective “top 10″ lists and 22 undergraduate and 8 graduate schools as Honorable Mentions.  A complete list can be accessed at: Top Schools to Study Video Game Design for 2012.

This announcement was made in both the The Princeton Review website, as well as in an article in the USA Today.

Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Luke Lester says, “Professor Sen’s commitment to improving the undergraduate experience of UNM Electrical and Computer Engineering students is clearly paying off. When Pradeep arrived back in 2006, the department had no video game curriculum. He took the initiative and immediately dedicated himself to building courses in video game development and computer graphics that quickly got us into the top 50. Now that we are a top 10 program in this area, we have a new, exciting way to recruit undergraduates students to UNM and interact with our alumni.”

Students Become Industry Leaders

Sen started the program in 2007 and currently serves as its director. “It has been a very exciting five years since we started this program,” says Sen (at left with student Solein Darabi). “We have created a complete curriculum of courses that offer our students an in-depth education in videogame development, from making games for the XBOX game platform to mobile game development. UNM is clearly one of the top choices in the country for students who are interested in videogame development.”

The overall program is designed to educate engineering students to become leaders in the industry by exposing them to a wide variety of subjects related to videogame development. Courses focus on topics such as interactive story-telling and 3D modeling on the artistic side, to computer graphics and real-time rendering algorithms on the technical side. Students also work on videogame projects led by Dr. Sen where they work as a team to put together a highly-sophisticated game. In many of these projects they will work alongside artists much in the same way they would in a game company. The games produced in the program are released to the public through several online venues such as Microsoft’s XBOX Live Marketplace.

“There are millions of users on a venue like XBOX Live Marketplace,” Sen explains. “However, the bar for acceptance into these venues can be high. By producing high-quality games in our courses, our students are getting their games into these major markets and therefore they are reaching millions of people. This is starting to get our program noticed, which is why we keep getting ranked higher and higher every year.”

When Sen began the game development program five years ago, UNM was unranked in the field of videogame design. Under his leadership, the program reached the top 50 two years ago in 2010, and now UNM is ranked 9th out of over 150 other schools with game development programs. Other schools on the top 10 list include USC and MIT, as well as many art/technical institutes focusing specifically on game design. Twenty-two other schools received honorable mentions.

Princeton Review Survey

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on a survey it conducted in the 2011-12 academic year of administrators at 150 institutions offering video game design coursework and/or degrees in the United States and Canada. The survey, which included more than 50 questions, covered a wide range of topics from academics, curriculum, and faculty credentials to graduates’ employment and career achievements. School selections were based on a comprehensive analysis of data that analyzed the quality of the curriculum, faculty, facilities, and infrastructure, plus the school's scholarships, financial aid and career services.

“It has long been our mission to help students find – and get into – the schools best for them to purse their interests and develop their talents,” said Robert Franek, Princeton Review Senior VP/Publisher in a press release. “For the burgeoning number of students aspiring to become game designers, we highly recommend the University of New Mexico as one of the best and most innovate institutions to study and succeed in this exciting field.”

Laying the Foundation

With this honor, the AGL videogame program has now become one of the top programs in the School of Engineering and at UNM as a whole.Sen points out that a strong videogame program would lay the foundation for recruiting strong students into the Computer Engineering and Computer Science programs at UNM.

“Videogames are cool and most kids play them,” explains Sen. “So by having one of the best programs in game development right here at UNM, there is a good chance that we can get many of these kids to play our games and get to know about our program. Furthermore, videogames are an excellent tool for outreach, since you can use them to get kids thinking about possible careers in computing fields. This can help encourage them into putting more effort into their math and science classes.”

Students interested in enrolling in the program should apply for a BS degree through either Computer Engineering or Computer Science. More information about the program can be found at the AGL Games Division website. Dr. Sen is pleased by the growth of the program in the past five years but he stresses that the best is still to come.

“This recent attention people are paying to our program exciting, but we are really just getting started,” Sen cautions. “I am still in the process of growing the program, so you ain’t seen nothing yet!”

TOP 10 Undergraduate Programs in Videogame Design in North America (source: Princeton Review, 2012)

  1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
  3. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
  4. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
  5. The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
  7. Shawnee State University (Portsmouth, OH)
  8. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
  9. University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
  10. Becker College (Worcester, MA)