Texas A&M’s standing as an elite video game design school is reflected in new rankings published by The Princeton Review, a leading test preparation and college admission services company.
In the rankings, published March 21, 2017, Texas A&M’s graduate game design program ranked 17th, 7th among public universities. Its undergraduate program ranked 35th, 11th among public institutions.
“Our faculty and staff here do an amazing job building our resources and transforming the learning environment for our students. It’s gratifying that this effort is recognized through the Princeton Review rankings,” said Tim McLaughlin, head of the Department of Visualization.
The list is based on Review’s annual, global survey of 150 institutions offering game design degree programs or courses. The survey gathered data on schools' academic offerings, lab facilities, graduates’ starting salaries and career achievements. More than 40 data points were analyzed to rank the schools.
“The top institutions on our lists have outstanding faculty and great facilities that give students the skills and experience they need to pursue a career in this dynamic and burgeoning field,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief.
Texas A&M has been on the lists for three straight years since its Department of Visualization created gaming-oriented study options in its Master of Science and Master of Fine Arts degree programs and enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level.
Two educational video games, “Variant” and “ARTé Mecenas,” initially developed by visualization students at Texas A&M, are helping thousands of students at universities across the country learn calculus and art history.
“Variant” is helping stem the tide of the nearly 40 percent of students who fail first-year calculus, which is foundational for all students pursuing science, technology, engineering and math careers. Since the game’s January 2017 release, 243 mathematics faculty from 195 universities have acquired it and students in 49 schools are playing it.
In “ARTé Mecenas,” a player helps create iconic Renaissance art as a member of the powerful 15th century merchant/banking Medici family. By following the historical footsteps of the Medicis, game players rise to the status of “Mecenas,” an influential patron of the arts, while navigating the tumultuous political, social, and economic conditions of the day.
Art history students at Texas A&M, the University of Texas at San Antonio, the University of North Texas and Lindenwood University are playing the game this spring.
Both games were born in the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab, founded by André Thomas, who joined the Texas A&M Viz faculty in 2014 after leading graphics development, planning and implementation of EA Sports’s powerhouse lineup of football video games.
In the LIVE Lab, student designers, coders, and a multidisciplinary group of educational specialists, in collaboration with the videogame industry, create and champion interactive educational software.
The games were further refined, then brought to market, by Triseum, a Bryan-based video game development company also founded by Thomas, which is staffed with visualization alumni as well as current viz students who are part-time employees and interns.