New Game Design and Interactive Media Concentration Offers New Career Path for Cinema and Media Arts Majors

Game design classes offer students the ability to apply skills across industries such as psychotherapy, education, marketing and audience engagement

Feb. 15, 2019 By Irene Pan

Biola University’s School of Cinema and Media Arts is set to launch a new Game Design and Interactive Media concentration in Fall 2019. Professors are excited about the new offering due to student interest and growing career opportunities in the game industry as use of virtual and augmented reality rises.


“The game and interactive media industry is experiencing rapid growth as new tools are developed to create new game applications,” said Gerald Fisher, interim dean of Biola’s School of Cinema and Media Arts. “Biola is designing a creative space that will allow students to combine media ideas in ways that no one has seen before. By housing the concentration in the School of Cinema and Media Arts, game design can integrate into the storytelling, visual creation and sound production expertise that already exists at Biola.”


In addition to games as entertainment, game design is practically applied in simulation, education, marketing and audience engagement, decision theory, therapy, and new applications that surface nearly every day. Professor of cinema and media arts Michael Steffen was hired last fall to spearhead Biola’s game design courses and, now, the new concentration.


“Our department did a study of what kind of areas related to cinema are growing, as far as jobs and industry, and one of the major areas [we] identified was game design,” said Steffen. “So, the department decided that [game design] is an area that, especially as storytellers, we would like to be in.”


The School of Cinema and Media Arts currently offers three concentrations: Media Management, Production, and Writing for Film and Television. The addition of the Game Design and Interactive Media concentration provides students an opportunity to learn and deliver an experience that is unique to game design.


“The dominant thing that makes game design different than other cinema and media arts concentrations is interactivity, which gives the audience, or what we call agency, some control of the experience,” said Steffen. “By doing that, it can make the experience more immersive.”


With interactivity being a key component of game design, students are trained to become cinematic storytellers who can effectively integrate story with gameplay. Students will be challenged to explore beyond traditional storylines and grow in game narrative techniques.


“When somebody is really excited about making a game, they have this experience in mind that they want to create,” said Steffen. “We help them define what this experience looks like and what type of gameplay would best help create that experience — teaching them that way of thinking about design and making a game that achieves the experience they want.”


Students also gain hands-on experience with 3D art-making, game engines, and emerging technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality. The exposure to interactive mechanics allows students to engage with iterative design and develop fundamental game design skills.


Through the concentration, students are equipped to create story-driven games by leveraging state-of-the-art technology and innovative storytelling. Students will be given the opportunity to showcase their work at independent games festivals, such as IndiaCade and IGF, and further their expertise in game design as an intern at a game or media company. Both internal school support and external real-life experiences prepare graduates to become designers and producers or as independent developers in the game industry.


Besides skill-based professional development, students will explore how to navigate the game design industry as a Christian and integrate themes of faith into the work they produce.


Games are stories and the most relatable stories align with the greatest story that unfolds through the biblical narrative,” said Fisher. “As students create games or interactive media that include hope, redemption and justice, for example, they illustrate the greater longings felt in all of humanity.”


Learn more about the Game Design and Interactive Media concentration and apply online now for Fall 2019.


Written by Irene Pan, media relations intern. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, manager of media relations, at (562) 777-4061 or

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