About SMU Guildhall

20 Years of Changing the Game 

Built By the Industry, For the Industry

For 20 years, SMU Guildhall has equipped the next generation of aspiring game developers for success in a dynamic, evolving industry. The program was established in 2003 as the deep interest and at the specific request of gaming industry leaders to equip the next generation of leaders and game creators with the technical skills and instincts required to drive the evolution of gaming.

Simply put, we were formed to shape the games industry, and our programs and class offerings have been built around that mission by employing world-class educators, modeling present-day industry methods in our team-based courses, leveraging two full decades of industry partnerships in and out of the classroom, and contributing to the furthering and expansion of the industry via both exceptional technical and creative training as well as changemaking collaborative research endeavors.  

Historical Milestones & Notables

20-Year Retrospective: Take a Peek at Our Past 20 Years


5 Things That Make SMU Guildhall Different  

1. Our Reputation — Top Ranked & Globally Recognized Across Two Decades of Sustained, Impactful Success

Since 2003, SMU Guildhall has garnered a strong reputation within the game development and academic communities for its quality programs, student work, research, and outcomes—in a field that is vastly ever-growing. The Princeton Review has consistently ranked SMU Guildhall in its Top 10 listings of graduate schools for Game Design out of over 150 programs in the United States, and SMU Guildhall has been part of a growing number of world-changing research initiatives and partnerships. The program’s achievements can be seen in its high-caliber game successes, program and student game awards and contest wins, consistent high rankings among the top graduate game design programs across the world, and graduate job placements amongst 1000+ in-demand alumni who have worked at 350+ studios worldwide. It’s long held a seat in the Top 10 rankings for game development programs internationally by the Princeton Review. In addition to its Team Game Production curriculum, the Guildhall has been commended for the high quality of its faculty of industry veterans and professionals as well as its career services achievements. 

2. Faculty of Industry Veterans — Decades of Experience, Serving as Mentors

With SMU Guildhall’s low student-to-faculty ratio, students learn from and are mentored by our faculty of successful game developers, who have worked with over 40 leading game studios including: Activision/Blizzard, Atari, Day 1, Electronic Arts, Gearbox, id, LucasArts, Microsoft, Oculus, Origin Systems, Playful, Red Storm, Retro, Robot, Rovio, Sega, Sony, Terminal Reality, Ubisoft, Valve, and many more. Full-time faculty have worked on more than 290 professional games across three decades. 

3.  Strong Industry Partnerships — In Class, In Career Development, and In Research

Industry greats from around the world partner with us annually to provide insight to our students, serve as guest lecturers and advisors, and help to continually refine and enhance our curriculum. Our history of success and industry connections enables this continued legacy of collaboration, as does our location in Dallas, Texas. Recognized as one of the top places in the U.S. to live, work, learn and play, Dallas is: the nation's 4th largest metropolitan area; a leading center for business, innovation, culture and service; one of the birth places of the video game industry; and home to a growing ecosystem of game studios, app developers, and digital technology companies. This enables us to employ successful local developers as adjunct faculty, many of whom work at studios in the daytime and teach here in the evenings, and work with a multitude of companies and thoughtleaders in classroom endeavors, research endeavors, and industry pairings. 

4. We Do More — More Games, More Specializations, and More Student Success    

SMU Guildhall is the only program that offers specializations in all four cornerstones of video game development: Art, Design, Production, and Programming.Students develop their skills in specialization-specific classes and complete independent research to inform Master’s Theses and Directed Focus Studies that pursue passion projects, analyze current industry trends, and solve critical issues.

Student portfolios are competitive, boasting both individual work and team games. The quality and quantity of our student games, and their award-winning reputation, is a key reason many students apply to SMU Guildhall and that employers seek to hire our alumni. Guildhall students work in cross-disciplinary teams to create 3+ commercial quality 2D and 3D games in the style and pace of the industry, developing for multiple platforms using today's best game engines.

As of 2024, more than 1000 students have completed the program, over 625 master’s degrees have been awarded, and students have completed 2124 directed focus studies, 647 theses and 646 team games. Since 2017, SMU Guildhall has published 25 games on the Steam gaming platform, which are showcased alongside commercially produced titles and have garnered over a million downloads and positive reviews by gamers worldwide. In addition to publishing success, the work of our students has been recognized by game studios and publishers across the globe including Epic Games, which has routinely featured our students' work in their semi-annual Best-Of "sizzle" reel.

5. We are Changemarkers — Leading World-Changing Research for Good

Incredible things are happening here to change not just the future of the video game industry, but the world. SMU Guildhall Director Gary Brubaker recalls that in 2003, the idea of getting a degree in video games and making a career in the field raised eyebrows; it was even joked about on late-night TV talk shows. Fast forward to 2023, and we see expansive evidence of the impact, value, and importance of what we do. Research forecasts that the global video games market will grow to $521 billion in revenue with 3.1 billion users by 2027 (Statista). And impressive initiatives are being implemented across the world using game technology, systems, and methodologies in both research and training within the medical and mental healthcare, education, defense, and business industries — and beyond. SMU Guildhall faculty and research teams have likewise been heavily involved in research initiatives regarding lifesaving cancer treatment and surgical training, adult literacy, dating violence prevention, and more.