Art Institutes

Game Art& Design

I want to put my ideas in play.

Welcome to one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. If you’re still reading, then you must be up to the challenge. And that’s good, because you’re also in line for a career where you can feed your passion for gaming—and turn the skills you've honed into a career where you do what you love. Your future starts in our Game Art & Design degree programs, where you can learn what you need to become a key player in the game creation process. Using the same kinds of technology professionals use, you’ll explore what it takes to get games into the production pipeline. And get yourself into a dynamic industry. You’ll be surrounded and inspired by other talented, creatively driven students. And you’ll be pushed, challenged, and, above all else, supported by experienced faculty*. It’ll put your talent and commitment to the test. But it could also put you in a position to succeed.

*Credentials and experience levels vary by faculty and instructors.

Degrees Offered

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Art & Design

Quarter Credit Hours:
180
Timeframe:
12 Quarters

Gainful Employment

Outcomes
X

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Art & Design

Outcomes

See ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/3066 for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

View Academic Catalog

Classroom Experience

I'm ready to take intensity to a whole new level.

If you see yourself using your creativity to tell stories, you’re looking at a rigorous education. In Game Art & Design, you’ll start with the fundamentals like the principles of design, drawing, and color, in both traditional and digital art. You can build skills in game design, level design, 2D concept art, 3D modeling, texturing, and real-time lighting. The focus is on the principles of gaming, balance, and usability; creating the entire gaming experience; and developing games that’ll be used in industry-standard engines. You’ll explore the planning, scope, problem-solving abilities, and economics of creating a market-ready game. And through it all you’ll put in a lot of hours, work your way through a lot of trial and error, and find yourself challenged by other like-minded students. See our gainful employment pages for possible careers that match the program that interests you.

Meet our Alumni

What Will I Study?

Study Section

I have the imagination. I need the tools.

In this competitive industry, companies are looking for creative people who are passionate about the craft of taking a game from concept to market-ready. The curriculum for Game Art & Design will help you prepare to do just that, as you study:

  • Digital Imaging
  • Life Drawing
  • Drawing & Anatomy
  • 2D Animation
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Character and Object Design
  • 3D Modeling
  • Game Art & Design
  • Texture Mapping
  • 3D Animation
  • Material & Lighting
  • Game Modeling
  • Game Production Pipeline
  • Designing Interior Spaces and Worlds


I'm looking for my proving ground

At The Art Institutes system of schools, creativity is our core, our calling, our culture. Game Art & Design is built on that creative foundation. It’s also built on our knowledge that a creative career is not for the faint of heart. Because it’s tough out there, it’s tough in here. But we temper the tough with the support you need to make your creativity marketable. We provide the mentoring and real-world experience you need to prevail, with faculty* who’ve worked in the field and internship possibilities at successful businesses. Here, you’ll be encouraged and expected to be bold. To take risks. To push yourself and the people around you. So if your heart is telling you that you belong in a creative field, you belong here. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever love.

*Credentials and experience levels vary by faculty and instructors.

 

Meet our Faculty

  • Billy Vanderburg HS

    Billy Vanderburg

    Game Art & Design

    "Be Awesome!"

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    Billy Vanderburg

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    Actually, while I was in college an inspirational individual said that you need to do what you want in life. I examined what I really had a passion in and decided that I wanted to make video games. So I did some research and found The Illinois Institute of Art—Schaumburg, where I was one of the first to graduate with the new degree in Game Art & Design. Afterward, joining THQ and EA was a game changer for me in my skills, leadership development, and involvement with AAA game production.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    Other than giving my anecdotal horror/glory stories, I also integrate industry standards, expectations, and terminology into the curriculum. The game industry is a very exciting and sometimes intense business with fluctuating schedules, deadlines, and task management that is often reliant upon the individuals to creatively find solutions and accomplish goals within a team environment. So for my classes at The Art Institute of San Antonio, I have the students not only work in teams, but also estimate tasks and develop expectations of content that are reported on and presented in “stand up” progress meetings and milestone goal reviews. This holds the individuals accountable for his or her work within the team environment while allowing for creative flexibility like that in the industry.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I consider my “lecture” classes to be more like small training sessions similar to “art lunches” that I experienced in the industry. Critiques in my classes are approached as interactive milestone meetings that include not only feedback from the art director, but also peer review. Specifically, in the industry, tasks are never “incomplete” and iteration is a necessary process in development. So in the classroom, homework (art tests) is similarly never “incomplete” and requires iteration so that competencies are met and surpassed.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    Collaboration is crucial during the team classes in Game Art & Design. They are made up of literally 9 months for a “vertical slice” development cycle that include various disciplines such as character art, environment art, design, leading roles, and even sound, interface, and vfx. The students set up their group goals for the game by establishing a game overview document and set up individualized schedules that feed into a greater overarching goal, which has quality standards set by myself.
     

