The UCLA Game Lab Summer Institute introduces high school students to game-making as a form of artistic practice, teaching them the techniques and tools that will help them develop analog and digital games that reflect their own creative voice and vision. No previous game-making skills are required, but students with an interest in games and in the visual arts in particular will find the curriculum especially stimulating and rewarding.

Students in the program develop a solid aesthetic and technical foundation in various aspects of game design--but just as importantly, they begin learning how to express their own, personal ideas through game-making and game projects.



Taught by alumni of the internationally renowned UCLA Game Lab, the two-week program leads students through four, hands-on courses in game development. These workflow-oriented classes focus on:

  • Game Design : Learning the fundamentals of game design
  • Chracter Animation : Creating compelling game characters
  • Worldbuilding : Building game worlds
  • Game Programming : Programming games
By the end of the two weeks, students will have created complete games or game assets in each of the four classes. This work is exhibited on the last day of the program in a gallery-like installation at UCLA, and students leave the program with game art they can include in their college-application portfolios.

Game Design

Taught by Aliah M. Darke

About the course

This section focuses on the fundamentals of game design for tabletop game forms. Through in-lab instruction, students will learn the essential elements of making compelling games, such as meaningful player choice, multiplayer dynamics, chance, and rule design. The final project will be a board or card game built around a personal experience or point of view.


About the instructor

Aliah M. Darke is a media artist, game designer, and social justice “Wario.” She wrote An Open Letter to Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey; curated Building Code: Developing Mixed Use Space in Virtual Reality; and created the award-winning card game Objectif, which explores the intersection of race, beauty and attraction. Aliah is a co-founder of Voidlab, a feminist art + tech collective and a resident of the UCLA Game Lab, a research lab which supports the creation of experimental and expressive games. Aliah has a B.F.A. and M.F.A from UCLA and teaches game design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Character Animation

Taught by Nick Crockett

About the course

Games give us avatars to control; this section provides an introduction in how to create playable characters through 3D modeling and animation. Students will use Maya, a state-of-the-art 3D modeling and animation application, to learn essential 3D skills like rigging, weight painting, UV mapping, modeling, and animation.


About the instructor

Nick Crockett makes computer games, animation, theatrical game-shows, toys, and costumes. He is currently working with Eddo Stern and Steven Amrhein on Vietnam Romance, a computer game, collectible card game, live puppet show, and video installation. Along the way he's also helped develop virtual reality applications for space exploration, and taught kindergarteners how to make arcade machines out of cardboard and duct tape. Features include giant monsters, awkward touching, buttons that poke back, software that relies on people behind curtains, and hardware that runs on masking tape and hope. Nick holds a BA in Design | Media Art from UCLA and is an alum of the UCLA Game Lab. He is currently pursuing an MFA at the Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Art.

World Building

Taught by Theo Triantafyllidis

About the course

Videogames rely on worldbuilding to give game environments narrative potential and playful motivation. In this section, students will create a game environment in the Unity3D game engine and fill it with environmental elements such as buildings, plants, terrain, and lighting. The end result will be a navigable environment that expresses the creative decisions of each student.


About the instructor

Theo Triantafyllidis is an artist and architect from Greece. He got his MFA from UCLA, Design | Media Arts, under scholarships by UCLA and the Onassis Foundation. Previously, he earned a diploma of architecture from the National Technical University of Athens. His work, research and teaching are focused on virtual and augmented reality, video games, simulations and worldbuilding. He is currently based in LA.

Mobile Programming

Taught by Chris Reilly

About the course

The last section guides students through the process of creating a playable game for a mobile device. Using p5.js, students will build a videogame, playtest the results, and make refinements as part of an iterative design process. Students will engage with specific coding exercises, which will introduce them to the fundamentals of programming for games.


About the instructor

Chris Reilly is a Detroit artist, hacker and teacher. Chris is Assistant Professor of Art at Eastern Michigan University’s School of Art & Design; he has also taught New Media and Digital Fabrication courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as authoring 3D modeling/animation courses for lynda.com. Chris holds an MFA from in Media Arts from UCLA and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.