Games for Learning

Description and Mission

The Master of Science Program in Games for Learning (G4L) is a 36-credit program that prepares students to create, use, and evaluate digital games for the specific purpose of learning in formal and informal settings.

The program:
  • Prepares students to use evidence-based research to facilitate the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs that integrate games in a broad range of formal and informal learning settings.
  • Exposes students to research on:
    • the role of social, emotional, cultural, and cognitive aspects of learning and issues of game design,
    • game design models and developmental practices,
    • the value of narrative features of game design, and
    • research methods aimed at improving and evaluating the design of games for learning.
  • Offers an optional internship program, where students can apply their skills and knowledge in a broad variety of corporations, cultural institutions and not-for-profit organizations, and game design studios, all of which are also potential future employees of our graduates.
  • Offers several areas of study, including:
    • game design
    • game development
    • game research
    • a student-customized area of study under faculty supervision

The program can be pursued full- or part-time (see degree requirements for more information).

Student Learning Goals

In this program, students will learn to be game design practitioners who not only understand technical and development practices but also the social, cognitive, emotional and cultural issues involved in the design of games for the specific purpose of learning in formal and informal settings, and across the lifespan. To that end, students will be able to:

  • Explain the potential values and limitations of the use of digital games for learning, and for what kinds of learning, what types of learners, in what content domains, and in what settings games have the potential to support learning, as supported by current theory and research. 
  • Discuss the role and function of play in games for learning and, in that context, the contribution of diverse features of games, such as role playing, immersion, narrative, feedback, situated experience, distributed cognition, lower consequences of failure, etc.
  • Apply the social, cognitive, emotional and cultural dimensions of factors that influence learning, in game design.
  • Demonstrate competency in one of the following areas: the technical development of digital games for learning; the learning design of digital games; the methods for research and evaluation of games for learning; or in a related area as deemed appropriate by program faculty.

Students will also be prepared to use evidence-based research to facilitate the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of programs that integrate games in a broad range of formal and informal learning settings. To that end, students will be able to:

  • Apply theories in the learning sciences and cognitive science that are relevant to effective game design for learning, for a broad range of learners, using theory in both formal and informal settings; and drawing implications from these theories, in the form of instructional and learning strategies and principles, to design effective games for learning.
  • Demonstrate competency in conducting design-based research to support the development of effective games for learning, including usability research, playtesting and various approaches to evaluation.

Games for Learning Institute

Students enrolled in the Games for Learning M.S. program benefit from exposure to and participation in the Games for Learning Institute's ongoing research endeavors and emerging ideas about gaming. The establishment of the Games for Learning Institute (G4LI) demonstrates NYU's leadership in research on games in learning environments. G4LI, which involves nine other universities, conducts research on the design of effective games for learning in a variety of formal and informal settings, in school and out of school, at a computer/game console and on the go, and for a broad variety of learners.

G4LI is co-directed by Jan Plass, Professor of Educational Communication and Technology at NYU Steinhardt.

Comparison with Other Programs

The Games for Learning M.S. program is different from the M.A. program in Digital Media Design for Learning (DMDL), which prepares professionals who design, implement and evaluate a wider range of multimedia for learning, including educational web environments, video drama and documentary, and other genres in digital form. The M.S. in Games for Learning also differs from graduate degrees focusing on general game design by focusing on the unique training required to design games that focus on learning.

New York University is a leader in the field of emerging media. Find other programs in this field at NYU. 

Career Opportunities

The M.S. degree program prepares students for careers as:

  • directors of projects related to games for learning
  • learning game designers
  • game researchers
  • program evaluators

Graduates work in such settings as:

  • university-based research centers
  • community agencies
  • not-for profit organizations
  • school systems
  • private industry, such as game design studios, educational design firms, and educational research firms

Program Benefits for International Students

If you’re an international student, you may be able to work in the United States after graduation for an extended period of time. Most students studying on F-1 visas will be eligible for 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT) off-campus work authorization. F-1 students in this program may also be eligible for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics) OPT extension, allowing you to extend your time in the United States to pursue degree-related work experience for a total of 36 months or 3 years. For more information on who can apply for this extension and how, see NYU’s Office of Global Services: STEM OPT.


For complete details on how to apply and application requirements, visit our application guide on the Graduate Admissions website.

Please direct admissions-related inquiries to:
Steinhardt Graduate Admissions 
212 998 5030 |

Please direct other correspondence regarding the program to:
Program in Games for Learning
82 Washington Square East, 6th Floor
New York NY 10003
212 998 5520

Prospective students are encouraged to sign up using the Request Info button above to learn about program events and information sessions, held both face-to-face and online each semester. Please see the FAQ for more information.