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### Rating of the University of Utah’s Game Programs on a Global Scale

In a nondescript brick building that previously housed the University of Utah’s law school library, teams of students from the university’s games programs collaborate in preparation for an upcoming deadline to finalize video games that are set to debut at a public event on campus on April 24.

The students are deeply involved in every phase of game development, starting from the initial pitches to the eventual launch, a process that Michael Young, the chairman of the university’s esteemed Games Division, compares to the opening night of a theatrical production.

Young expressed his admiration for the students, noting that many of them experience the thrill of witnessing players engage with the games they have created for the first time. He likened this experience to the excitement of a theater performance, where immediate audience reactions can be felt and heard.

Observing children engrossed in playing the games they developed is particularly poignant for the students, as it signifies the impact of their creative endeavors. Young emphasized the profound moment when students witness the power of their imaginative work coming to life.

The University of Utah’s Games Division is renowned for its excellence in game development education. Recently, the Princeton Review ranked the university’s undergraduate games programs as the top choice globally and its graduate programs as second among public universities. Notably, the undergraduate program advanced two positions from the previous year’s rankings, while the graduate program ascended by three places.

Young expressed pride in these rankings, highlighting the significant growth of the division’s programs despite being relatively new to the campus. The undergraduate major was established in 2017 and rapidly became the 10th largest major on campus by 2021, boasting approximately 1,100 undergraduate students. Despite limited faculty growth during this period, the faculty’s dedication and success have been instrumental in achieving this recognition.

The graduate programs, comprising around 140 students, include individuals like Benjamin Fellows, who is nearing graduation. Fellows cited the University of Utah’s affordable tuition, proximity to his hometown of Las Vegas, and, most importantly, the strength of its games programs as the reasons for his choice. Having the opportunity to serve as a producer in the master’s program enabled Fellows to oversee the production of several games, leveraging his undergraduate degree in games.

Fellows currently leads a team of graduate students working on a puzzle adventure game titled “Cardboard Chronicles,” featuring a child trapped in a cardboard world, seeking an escape while aiding fellow characters along the journey. This collaborative effort involves artists, engineers, designers, producers, and storytellers, each contributing their expertise to the game’s development.

In addition to his role as a producer, Fellows, who possesses a minor in music, composed the game’s score and crafted its sound effects. Reflecting on the process of bringing a game from conception to launch, Fellows described it as an exhilarating experience that continually feels surreal, especially as their game is slated for release on the Switch in the coming months.

The University of Utah’s Games Division operates within Building 72, the former law library, where graduate students like Darina Martin, Oscar Zuo, Steven Pasinsky, Sarah Homer, Andrew Lozano, Shuochen Sun, Lehan Li, Ryan Bown, and Kurt Guner are actively engaged in various game development projects.

The program’s distinctive feature is that students typically retain ownership of the games they create. To date, students have published 149 games, with the majority available on the Steam platform. The academic curriculum integrates art, humanities, social sciences, and computational research, catering not only to entertainment games but also to practical applications such as health, education, training, and simulation.

Given the substantial revenue generated by the gaming industry globally, surpassing that of the music and movie industries combined, the future looks promising for graduates of the program. Young expressed optimism about the graduates’ prospects, emphasizing the program’s role in equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in the gaming industry post-graduation.

The accolades from the Princeton Review underscore the exceptional preparation and dedication of both the faculty and students within the Game Division. Young commended the faculty, staff, and students for their commitment to excellence, noting that the program instills graduates with the expertise and passion to make a meaningful impact in the gaming industry.