By Stu Horvath
Last year, we investigated the game development program at the NYU Game Center . Founded in 2008, the center specializes in games-focused study for undergrads and grad students, but so far has only offered an undergraduate minor.
Late last year, the center announced it will launch a master’s program  starting in fall 2012. We spoke with director Frank Lantz about the now even-more-promising future of gaming at NYU.
Stu Horvath: Can you give a quick rundown of the Game Center?
Frank Lantz: The NYU Game Center is a new program dedicated to teaching game design as creative practice and games as a cultural form. We’ve had an undergrad minor for a year and we are launching our MFA in game design this fall. Apply now!
We also run a lot of cool events, like an annual game design conference and a guest lecture series that’s open to the public and has hosted everyone from Warren Spector to Ian Bogost to Erik Wolpaw. The program is built around an astonishing, world-class core faculty: Jesper Juul, Eric Zimmerman, Katherine Isbister, plus lots of brilliant younger teachers and talented adjuncts.
S.H.: How did the master’s program come about?
F.L.: It was always part of our plan to have an awesome grad program. We worked closely with other programs at NYU that were doing work related to games in order to create a program that complemented and harmonized with our colleagues in computer science, media studies, animation, music, etc.
It really started to come together when we recognized our true identity as the place to study games as games. Not games through the lens of some more traditional discipline or justified by some practical application, but games for what they are: strange, fascinating, beautiful, complex, challenging and worth studying seriously, playing deeply and making better.
S.H.: What will the master’s program consist of? What is the curriculum and what kind of technology supports it?
F.L.: The program is built around hands-on studio work; students are always working on designing and developing games. This work takes place within a context of advanced literacy and critical thought. There are foundation classes in Game Design and Game Studies that all students take, then there are electives that allow them to focus in and go deeper on particular strands of the interdisciplinary mix of game development -- visual art, computation, player experience, etc. Meanwhile, there is always hands-on creation -- numerous projects in game studio classes in the first year, and then in the second year one single large project in thesis.
We don’t have a single technical platform that we push as a default context; we want students to be making diverse kinds of games driven by their passion, interest and talent. We also want them to explore the full spectrum of what games can do: polished 3D, DIY 2D, board games, physical games, games that fit in your pocket, Web games, games that no one’s ever imagined before. This is not a program for people who are starting at square one and want to learn the very basics -- we are recruiting a mix of students who bring some talent, knowledge and experience and who want to go further and make amazing, groundbreaking work.
S.H.: What can we expect to see from the Game Center in the future?
F.L.: Just becoming the best place in the world to study games!
Stu Horvath is the managing editor of Digital Innovation Gazette , as well as the man behind the geek culture website, Unwinnable.com . Previously, Horvath has worked at the New York Daily News, Wizard magazine, Random House, CrispyGamer.com, and Joystiq.com. He is also a founding member of the NYC Videogame Critics Circle.