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Digital Games Theory and Design MA

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Subject area: Games Design
Study mode

1-year full-time

PG code


Start date


Study location

Brunel University London campus


The games design industry, in the UK and worldwide, is growing and there is a demand for skilled and well-educated professionals to take gaming to its next level. Brunel’s Digital Games Theory and Design MA course will give you a comprehensive understanding of digital games and the techniques and principles used in their design.  

You will engage in, and experiment with, practical games design. You will focus on the process of devising the gameplay experience. This will include (but is not limited to) the creation of rules, gameplay mechanics, narrative, world design and user experience.

This is not a programming course and it’s not a graphics course, so there is no need for you to have programming skills or to have an art background. You will learn how to create your own practical designs, how to communicate your ideas to an audience, how to create games design documents, and you’ll also explore games studies.

You will have opportunities to make connections with other games design cohorts and industry experts. And we will encourage you to participate in extracurricular activities such as game jams and game-related networking events. These are all activities that introduce you to the broader social culture of the digital and creative world and are vital to being successful in the games industry.

The course is run by staff who are seasoned games designers and internationally published scholars who are active in the industry. They will share their enthusiasm and understanding of the nature of the video game industry, the importance of networks and the skills needed to create innovative games for the future.


Contact our Enquiries team.
Course Enquiries: +44 (0)1895 265599 (before you submit an application)
Admissions Office: +44 (0)1895 265265 (after you submit an application)

Course content

This exciting course teaches the creative process of games design. It covers the theory that underpins the formal characteristics of games as well as the social, cultural and historical contexts that shape the development of games, players, and society. Studying this course will help to fully equip you for your place in the games industry.

Students are expected to use the MA forum for discussions and are encouraged to participate in extra-curricular support activities such as game jams, local game related and networking events in order to practice the creative and technical skills developed throughout the programme and foster conversation and connections that are an invaluable part of the postgraduate experience.

The MA consists of compulsory modules, a typical selection can be found below. Modules can vary from year to year, but these offer a good idea of what we teach.

Compulsory modules

Game Design 1 (term 1, 30 credits) - practical group design projects (small); written evaluative case study 2000 words; assessed presentation
  • Principles behind the rules and play of games
  • Detailed study of how games function to create experiences, including rule design, play, mechanics/structure, game balancing, social game interaction and the integration of textual strategies to create the gaming experience
  • A range of paper-based and/or digitally rendered designs trial ideas provide the focus for an evaluative case study, which is also presented orally

Critical Approaches (term 1, 30 credits) - 2 x 3000 word essays

The module will:

  • Define and contextualize key concepts that shape the interdisciplinary field of Game Studies
  • Provide detailed study of the different methodological approaches used in the study of games/videogames
  • Students will engage in developing a scholarly vocabulary used to critically evaluate videogames and their relation to and distinction from other media
  • Connections between the theoretical and practical understanding of games studies and design will be made throughout the course as applicable

Game Design 2 (term 2, 30 credits) - 1 x practical design project tailored to a specific platform (large); written evaluative case study 3000 words; assessed presentation

  • Building on the work in Game Design I, students develop individually a design for a game for a particular platform (phone; PC; handheld, console etc). The game can be delivered in digital format for those with technical skills or as storyboard, character profiles, visual 'mood board'/style palette, sound-effects/music profiling. The project will demonstrate practical application of ideas explored in Critical Approaches to show a deep understanding of concepts of pleasure, genre, core game-play values, structure and rules

Socio-Cultural Contexts (term 2, 30 credits) - 1 x 6000 word essays

This class provides:

  • Context and framework for discussing the relationship between games, play, society, and culture
  • Analysis of contemporary demographic data about who plays games, why they play games and how they play games
  • Studies of the ways in which games influence culture through fandom, media panics, and virtual life
  • Studies of the ways in which culture influences the creation and development of games through economics/business models and gaming regulatory bodies

Dissertation in Digital Games Design: Theory and Design (term 3, 60 credits) - either 12,000-18,000 words or 8,000 words with practical component - delivered in either digital format or as a design document 

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.


Careers and your future

Upon completing the course, you'll have the potential to enter the games industry through a variety of jobs including level designer, quality assurance, project manager and games user researcher. Our MA is will also help develop your expertise if you are already in industry if you want to update your creative and technical skills to keep up with the latest devlopments in the dynamic field of games design. 

With confidence in their skills and their abilities, our graduates leave the course prepared to enter the games industry, and many of them have gone on to work for prestigious organisations including Hasbro, Rovio, Creative Assembly, Supermassive Games, and Ubisoft.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Entry criteria 2019/20

  • A 2:2 (or above) UK Honours degree, or equivalent internationally recognised qualification, in arts, humanities, social sciences, multimedia, computing, or electrical engineering. 
  • Other subjects and qualifications with relevant games industry experience will be assessed on an individual basis and may also be considered.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU entry requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

You can find out more about the qualifications we accept on our English Language Requirements page.

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, you must prove knowledge of the English language so that we can issue you a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS). To do this, you will need an IELTS for UKVI or Trinity SELT test pass gained from a test centre approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and on the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) list. This must have been taken and passed within two years from the date the CAS is made.

Should you wish to take a pre-sessional English course to improve your English prior to starting your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider for the same reason.

We offer our own BrunELT English Test and have pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet requirements or who wish to improve their English. You can find out more information on English courses and test options at the Brunel Language Centre.

Teaching and learning

The course offers a unique focus on practical design and on the theory of games. So if you’re passionate about games, and you want to understand how to design games and how to analyse and critically think about games, then this is a great course for you.

You have taught lectures in the first and second term. In term one you have a module called Critical Approaches and Games Design 1. In term two you have Socio-Cultural Contexts and Games Design 2. In the third term, which is over the summer, you’ll be studying for your MA dissertation which is based on supervisory meetings.

This is a one-year course which spans three terms. All taught sessions take place on one day a week - giving you the flexibility to work part-time or take care of personal responsibilities, as well as allowing you to complete your degree in one year.

Should you need any non-academic support during your time at Brunel, the Student Support and Welfare Team are here to help.

Assessment and feedback

Assessment is via a combination of practical games-making work, presentations and essays of varying length.

You will also write a dissertation in the third term. There are no exams.

Read our guide on how to avoid plagiarism in your assessments at Brunel.

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019/20 entry

UK/EU students: £8,000 full-time

International students: £16,850 full-time

Some courses incur additional course related costs. You can also check our on-campus accommodation costs for more information on living expenses.

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).