Applied Humanities Adds Game Studies Emphasis

February 26th, 2020

Video games are a growing field of academic study, and the University of Arizona is joining the ranks of more than 400 other U.S. colleges and universities that offer degrees in video game studies.


Beginning Fall 2020, the B.A. in Applied Humanities offered by the Department of Public & Applied Humanities will add a new curricular emphasis—Game Studies—that focuses on video games as industrial, cultural and artistic objects. The well-rounded curriculum will prepare students for careers in an ever-growing industry. 


There are an estimated 2.5 billion video game players worldwide and the game industry generates more than $150 billion annually, supporting an array of jobs that go far beyond the technical and include roles in business, marketing, law, journalism and more. Students with a strong, well-rounded education in various aspects of the industry and its cultures will have an advantage on the job market as new technologies and shifting trends impact how gamers will be playing... and paying.


“Students in the Game Studies emphasis will be training for the future of the gaming industry,” says Judd Ruggill, Head of the Department of Public & Applied Humanities, “A future that is global, diverse and highly collaborative.”


Courses are already being offered, with the new emphasis officially accepting students as majors beginning in Fall 2020. The Game Studies emphasis is distinct in its focus, teaching students critical approaches to understanding games and their industrial practices, cultures and histories.


Like the other Applied Humanities degree emphases—Business Administration, Fashion Studies, Public Health, and Spatial Organization & Design Thinking—Game Studies is a collaboration between the College of Humanities and other units on campus, specifically the College of Applied Science & Technology and the School of Information.


“One of the exciting things about this degree is the opportunity for future collaborations with the School of Information and its two degrees in the works,” says Ken McAllister, College of Humanities Associate Dean of Research and Program Innovation. “The Applied Humanities Game Studies emphasis goes beyond the technical focus to give students a broad understanding of the entire medium.”


“Many people leading game companies all over the world are not and never were game designers,” McAllister says. “Indeed, the vast majority of game industry positions are peripheral to the process of game design itself. These positions reflect a broad range of potential jobs, so students aiming to enter the game industry need people and language skills, business acumen, and an understanding of the industry’s origins, practices, history and global culture.”


As professors who will help teach in the emphasis, Ruggill and McAllister bring a wealth of expertise to the classroom. Co-directors of the Learning Games Initiative, which houses its world class research archive on campus, Ruggill and McAllister have published seven books and dozens of articles, book chapters, and other research in game studies. They have also curated game exhibits around the country, advised the Smithsonian on collecting and exhibiting games, and trained a host of student interns, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the game industry, media archives and the academy.