What do you need to study to launch an educational games startup?

QUESTION:

My name is Hunter, and I am a 29 year old Washingtonian.  My profession is multimedia producer for a firm that services the entertainment business.  I would like to return to school to get another degree so that I can move toward achieving my dream, which is to launch an educational game software business.  What skill sets are most important when starting an educational games company and what would you recommend I study?  Thank you , and this is a wonderful site — Hunter

ANSWER:

Naomi Kokubo

Naomi Kokubo

by Naomi Kokubo, Editor & Cofounder of Founders Space

A great starting point, if you’re considering going back to school, is to check out the growing number of game design programs at major universities.  You can now get a BA, MA, MFA and even a PHD in game design.

Two of my favorite design programs are at USC and Carnegie Mellon.  That said, there are now dozens of top universities with robust game design programs offering advanced degrees.  Here are the top 8 undergraduate game design programs according to Princeton Review:

  1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
  2. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, Wash.)
  3. Drexel University (Philadelphia)
  4. Becker College (Worcester, Mass.)
  5. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY)
  6. The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, British Columbia)
  7. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Mass.)
  8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass.)

Here is the full article.

What are the most important skill sets?   I think the ability to design a good game is the most important skill you can have.  Next comes understanding the type of material that can be made into an entertaining & educational experience.  You’ll also need skills in computer programming, UI design and art.   If you lack one of these skills, you need to either hire someone or find a partner who can do the work.   You’ll also need marketing and business development skills.  It’s very rare for one person to possess all of these skills, so your best bet is to become an expert in at least one and then put together a team.

Teams can vary in size from a couple people to hundreds.   It depends on whether you’re producing a small independent game or the next World of Warcraft.   That said, most educational games can be produced with a relatively small team, where design is more important than labor intensive 3D graphics and high production values.  If you’re a great designer, than you can probably find the other team members.

Lastly, my partner, Steve Hoffman, wrote an excellent book on game design called Game Design Workshop, which you can buy on Amazon.com.  There are also a number of other good books on game design which you can purchase.

I hope this helps!

Comments & Advice:
  1. Guest says:

    So do you believe that out of all the skill sets needed to develop a educational gaming start up it is most important to become excellent at game design over business etc…

    Thank you for answering.

  2. Naomi Kokubo says:

    Yes. With your background as a multimedia producer, you'd benefit a lot from studying game design. That said, you'll need to find partners or hire employees who can fill the other gaps, like marketing, UI design, art, programming, business development, etc. A lot depends on what you like doing. Probably the most important skill you'll need is the ability to put together a team and lead that team. You can learn this at some of the top game design schools, but you can also learn this skill in many other ways.

    Naomi

  3. Joe says:

    Just a thought, but does some knowledge of how people actually learn come into the picture somewhere? Hard to make an “educational” game if you don’t know how people learn. That’s assuming you actually want to educate, not just make money.

Make Your Comment: