Founded in 2007, the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) program has been recognized as one of the best collegiate video game design programs in the world.

Recent rankings put the EAE program as 5th in North America for graduate schools, and at 7th for undergraduate programs. Both programs ranked 2nd in the world for public universities. “It’s a real honor to be ranked so highly again this year and to be among the strongest of schools in the world,” said U School of Computing professor and EAE Director Michael Young.

Dr. Young spoke with ABC4 on the rankings. He explains the program’s success by referencing their “practice focused model combined with broad theoretical foundation.” Dr. Young says that the goal of the graduate and undergraduate degrees in EAE is to launch students into careers in the multi-billion dollar video game industry.

For prospective students, Dr. Young mentioned that the undergraduate EAE program features a broad focus like most bachelors degrees, while the graduate program allows students to take specific classes to prepare them to fill positions in the area of the video game industry they hope to work on. In order to do so, graduate students work in large, interdisciplinary teams on long-term creative projects.

When asked, Dr. Young gave many reasons why video games should be taken seriously. “Video games are a fundamental way people interact with each other today,” says Young. “They allow for self expression for those who create and play games.” Dr. Young also mentioned the simple fact that the video game industry is massive and continuing to grow. He also mentioned statistics that indicate the average age of video game consumers in the US is 34—challenging the assumption that video games are for children.

The EAE press release from April 7, 2022 reads: “EAE’s courses involve all aspects of art, humanities, social science, and computational research. The curriculum covers areas such as game design, rapid prototyping, game engineering, production, digital content creation, ethics in games, digital storytelling, 2D and 3D art, and marketing management.”

ABC4 also spoke with Lance Tallman, a senior about to graduate with a bachelors degree from EAE. He is part of the first class that was in the undergraduate program for a full 4 years, and got to participate in new, experimental classes about cutting edge ideas in game design and production.

Tallman is now starting to apply to jobs in the industry. He has a specific interest in game project management, in which he will help coordinate between artists and developers on key goals and milestones in game development.

When asked about a video game that particularly inspires him, Tallman mentioned that he is really interested in “games for health” that the EAE press release mentions. This includes games that are designed to be enjoyed by players with various disabilities, such as a EAE project made for people with visual impairments.

Tallman said that even after long days thinking about and working on video games academically, he still enjoys playing video games himself.

The University of Utah also has several leading varsity esports teams that compete nationwide.