MA Games Design is perfect for those passionate about the design and development of games. A highly creative and practical course you will be encouraged to develop innovative ideas to produce games across a range of platforms – both traditional and emerging.
Focusing on areas such as gameplay scripting, narrative techniques, level design and emerging technologies you will be taught key skills enabling you to create highly polished games using core game design principles and industry practices.
Taught by talented industry professionals who have worked on titles released on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, Ulster University is one of the top places to explore this constantly evolving and cutting edge subject.
Whether you are interested in contemporary technologies such as virtual, augmented or mixed reality devices or more traditional gaming platforms you will be supported by highly experienced tutors and the latest technologies and facilities helping you to explore new possibilities.
Will you be the creator of the next big thing in gaming?
The UK has a long history of making world class video games and Northern Ireland is now host to many successful independent studios making it an ideal destination to study game design. This course will allow you to develop a range of professional skills, problem solving and experiences in advanced games design practice.
Further establishing Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art as the regional, national and international centre of excellence for creative industries in education and research, this course is taught by academic staff with a wealth of experience within the games industry. Having worked on multiple titles released on modern platforms such as PC, Xbox and PlayStation you will gain invaluable insight into the drive, passion and work ethic needed to make it in the industry.
Addressing the gap between academia and industry, providing access to new opportunities and expertise within the creative industries, MA Games Design will give you the skills and production experiences necessary to succeed as a Games Designer. This strategic and intellectual linking of ideas, processes and outcomes in the programme will enable you to present projects in the real world to a national or international standard.
With staff actively engaged with research and enterprise projects students will be given valuable opportunities to collaborate and engage with external industry, cultural and government bodies. Supporting the research and development of individual practice, the course also provides an environment to fully explore opportunities for collaboration, allowing you to experience your work in contemporary commercial and cultural contexts.
At the conclusion of the course you will have:
Managed, designed and presented prototypes to professional standards utilising specialist game design and development tools and skills.
Developed advanced proficiencies in a range of practical and technical skills (new technologies, contemporary design software, communications), that will enable direct entry into the games industry, specifically in the areas of design.
Conducted substantial and significant research in areas specific to game design and development.
Utilised new and emerging technologies such as Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality in the development of original and creative game design concepts.
Developed advanced critical and analytical skills relating to the design of historical and contemporary games.
Developed a comprehensive set of transferable skills, such as effective communication, organisation, group work and project management skills, pertinent to other sectors of the creative industries.
The MA in Games Design is available as a full-time course over 1 year or part-time course over 3 years.
Classes run one day per week, where you will spend time in lectures, workshops and tutorials. Students are expected to carry out self-directed study for the remainder of the week.
In line with the University’s attendance policy, attendance at all taught sessions is compulsory.
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
An appropriate blend of established and effective teaching delivery methods will be employed to enhance your learning experience and to achieve the learning outcomes of the course. Typically, large group teaching will include lectures, studio practice, demonstrations and small group teaching will include seminars, teamwork /projects, critiques (feedback).
The Aims and Learning Outcomes of the MA Games Design course will be achieved through a variety of teaching and learning methods, including:
Tutorials – 1-1 and team will help to develop communication skills and verbally process problems and tasks in hand. These are essential to support student learning and pastoral care.
Lectures – will impart essential information in traditional format. Case studies and the introduction of learning exercises within the lecture format will consolidate learning and introduce an opportunity for discussion and engagement. Guest lecturers from industry and academia will be invited throughout the programme to develop student engagement and understanding of the subject area.
Workshop and Studio Practice – will encourage the importance of problem solving, testing and refining, whilst also have the opportunity to learn new skills, ideas and approaches from experts in order to become experts within games design.
Practicals and Demonstrations – will introduce a process, technique or technologies to students by either a member of academic staff or a technician. They are a method employed to make you aware of the characteristics of transferable skills and technologies.
Critiques – will encourage effective communication, reflection, sharing of opinions, evaluation of information, skills and ideas and provide opportunities for peer learning.
