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The U’s Division of Games is No. 1

The University of Utah’s Division of Games has received a coveted No. 1 ranking from U.S. News & World Report.

In the publications 2024 rankings of colleges and universities released this week, the U’s 15-year-old gaming program—otherwise known as Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE) Master Game Studio—ranked No. 1 among public universities and No. 3 overall.

“This No. 1 ranking reflects the hard work and creativity of our students and the dedication and skill of our faculty,” said Michael Young, professor and chair of the Division of Games. “Our students graduate and go on to thrive in the industry, ready to change the world with the games they make.  It’s terrific to see their successes in this recognition.”

Launched in 2008, when faculty from the School of Computing and the Division of Film Studies came together to explore the emerging benefits of teaching game-making at the college level, the program has consistently ranked in the top 10 since its inception.

The division emphasizes project-based, interdisciplinary learning in teams, helping students gain practical experience in every facet of game development. New faculty regularly innovate teaching methods and class topics including AI, gender and representation, virtual production and the social impact of games.

“Our EAE faculty and staff have done an amazing job of preparing our students to be creative, ethical and innovative game makers whose work is changing the world. And leaders in the College of Fine Arts and College of Engineering have taken an unconventional program and made space for it to thrive,” said President Taylor Randall. “I’m very excited for the future of the Utah Games Division and the entrepreneurial innovation that will take place.”

Originally an area of secondary study for students majoring in other specialties, the program began offering graduate-level courses in 2010, a master’s degree in 2013 and a bachelor’s degree in 2017. The program also offers degrees at the Utah Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea. And EAE supports a Pac-12 Esports team. Nearly 1,200 students are in the program.

Over those years, 99 student projects have been published and the program is ranked No. 13 nationally for its volume of peer-reviewed research. EAE graduates are credited with games that have generated more than $2 billion in revenue, with half of that coming from studios in Utah.

This year, EAE shifted from a teaching program to an academic division, reflecting the maturity of the discipline.

Future advancements for the division will include working with game companies and the state to become an incubator and launching an Institute for the Advancement of Virtual Worlds, led by Young.

Its new mission includes its old mission — to be a world leader in games education in higher education,” said Mitzi Montoya, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. But it also includes a new charge — to lead the progress in research and scholarship around games, to create a deeper understanding of games, and to apply that knowledge in teaching and research to change the lives of players for the better.

In addition to the U.S. News ranking, the Princeton Review has ranked Utah Games (and its predecessor, the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program) in the top six worldwide since 2008.