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    Students should not expect to jump into the gaming program just to play games. Well, playing is important, but students need to understand the competitive nature of the industry and that hard work, dedication, and organization leads to success. I specifically don’t give “homework,” rather, actual “art tests.” Art tests are established by developers to determine whether an individual is capable of joining a team (before getting the interview). So the art tests I give to my students are much structured in a similar way. And the feedback that I give is not a “grade” exactly, but a degree of meeting expectations—like many industries, employees are not given As and Bs during their annual reviews, but told whether they met expectations, exceeded them, or have room for improvement with specific details and feedback to improve. And that is how I run my classroom.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I am very pleased to be a part of an industry that allows me to share my expertise with future game developers and create games. I feel honored that I am shaping the next generation of games that I, as a lover of games, will consume!

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  • Josh Stutts

    Joshua Stutts

    Game Art & Design

    "I get to see students grow and realize their potential and know that I helped them to get there."

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    Joshua Stutts

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been interested in the arts and creating, whether it was stories or drawings or sculpture. Growing up in a small town in Alabama, I never thought of turning that into a career until an Art Institutes representative came and talked to my high school. From then on I knew I wanted to turn my creativity into my career.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    I always try to tie any class project back to the day-to-day industry. Assignments are designed as art tests or freelance jobs. In the Team Production class it’s based on the normal routine of working in a game studio. We have stand-up meetings that follow the SCRUM management style that a lot of game studios use now.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring...and how do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

    I’ve set up my Team Production class like a regular development team, because it’s important that students get a sense of what their typical work day might be like. They have complete control over the project; once they realize they’re in charge, they push themselves harder than normal. I’m there to offer advice, but I want them to listen to their own instincts so they can use all the skills they’ve learned to make their decisions. It empowers students and helps them see where they need to improve.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    When students hit the workplace after graduation, they won’t be working individually, but as part of a team. Collaboration in the classroom helps them see the impact they have on a project and how they help meet the needs of the team.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    You have to constantly practice your craft. If you want to succeed, you can’t just do your homework, because your competition is continually perfecting their craft. They work 50 to 60 hours a week at the job you want. And when they get home at night they’re practicing and perfecting and learning new techniques. You have to put in 150% if you want to compete. It sounds daunting and difficult. But if you love what you do, it’s not work—it’s fun and rewarding. And worth every minute you put into it.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    This has been one of my most rewarding jobs, because I get to see students grow and realize their potential. And I know I helped them to get there.

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  • Nathan Anderson

    Nathan Anderson

    Media Arts & Animation

    "Say yes, and let the journey begin."

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    Nathan Anderson

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    My artistic epiphany happened some time during the Kansas City Art School summer program I attended between my junior and senior years of high school. Realizing that there was a way for me to make a living at what came naturally to me was, in a word, inspirational.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    I strive to provide students a balanced set of educational goals. While holding their work to the industry standard is a laudable goal, I think it’s more important to help them build the skills, attitudes, and effective work habits that’ll help them succeed—and sustain that success throughout their careers.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I assign homework that puts into practice the techniques we’ve covered in that day’s class...then in the next class I share some more advanced techniques that yield better results. I do this to show students that they’re entering an evolving field of art and technology. There will always be some new tool, technique, software or hardware that’ll make them say, "How did I live without this?" The key is to have as many creative tools as possible, so that when there’s a problem you have many options for solving it.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    No artist should create inside a bubble. Sometimes a fresh perspective on a creative problem yields a better solution. I always urge my students to find that one other artist who they feel comfortable showing their work to...someone who’ll critique their work without the usual platitudes or flattery. That person will be a friend and colleague for life.

