Art and Design: Games and Playable Media

2016-17 General Catalog

Digital Arts Research Center
Room 302
(831) 459-1919

Course Descriptions

Program Description

The art and design: games and playable media (GPM) bachelor of arts (B.A.) degree at UCSC focuses on the creation of novel game systems, spaces, and configurations that can produce broad ranges of player experiences, for a wide variety of purposes. It does this through:

  • courses in related theory, history, and critical interpretation;

  • courses that take a practice-based approach to experimental game creation;

  • courses that provide a foundation in working with game media forms;

  • courses that provide a foundation in working with game technical materials.

This degree complements the computer science: computer game design (CGD) bachelor of science (B.S.), which focuses particularly on the technical materials. The B.A. focuses more on experience design (in particular) as well as on history, theory, and media creation—while still taking advantage of courses developed for the B.S. and creating a shared community with those students.

Students in the GPM major learn to understand game design as an art in and of itself, positioned within the context of a number of more disciplinary approaches. Furthermore, students understand game design as a practice of creation, within a much larger and deeper social and historical context.

The GPM B.A. in the Arts Division ensures that students have needed programming skills, and equally importantly, that they meld such technical skills with critical and historical understanding, which is essential for the production of socially conscious, inclusive, and emotionally engaging games.

Upper-division studio courses require coursework to be completed on computers. All students in the B.A. program are strongly encouraged to own a laptop computer. This expense is separate from the cost of tuition and other fees.

While pursuing coursework in the major, all students are to encouraged to build portfolios that showcase their growing body of work, with an emphasis on material from courses such as ARTG 80I, CMPM 80K, and ARTG 120, and CMPM 120.

Qualification Policy for the Art and Design: Games and Playable Media

Prior to declaring the games and playable media major, students must complete ARTG 80H (History of Digital Games), ARTG 80I (Foundations of Play), CMPM 80K (Foundations of Video Game Design), and CMPS 12B/M (Introduction to Data Structures/Laboratory). Students need to complete the lower-division courses early in their studies so that the petition to major status is accomplished by the end of their sophomore year.

Students receiving an NP, D, or F in one of the courses required for admission to the major may only declare once they have passed the same or equivalent course with a grade of C or better. Students who receive more than one  grade of NP, D, or F among the four courses listed above  can only declare the major through the portfolio appeal process.

Major Qualification By Portfolio Appeal

The program faculty will conduct a quarterly review of portfolios for students who have passed the classes required for declaration, and wish to enter the major, but have not met the requirement with a grade of C or better across all classes. Within 15 days of this review, the faculty will notify the students, the Arts Division, college and Office of the Registrar of the decision.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students who earn a B.A. in art and design: games and playable media will gain the skills, knowledge, and understanding that will enable them to:

Program Learning Outcome (PLO) 1: Demonstrate understanding of the connections between technical commitments and game system design, on one hand, and player experience and cultural communication goals, on the other.

Examples: Choosing very responsive hardware (e.g., mouse, not Kinect) for an experience meant to give players a feeling of detailed control. Choosing a simulation game system (not an action game system) for a game meant to address issues of deforestation.

PLO 2: Demonstrate ability to define, develop, and communicate artistically innovative game ideas—situated historically and employing the methods of multiple art practices.

Examples: Using storyboards or prototypes to describe a new type of in-game communication between players, intended to model and provide opportunities to reflect upon types of physical communication used under circumstances of surveillance, and compared with previous innovative uses of communication between players (e.g., Journey). Describing how the final game would use visual, musical, and voice-over narrative approaches to situate and reinforce the experience created through the communication and game systems.

PLO 3: Demonstrate ability to design and build a technical system, in response to an artistic goal for audience experience, that employs a fundamental understanding of algorithms and data structures.

Examples: Considering appropriate algorithmic approaches to achieving a behavior for a game. Understanding the abstractions involved in representing information about a game so that it can be effectively manipulated by the system during play.

PLO 4: Demonstrate understanding of game history and interpretation sufficient to do independent research on a topic, identify relevant games and secondary literature, think critically about a particular games-related topic, and make a convincing, research-based argument about games.

Examples: Making a strong argument about how Braid does and doesn't break with the mechanics and gender representation conventions of previous generations of platforming games. Making a strong argument about how Twine games and the Twine authoring community both recapitulate and break from earlier hypertext authoring arguments and movements.

PLO 5: Demonstrate ability to collaboratively plan, organize, and execute complex, team-oriented projects, using appropriate communication and coordination techniques.

Examples: Realistic goal and task breakdown in post-greenlight planning process in Art and Design: Games 170. Effectively using Scrum and other communication techniques in Art and Design: Games 171.

PLO 6: Demonstrate ability to effectively use techniques for understanding how players experience a game system, and to compare this with project's artistic goals—then successfully iterate and revise project shape, scope, and function based on external feedback and personal/team constraints.

Examples: Using techniques from playtesting, human-computer interaction, and studio critique to understand what is and isn't working about an in-process game, then finding realistic ways to guide next steps that will be more likely to achieve project's artistic goals or discover compelling new directions.