Seminars – will encourage debate, reflexive thinking and good communication skills. They can facilitate deep learning: analysis, synthesis, evaluation of complex issues and construction of argument.
Teamwork projects – Collaborative learning provides the platform on which independent learning is nurtured. Giving you the opportunity to gain confidence, become aware of your strengths, and develop your own ideas. Tutorials, workshops and seminars will provide academic staff and students opportunities to discuss team progress, dynamics and evaluate member activity.
Blended learning – will offer the opportunity to consolidate and support face-to-face learning, communicate and share information with the wider cohort and develop essential digital skills. The course team will supplement and enhance module content including providing additional delivery of practical workshops, creating links to sources of further information, encourage online discussion groups the development of web based portfolios.
Diagnostic, formative and summative feedback – Diagnostic feedback is valuable in the very early stages of learning; it allows you to reflect throughout your learning rather than viewing it retrospectively. Ongoing formative feedback is given in tutorials, critiques and studio seminars in verbal form on a regular basis and is crucial to student progress. Formative feedback is also offered when part of the coursework is submitted for assessment during the semester. Summative feedback is presented after assessment in written and verbal forms and offers a chance for you to reflect on progress and achievement and to receive suggestions for future direction. The course team consider feedback crucial to both student and staff progress in that it:
Identifies and clarifies good performance
Encourages positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem
Give assessment choice (where appropriate)
Encourages 'time and effort' on task
Encourages interaction and dialogue (peer and teacher-learner)
Provide opportunities to act on feedback
Develop self-assessment and reflection
Informs and shapes teaching
The course ethos is based on the University, Faculty and School’s Teaching and Learning strategy. The course team aim to enhance the quality of the student learning experience by:
Providing a student-centred approach to teaching, learning and assessment
Providing increased opportunities for small group teaching
Providing a safe, yet challenging learning environment, that supports students to engage and learn with fellow students from diverse backgrounds and identities
Providing courses and programmes which are scholarship-informed, and where appropriate, research-informed, and taught and supervised by those engaged in research and/or scholarship
Focussing on assessment as a means of promoting student learning as well as providing evidence of that learning
Developing personal tutoring/studies advice/peer mentoring systems which meet the needs of students
Ensuring that learning resources in support of teaching and research degrees are accessible to all students
The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.
Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:
the requirements of any professional, regulatory, statutory and accrediting bodies.
Attendance and Independent Study
As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until near the start date and may be subject to change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days of attendance will often be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.
Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.
The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.
Postgraduate Masters courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.
Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.
Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be via one method or a combination e.g. examination and coursework . Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.
Normally, a module will have four learning outcomes, and no more than two items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.
Calculation of the Final Award
The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6 (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).
Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Masters degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.
All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.
Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.
The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.
Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (20%) or Lecturers (55%).
We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advanced HE - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.
The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.
Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.
Figures correct for academic year 2021-2022.
High quality apartment living in Belfast city centre adjacent to the university campus.
Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.
Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.
Level Design is a fundamental component to any game's success. This module aims to provide students with advanced critical and implementation skills underpinned by level design theory for a variety of game genres. Students will first analyse current contemporary games to gain an understanding of their level structures and flow whilst designing an original level for that genre or game, based on their own analysis and planning.
Game Design and Rapid Prototyping
This module will provide the initial framework from which an understanding of Game Design will be developed. Previous knowledge and experience will be revised, built upon and developed. The content is in part designed to contain some introduction to the essential elements of games design and rapid prototyping, which can also be attempted either at a basic, intermediate or advanced level. Assessment is based on two assessed outcomes, a pre-production document, and a prototype to be deployed on a windows-based platform.
Game Systems and Economy Design
A critical aspect that all games in development share is the iterative design process facilitated through rigorous testing and game analysis. This module aims to build skills in game testing methodology and techniques, providing knowledge on how to collect and analyse feedback data from multiple playtesting sources. This analysis will then drive changes to core game systems and gameplay parameters, ultimately leading to balanced gameplay.
