Games and Playable Media M.S.

The Master of Science degree in Games and Playable Media is a year-long (12 month) degree focused on combining technical and design innovation—to create novel possibilities for the games of today, to enable new types of games, and to explore a wide variety of next-generation playable experiences.

The degree will admit students who have a background in computer science and knowledge of games. Target students include industry professionals seeking new knowledge (e.g., advanced AI techniques) and/or wanting to experience new roles (e.g., engineers seeking a move into design) as well as talented recent undergraduates who have completed technically-focused game degrees or computer science degrees. The program will include:

  • Making Innovative Games. A project-oriented, year-long course sequence in which students create innovative games, working in teams, critiqued and mentored by the Creative Director.
  • Dedicated Placement and Professional Development. Professional development courses that help students understand the core issues for working in, managing, or founding a game development team or indie studio, taught by the Program Director who will help students identify and realize their professional goals, such as a job in the games industry or founding a startup company.
  • Deep Tech Electives. Elective courses from the graduate curriculum of a research university with a leading game program (including areas such as machine learning, human computer interaction, game AI, security, databases, graphics and animation, natural-language interaction, computer vision, robotics, computational cinematography, etc). Students can learn how to datamine playtraces, generate levels, drive animatronics, and more.
  • Media Creation Foundations. Specific courses in game art, game sound, and game narrative designed to give students with CS backgrounds the knowledge they need to create compelling prototypes and indie games, as well as the vocabulary necessary for communicating and collaborating with arts professionals.
  • Silicon Valley Location. Deep interaction—including project collaboration and critique— with the wealth of game and technology talent located in the Silicon Valley / San Francisco Bay Area in particular and the West Coast generally.

Admission/Application Information

The MS in Games and Playable Media is no longer accepting applications for Fall 2015 (please note - we do not offer winter or spring quarter starts).  Applications for Fall 2016 will be accepted beginning in October 2015.  The deadline to apply to the MS in Games and Playable Media for Fall 2016 is March 1, 2015.

All applicants are required to submit the following:

  • Online Application
  • General GRE Scores (subject test in Computer Science recommended but not required)
  • Transcripts
  • Three Letters of Recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Link to Electronic Portfolio
  • TOEFL Score (international applicants only)

Detailed information regarding these requirements and the application process can be found at

Program Requirements

Unit Requirements:  35 units are required.  However, required courses will generally lead to students taking substanitally more.

The following courses are required:

  • GAME 221, 222, 223: Professional Development for Game Makers 1, 2, and 3 (2 units each; Fall, Winter, Spring)
  • CMPS 265: Procedural Graphics
  • GAME 280, 281, 282: Game Development 1, 2, and 3 (5 units each; Fall, Winter, Spring)
  • GAME 273: Game Production Intensive (10 units; Summer)
  • Two Game Engineering Electives (5 units each; can be upper-division undergraduate if appearing on approved list for degree)

All required courses will be offered at UC Santa Cruz’s Silicon Valley location. Some  electives, particularly Game Technology/Design Innovation, will also be offered at the Silicon Valley location, making it possible to complete the degree entirely with courses offered in Silicon Valley. However, most electives will be offered at the Santa Cruz location, as part of the regular course offerings already made.

The degree culminates in a year-long comprehensive, collaborative capstone project. Students work together in fall, winter, and spring quarters to learn fundamental game engineering and project management practices while also pitching and developing project ideas. Successful pitches are selected for completion during this sequence and a final summer intensive course.

Program Website

Sample Curriculum




Cost to Degree

CA Resident



Information for Prospective Graduates

Information for Prospective Undergraduates

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