Requirements of the Major

The GPM major requires eight lower-division and 13 upper-division courses in residence and satisfaction of the senior comprehensive requirement.

Course requirements are divided into six conceptual areas and may not be credited in more than one area.

1. Games and Playable Media Foundations

Complete all of the following courses:

ARTG 80I, Foundations of Play (PE-H—Perspectives: Human Behavior)

ARTG 80H, History of Digital Games (PE-T—Perspectives: Technology and Society)

FILM 80V, Video Games as Visual Culture (PE-T)

2. Computational Foundations

Complete all of the following courses:

CMPS 5J, Introduction to Programming in Java (MF—Mathematical and Formal Reasoning)

CMPS 11, Intermediate Programming (MF)

CMPS 12B/M, Introduction to Data Structures/Laboratory (MF)

3. Game Design

Complete all of the following courses:

CMPM 80K, Foundations of Video Game Design (IM—Interpreting Arts and Media)

CMPM 120, Game Development Experience (PR-E—Practice: Collaborative Endeavor)

ARTG 120, Game Design Experience (PR-E)

ARTG 170, Game Design Studio I (DC)

ARTG 171, Game Design Studio II (7 credits)

ARTG 172, Game Design Studio III (7 credits)

4. Media Creation

Complete three courses from the following:


ART 101, Introduction to Computer Programming for the Arts

ART 102, Interactive Arts

ART 103, Physical Computing: Installation and Sculpture

ART 104, Digital Video

ART 106, Introduction to Animation

ART 107, Introduction to 3D Graphics and Modeling

ART 108, New Media and Social Practice Artmaking

Digital Arts and New Media

DANM 100A, Animation I (PR-C—Practice: Creative Process)

DANM 100B, Animation II (PR-C)

DANM 132, Literary Games: The Intersection of Writing and Play (PR-C)

DANM 133, Introduction to Electronics and Physical Computing (PR-C)

DANM 134, Hacking for Artists: Experimenting with Digital Media (PR-C)

DANM 135, Kinematics: Motion and Machine Art (PE-T)

DANM 140, Introduction to 3D Printing, Laser-cutting and More (PR-C, also offered as Art 105)

DANM 143, Projects in Ecological Art (PE-H)

Film and Digital Media

FILM 150, Screenwriting (PR-C)

FILM 170A, Introduction to Digital Media Production (PR-C)*

FILM 170B, Fundamentals of Film and Video Production (PR-C)

FILM 171A, Sound

FILM 171C, Found Footage (PR-C)

FILM 171D, Social Information Spaces**

FILM 171G, Documentary Animation Workshop

FILM 172, Narrative Video Workshop

FILM 173, Narrative Digital Media Workshop**

FILM 175, Documentary Video Workshop

FILM 176, Experimental Video Workshop

FILM 177, Digital Media Workshop, Computer as Medium

FILM 189, Advanced Topics in Digital and Electronic Media Studies*

*Prerequisite is FILM 20C or Computer Science 101 or Computer Science 109

**Prerequisite is FILM 170A

Games and Playable Media

ARTG 118, Digital Drawing and Painting for Game Design (may be repeated for credit)


MUSC 123, Electronic Sound Synthesis

MUSC 124, Intermediate Electronic Sound Synthesis

MUSC 125, Advanced Electronic Sound Synthesis

MUSC 167, Workshop in Electronic Music

Theater Arts

THEA 104, Multimedia Authoring

THEA 106, Digital Illustration

THEA 114, Design Studio: Sound (PR-C)

THEA 157, Playwriting

THEA 159, Advanced Playwriting

5. Game Design/Human-Computer Interaction

Complete four of the following:

Computer Engineering

CMPE 131, Human-Computer Interaction

Computational Media

CMPM 146, Game AI

CMPM 148, Interactive Storytelling

CMPM 177, Creative Strategies for Designing Interactive Media

CMPM 178, Human-Centered Design Research (PR-C)

CMPM 179, Game Design Practicum (PR-C, also offered as ART 179)

Computer Science

CMPS 121, Mobile Applications

CMPS 183, Hypermedia and the Web


PSYC 128, Human Factors

6. Arts Electives

Complete one History of Art and Visual Culture course from the following:

HAVC 141A, Modern Art: Realism to Cubism (IM)

HAVC 141B, Modern Art: Cubism to Pop (IM)

HAVC 141C, Modern Art: Pop to Present (IM)

Complete one lower-division studio course from the following:


ART 10D, 2D Foundation (IM)

ART 10E, 3D Foundation (IM)

ART 10F, 4D Foundation (IM)

ART 20G, Introduction to Print Media and Drawing (PR-C)

ART 20H, Introduction to Sculpture and Public Art (PR-C)

ART 20I, Introduction to Photography  (PR-C)

ART 20J, Introduction to Drawing and Painting (PR-C)

ART 20K, Introduction to Digital Media (PR-C)

Digital Arts and New Media

DANM 30, Workshop in Computer Music

DANM 32, Internet Authorship for the Non-Programmer (PR-C)

