Computer games are changing our world. They are many things: a major new media form, a rapidly growing international industry, a driver of technological and cultural innovation, and a research area where cutting edge approaches are applied to challenging engineering, social, and design problems.
At UC Santa Cruz, researchers and students have been developing the future of games since 2006, when the Jack Baskin School of Engineering started the first undergraduate game major in the University of California system. A leader in game research, UC Santa Cruz also 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.
UCSC ranked 7th on the Princeton Review's list of the "Top 25 Graduate Schools to Study Game Design for 2014" and 21st on the list of the top 25 undergraduate schools. UC Santa Cruz is the only UC campus on either list and one of only three west coast schools on the graduate schools list.
The Center for Games and Playable Media was formally established in 2010, building on work done since the founding of the game 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. UC Santa Cruz faculty involved in computer game research include Michael Mateas, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Marilyn Walker, Jim Whitehead, Arnav Jhala, Sri Kurniawan, Warren Sack, Soraya Murray, James Davis, Kimberly Lau, John Funge, and Daniel Friedman.
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, a serious games initiative tackling conflict resolution. Agencies funding game research at UC Santa Cruz include the MacArthur Foundation, Knight Foundation, National Science Foundation (NSF), Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).