Information for Undergraduates

What is GDIAC?

The Game Design Initiative at Cornell (GDIAC) is a group of faculty, students, staff, and community members all devoted to the academic study of game design and development. Please refer to the About GDIAC link for more information about our mission, history, and structure.

How do I get involved?

There are multiple ways to get involved with GDIAC. The easiest is to join one of our courses, starting with CS/INFO 3152. From there you continue to CS/INF 4152 and then build up a portfolio with multiple independent studies.

If you do not satisfy the prerequisites of CS/INFO 3152, but want to get started right away, you can join the Digital Game Alliance. This is a student run organization that is affiliated with GDIAC. In addition to hosting social gaming events, the DGA helps connect students that are interested in studying gaming.

Can I get a degree in games?

Cornell does not currently offer a degree in gaming, though we do offer a Minor in Game Design. Any undergraduate student in an any college at Cornell University can pursue this minor and have it added to their transcript. We strongly encourage students to follow this advice:

  • Pick a major in a core area (e.g., Computer Science, Information Science, art, music, writing, etc.).
  • Take as many game courses as you can, and build a portfolio of games through independent studies.

Some students at Cornell choose to pursue independent majors. For example, see the Arts & Science Independent Major and Engineering Independent Major. Several successful former students have pursued game design through these independent majors.

What game courses should I take?

Interested students should skim our GDIAC courses page. Students typically start with CS/INFO 3152 in their sophomore year. CS/INFO 3152 does have prerequisites, so students with less experience must sometimes wait until junior year.

Students completing CS/INFO 3152 then proceed to CS/INFO 4152, which is an advanced projects course that targets various professional platforms.

After those courses, dedicated students take a number of independent studies. These independent studies allow students to receive academic credit for continuing with a variety of self-directed game design projects. Students who have completed CS/INFO 4152 typically use independent studies to build a portfolio of game related projects and experience.

Who owns the games that I make at Cornell?

It is Cornell policy that Cornell will not assert ownership of any material that you produce for a class; in addition New York State law prohibits this for many types of of classwork. This policy applies even to games developed in an independent studie. Your student group retains all ownership rights of anything that you work on. It is your group's responsibility to determine how to split this ownership group should you wish to commercialize your game. Cornell has several resources available to help entreprenuerial students.

Ownership is more complicated when you produce a game for hire, either through a research grant or departmental funding. In that case, you should discuss ownership with the Cornell faculty member sponsoring the work.

Where will GDIAC take me?

GDIAC holds ties with industry leaders such as Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Irrational Games, Valve, Riot Games, Pokemon, Zynga, and Bethesda Softworks, to name a few.

We do not guarantee a job in the game industry, just as no department will guarantee you in a job in whatever field in which you get a degree. However, we do offer among Cornell's best opportunities to do the following:

  • Work in a multidisciplinary team that spans engineering, the arts, and the humanities.
  • Develop a project portfolio that shows off your experience and skills to potential employers.
  • Work in an intensively creative environment, motivated by the ability work on your own game.

Students who wish to work in the game industry should consider investing time in the courses and programs GDIAC offers. The game industry is competitive and the interdisciplinary team-based approach of GDIAC is appealing to this industry. Students are encouraged to do well in their major area, as this provides the foundation to their ability in game design and development. The construction of a strong portfolio is also beneficial when seeking roles in industry. The nature of GDIAC will help dedicated students to do this.

The game industry is very interested in hands on experience. Some companies offer summer internships, and GDIAC can be instrumental in connecting students with these opportunities. While no school can guarantee that a graduate will get a certain kind of job, a number of GDIAC students have indeed received internships and jobs in the field.