Games and Playable Media

ARTG 80G, Visual Communication and Interaction Design (IM)


MUSC 1C, University Concert Choir (PR-E)

MUSC 2, University Orchestra (PR-E)

MUSC 3, Large Jazz Ensemble

MUSC 5A, West Javanese Gamelan Ensemble: Beginning

MUSC 5B, West Javanese Gamelan Ensemble: Intermediate

MUSC 5C, West Javanese Gamelan Ensemble: Advanced

MUSC 8, Balinese Gamelan Ensemble

MUSC 9, Wind Ensemble (PR-C)

MUSC 10, Eurasian Ensemble (PR-C)

Theater Arts

THEA 14, Drawing (PR-C)

THEA 15, Special Topics in Textiles (PR-C)

THEA 17, Costume Construction (PR-C)

THEA 18, Drafting for Theatrical Production

THEA 19, Design Studio: Lighting Studio A (PR-C)

THEA 20, Introductory Studies in Acting (IM)

THEA 21A, Acting Studio IA: Psychological Realism

THEA 21B, Acting Studio IB: Actors’ Physicality

THEA 22, Indonesian Dance and Drama (CC—Cross Cultural)

THEA 30, Introduction to Dance Theory and Technique (PR-C)

THEA 31C, The Dance Experience (PR-C)

THEA 33C, Dance Studio I

THEA 36, Introduction to Dance Composition (PR-C)

THEA 37, African Dance (PR-C)

THEA 40, Introduction to Directing (IM)

THEA 50, Fundamentals of Theater Production

THEA 80Z, Indian Dance (CC)

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division disciplinary communication (DC) requirement. The DC requirement in art and design: games and playable media is satisfied by completing ARTG 170.

Comprehensive Requirement

Students satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement by receiving a passing grade in all three courses of the game design studio sequence (ARTG 170, 171, and 172). This sequence will meet in collaboration with CMPM 170, 171, and 172.

Art and Design: Games and Playable Media Major Planner

The following is a recommended academic plan for students to complete during their first two years as preparation for the GPM major.

Art and Design: Games and Playable Media B.A.






ARTG 80I, Foundations of Play (PE-H)

CMPS 5J, Introduction to Programming: Java (MF)

CMPS 11, Intermediate Programming (MF)

College Core (C1)

CMPM 80K, Foundations of Video Game Design (IM)

^MATH 3, Precalculus (MF); or Elective

College Core (C1)

General Ed (SI—Scientific Inquiry)


CMPS 12B/M, Data Structures/Lab (MF)

FILM 80V, Video Games as Visual Culture (PE-T)

*CMPM 120, Game Development Experience (PR-E)

*CMPM 120, Game Development Experience (PR-E)

** ARTG 80G, Visual Communication & Interaction Design (IM)

General Ed (C2)

 *ARTG 120, Game Design Experience  (PR-E)

 *ARTG 120, Game Design Experience  (PR-E)


ART 80H, History of Digital Games (PE-T)

General Ed (TA—Textual Analysis)

^ The prerequisite for CMPS 11 can be satisfied in any of the following ways: successfully  passing Math 3, Math 11A, Math 19A, Applied Math and Statistics 3, Applied Math and  Statistics 11A, Economics 11A, or 400 or higher on the math placement exam.
* ARTG 120 and CMPM 120 May be taken in spring or summer quarter (if offered in summer).
**ARTG 80G, while not a requirement for the GPM BA, is recommended for providing useful knowledge for the major.

Transfer Students

Junior transfer students are encouraged to complete all general education courses before coming to UCSC and are required to take programming courses outlined in articulation agreements and four introductory courses in the arts before coming to UCSC: 1) in contemporary art history or visual culture; 2) in visual communications; 3) in digital media creation; and 4) in visual, written or performing arts: drawing, photography, digital media, sculpture, painting, fiction, poetry, dramatic writing, theater, dance or music. Students must apply to the program in April of the year before coming to UCSC. The mechanism for acceptance to the degree program is to develop a comprehensive proposal packet including an application form, a portfolio, unofficial transcript(s), and an artist’s statement, with optional letters of recommendation. We do not admit junior transfers mid-year; students must enter in fall of their junior year.  

Because of the number of credits required in the B.A., it may take junior transfers longer to complete all major requirements; however, summer session courses and/or additional courses over the academic year may allow a student who does not have recommended courses upon transfer to still graduate within two years. There are no foreign language requirements.

Transfer students are strongly advised to attend a UCSC Summer Orientation session for transfer students. Transfer students must consult with an art department academic adviser prior to enrolling in classes to determine their status and to begin the declaration of major process as soon as possible.

Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement

Students of every major must satisfy that major's upper-division Disciplinary Communication (DC) Requirement. The DC Requirement in art and design: games and playable media is satisfied by completing ARTG 170.

Comprehensive Requirement

Students satisfy the senior comprehensive requirement by receiving a passing grade in all three courses of the game design studio sequence (ARTG 170, 171, and 172). This sequence will meet in collaboration with CMPM 170, 171, and 172.

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Revised: 09/01/16