University of California, Santa Cruz

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The Center for Games and Playable Media at UC Santa Cruz was formally established in 2010, building on work done since the founding of their videogame degree. The center houses the school's five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world.

There is a great diversity in the faculty's topics of research. Projects range from work on artificial intelligence and interactive storytelling to natural language dialogue systems, cinematic communication, procedural content generation, human computer interaction, rehabilitation games, computational photography, and level design. Members of the group have published in some of the most respected journals in the fields of game studies, game AI, and game culture. Currently, the group has more than 20 active research grants on games and is the only non-European university taking part in the European Union's SIREN Project.


UCSC ranked 7th on the Princeton Review's list of the "Top 25 Graduate Schools to Study Game Design for 2014"


Named among the world’s most beautiful college campuses by Forbes, alongside universities such as Oxford, Stanford, and Princeton. (The UCSC campus consists of 2000 acres overlooking Monterey Bay.)

Degree programs
UC Santa Cruz hosts three graduate programs with an emphasis on games — the professional M.S. in Games and Playable Media, the Digital Arts and New Media M.F.A., and the Ph.D. or M.S. in Computer Science with a games focus. There’s also The Center for Games and Playable Media, which houses the school's five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio.

Michael Mateas

Professor, Computational Media, Director, Center for Games and Playable Media

Michael Mateas helped launch the Computer Game Design degree, the first of its kind in the UC system. His work explores artificial intelligence-based art and entertainment, forging a new research discipline called Expressive AI. With Andrew Stern, he created Façade, an award-winning interactive drama that uses AI techniques to combine rich autonomous characters with interactive plot control, creating the world’s first, fully-produced, real-time, interactive story. Façade is available for free download at


James Davis

Professor, Computer Science

Katherine Isbister

Professor in the Department of Computational Media

Marilyn Walker

Professor of Computational Media and Computer Science
Head of the Natural Language and Dialogue Systems Lab at the University of California, Santa Cruz

Additional games faculty include Jim Whitehead (runs both the Augmented Design Lab and the Software Introspection Laboratory at UC Santa Cruz) and Soraya Murray (author of Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in videogames), as well as John Funge (author of Artificial Intelligence for Computer Games: An Introduction).