    What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

    Say yes to anything a prospective client or employer asks of you—even if you have no idea how you’ll do it, even if the prospect terrifies you. Say yes, and let the journey begin.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I take great pride in my students and their accomplishments. This school has done a great job creating a curriculum that teaches the skills to become creative professionals, while fostering an environment of artistic exploration.

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  • Norm Engel

    Norm Engel

    Media Arts & Animation

    "I live the life of an artist... how cool is that?"

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    Norm Engel

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    In the early 1990s I started experimenting with computer animation. That’s when my technical and artistic skills came together to form a perfect outlet for expression.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    I share my story with students so they understand how they can use their skills in diverse ways. I’ve worked on literally hundreds of commercial productions. Many have aired on network television, PBS, MTV, VH1, and CMT. I also continue to pursue the fine art of painting. My canvases can be found in many private collections and galleries worldwide. All this adds credibility to what I teach, as well as a sense of the possibilities that are available.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

    I teach a variety of classes that involve teamwork. It’s an important thing to learn, as the industry demands that animators work in teams; they subdivide the work to achieve bigger goals than an any one individual could achieve.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    The reason I enjoy teaching is selfishly simple. This truly is a labor of love. I’m an artist surrounded by extremely creative people. Artists share—that’s what we do. The faculty and students here are all creative artists sharing and growing. The ideas, the energy, the enthusiasm, and the politics of art. Wow. I live the life of an artist…how cool is that?

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  • San Antonio Visual Effects & Motion Graphics Lead Instructor Thomas Brecheisen

    Thomas Brecheisen

    Visual Effects & Motion Graphics

    "Work hard, be determined, and know that someone else out there is working harder, studying harder, and 'sleeping faster' to compete for the exact same job."

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    Thomas Brecheisen

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    I’ve always been involved in the creative arts—and I always knew I’d be somehow involved in education. I just happened to find a particular love for the cinematic arts, especially visual effects. I put my heart and soul into perfecting my craft, always with the eventual goal of teaching.

    How do you help prepare students for a professional career?

    Students in my Intro to Visual Effects class don’t create space robots, explosions that level cities, or epic light saber duels. They study the career possibilities in the visual effects and motion graphics industry. And they get a road map to guide their journey through to their Portfolio classes, which add clarity and direction to what they’ve studied. After completing all the classes leading to Portfolio, they’ll have the skills, materials, and experience to create a professional reel that can lead to their dream career.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?


    I strive to infuse a sense of purpose into each of my students. There’s a purpose behind each class, each assignment, and each friendly chat in the hallway. When students feel they have a goal-centered purpose, nothing can stop them from achieving their potential. I consider it my purpose to mentor students—not only bring them knowledge, but empower them to succeed.

    How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?


    The visual effects industry is the epitome of collaboration. That’s why I expect students to work with peers from others departments to capture and create their effects. Visual Effects & Motion Graphics students work with Photography, Game Design, Animation, and Digital Film students on most of their projects. If you stay in your seat long enough after a movie, you’ll see that most of the people who worked on that film are visual effects professionals. Everyone has a part to play, and we rely heavily on expertise from other programs to achieve our goals.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    Early on, I ask my students what they think employers look for. I usually get the expected answers: talent, passion, dedication, and skill. They’re surprised when I tell them that those things will help, but the real answer is, “Can you make someone else money?” I learned very early in my career that this is show business, not show dedication or show passion. We’re trying to make a product to sell. That’s the bottom line. The two most important things I can help a student develop are craft and confidence. If they come out of school with these two traits, they can be very successful in the film business.

    What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

    Work hard, be determined, and know that someone else out there is working harder, studying harder, and “sleeping faster” to compete for the exact same job. If I can do one thing for students, it’s to instill in them a work ethic to maximize their chances for success.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    My calling is to inspire students to reach their full potential so they can share their amazing talents with the world.

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