Contemporary Game Technologies
This module gives students opportunities to explore and dissect the complexities surrounding the development of games on platforms such as Virtual and Augmented reality. This module will look at considerations a designer should have in terms of controls, user interface and user experience whilst exploring the unique gameplay experiences that each platform can provide along with their limitations with key technical aspects will be explored for each platform.
This module provides students with the opportunity to undertake a major, in-depth, individual study in an aspect of game design. The project will involve research and investigation in relevant aspects of a very specific area of study followed by the production of a major deliverable portfolio of relevant practice-based materials from the area of games design. The research, project process and evaluation will be reported via an accompanying written report which contextualises and evaluates the creative output.
Design Research and Development
Students complete this module having obtained a clear understanding of how to conduct a post-graduate level research. By introducing them different research methods relevant to their topic and research inquire, students will expand their knowledge in specialised areas through their self-directed research project.
Standard entry conditions
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.
Applicants must hold a degree (with at least 2:2 Honours standard) or equivalent or demonstrate their ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior learning.
The specific requirements for admission are detailed below:
i) Applicants should normally hold a good honours degree in any Game Design, Game Development, Animation, Computer Science, Engineering, Design practice, Visual Arts or cognate subject from a University of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, from the Council of National Academic Awards, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council or from an institution of another country which is recognised as being of an equivalent standard.
ii) Applicants may be interviewed along with the presentation of a body of work that can take the form of, but is not limited to, a portfolio and/or showreel and proposal. Applicants must be able to satisfy the panel at interview that their work is of a standard that will allow them to deal with the intellectual and practical rigours of the programme.
iii) Applications are welcomed from diverse backgrounds however where there is a discipline shift the applicant must represent a coherent rationale for this shift and evidence prerequisite knowledge, skills and experience.
The programme is devised specifically to support continuing lifelong learning for professions in a rapidly changing field. Therefore APL (Accreditation for Prior Learning) will be considered as evidence of exceptional ability appropriate to recruitment to the programme.
English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.
Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.
This programme is designed to prepare students for a career in a range of game development related fields such as game design, level design, app development and game testing. Postgraduate opportunities are also available for students who wish to pursue a career in research.
Fees and funding
Our postgraduate fees are subject to annual increase and are currently under review. See our tuition fees page for the current fees for 2022/23 entry.
Additional mandatory costs
Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.
The School provides a range of resources including industry standard computers Software, and contemporary hardware such as VR equipment.
We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free Wi-Fi is also available on each of the campuses.
There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.
Please contact the course team for more information.
It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals, as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.
There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as a part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs, as well as tuition fees.
The University endeavours to deliver courses and programmes of study in accordance with the description set out in this prospectus. The University’s prospectus is produced at the earliest possible date in order to provide maximum assistance to individuals considering applying for a course of study offered by the University. The University makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in the prospectus is accurate but it is possible that some changes will occur between the date of printing and the start of the academic year to which it relates. Please note that the University’s website is the most up-to-date source of information regarding courses and facilities and we strongly recommend that you always visit the website before making any commitments.
Although reasonable steps are taken to provide the programmes and services described, the University cannot guarantee the provision of any course or facility and the University may make variations to the contents or methods of delivery of courses, discontinue, merge or combine courses and introduce new courses if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key staff, changes in legislation or government policy including changes, if any, resulting from the UK departing the European Union, withdrawal or reduction of funding or other circumstances beyond the University’s reasonable control.
If the University discontinues any courses, it will use its best endeavours to provide a suitable alternative course. In addition, courses may change during the course of study and in such circumstances the University will normally undertake a consultation process prior to any such changes being introduced and seek to ensure that no student is unreasonably prejudiced as a consequence of any such change.
The University does not accept responsibility (other than through the negligence of the University, its staff or agents), for the consequences of any modification or cancellation of any course, or part of a course, offered by the University but will take into consideration the effects on individual students and seek to minimise the impact of such effects where reasonably practicable.
The University cannot accept any liability for disruption to its provision of educational or other services caused by circumstances beyond its control, but the University will take all reasonable steps to minimise the resultant disruption to such services.