Carnegie Mellon University

The National High School Game Academy (NHSGA) allows dedicated high school students to experience the modern video game development process and, in doing so, learn skills used in those processes.

NHSGA encourages students interested in art, music, design, and programming to apply for this interdisciplinary program. Students are encouraged to expand their own creative possibilities in a unique blend of left- and right-brain college-level work.

Sharing methods and paradigms used in Carnegie Mellon's Masters of Entertainment Technology (M.E.T.) graduate program, the program includes an exciting blend of hands-on exercises combined with traditional lecture and discussion. Through classwork and team projects, NHSGA gives all students a taste of state-of-the-art video game development and provides instruction in the collaborative skills required for success in college and beyond. The curriculum is designed to elevate the students’ rigor and discipline and prepare them for the college experience. 

 

 

Curriculum

During the program, students are divided into teams of two artists, two programmers, and a sound designer/composer. One student is assigned to be the producer. All students receive deep instruction in all areas and leave our preparatory coursework ready to perform any role on the team to which they're assigned.

NHSGA coursework is divided into two phases, Class Instruction and Collaborative Projects.

Class Instruction

In the first two weeks of the program, class instruction consists of daily lectures and workshops centered on crucial skills needed to build a video game. Topics include Programming in Unity, 2D art, 3D art, project management, storytelling, game design, and sound design/music composition. These all receive equal weight. Homework is assigned in every class, and the NHSGA instructors grade and evaluate the homework in order to assign the students to their ideal role when team assignments arrive.

Collaborative Projects

Over the last four weeks of the program, each student then builds two collaborative projects. The first is a “Lightning Round,” where teams are first selected and then given one week to build from scratch an old-school arcade game such as Pac-Man or Galaga. This dynamic week teaches the students how best to navigate collaboration and teamwork in an intense, deadline driven environment. During this week, students work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on their project with hands-on mentoring of the Instructors, followed by teamwork back in the dorms. The teams present their interim work, where the students first experience faculty critique. This week ends with Family Weekend, where each team shows their game along with a formal presentation on their process, their challenges, their learnings and their successes.

The Second Project lasts three weeks. In this project the teams are first shuffled by the faculty to maximize each student’s potential for success based on our observations of their performance in the Lightning Round. This game is an all-original idea, using any technology available at the ETC, designed to become a portfolio piece the student could use in the college admission process. This project begins with a pitch process where the team presents three ideas to the faculty. One is selected and the team builds it from scratch, using the expertise they acquired in the Lightning Round combined again with hand-on mentoring by the faculty. 

 

Eligibility

NHSGA is looking for students who can demonstrate proficiency and passion in one of three general areas: visual arts, programming, or game design. On the online application, students will be asked to select how they would like to be evaluated (programming, game design, or visual arts). Considering this selection, the eligibility requirements listed below will apply.

 To be eligible for the NHSGA program students must:

Programming

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).

  • Have an academic average of B (3.0/4.0) or better.

  • Have a strong interest in computer science and demonstrate the ability to succeed in rigorous computer science coursework or projects.

    • Coding experience is preferred. Interest in art or game design is a plus.
  • Have a strong interest in the entertainment industry (film, games, music, etc.)

  • Demonstrate the ability to succeed in creative, collaborative coursework or projects.

Visual Arts

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).

  • Have an academic average of B (3.0/4.0) or better.

  • Have a strong interest in design and art and a passion for visual aspects of the entertainment industry (film, games, music, etc.)

    • Coding experience is a plus.

  • Demonstrate the ability to succeed in creative, collaborative coursework and/or projects.

Game Design

  • Be at least 16 years old by the program start date (to participate in the residential program).

  •  Have an academic average of B (3.0/4.0) or better.

  • Have a strong interest in games, whether video games or tabletop games, and posses the ability to communicate that interest in verbal,  written, and/or visual form.

  • Coding, music, or storytelling experience is a plus.

  • Demonstrate the ability to succeed in creative, collaborative coursework and/or projects.

Application Requirements

The application for the NHSGA program will consist of the following:

  • Completed Online Application
  • Unofficial Transcript
  • Standardized Test Scores (optional)
  • One Letter of Recommendation
  • Response to the following essay prompt (300-500 words):
    • What do you hope to gain from participating in the Carnegie Mellon Pre-College program?
  • Sample(s) of your creative work of all types (videos, music, images, art, writings, poetry, etc)
  • Response to one of the following NHSGA short answer questions (300-500 words):
    • Tell us about your favorite game. Why do you like it?
    • Tell us about a time you worked within a team.
    • Tell us why you would like to participate in the NHSGA.
    • Tell us about something you are passionate about (outside of school and gaming).

Frequently Asked Questions

The National High School Game Academy classes are held on our satellite campus at the Entertainment Technology Center. Students are transported by bus to and from their classes every day.

If a student is interested in computer graphics, they may be interested in a variety of areas. Computer graphics may be included in the National High School Game Academy, Pre-College Design and/or some of the computer programming classes within Summer Session. It is important to note that while computer graphics may be included in all of the programs, it will not be the sole focus.