Welcome! Seriously! Playfully!

The Media and Information department at Michigan State University offers an undergraduate specialization in game design and development, an MA degree with concentration in HCI and emphasis on games and meaningful play, a PhD in Media and Information Studies, and a 3 course graduate certificate in serious games that can be completed on campus or fully online. November 15 is the deadline to apply for Spring 2016 admission.

The Games and Meaningful Play group of faculty and students and the GEL Lab (Games for Entertainment and Learning) bring together diverse experts who design and study meaningful play and serious games.   Our motto is, CHANGE THE WORLD WITH US.  If you’re interested, we’d love to have you join us.

Games and Meaningful Play in our PhD Program

The Media and Information Studies PhD program at Michigan State University seeks outstanding students who wish to join a unique interdisciplinary program of study at the intersection of the social sciences and technical systems. The faculty develop and apply research about media and society and evolving information and communication technologies to important problems. The program engages students to become active scholars, teachers, and leaders in the media and information fields.

Students and faculty attending the MIS PhD Symposium

Students and faculty attending the MIS PhD Symposium

The PhD program is offered jointly by the Department of Advertising + Public Relations, the School of Journalism, and the Department of Media and Information, the PhD program gives students access to fifty PhD faculty with research interests that span important current and emerging issues in media and information studies. Students get involved early on in projects, complementing theoretical coursework with hands-on research experiences.

Particularly strong research interests of our faculty include:
• Internet Studies
• Social media and social computing
• Human-computer interaction
• Socio technical systems and collective intelligence
• Management information systems
• ICT and health
• Information and Communication and Development (ICTD)
• Games and meaningful play
• Media effects on individuals and society
• Media, information and Internet policy

The deadline for applications for the 2016 cohort is January 1, 2016. In addition, we invite applications throughout the year as we accept students into the PhD program on a rolling admissions process. Steps to apply are detailed at http://cas.msu.edu/misphd/.

All of our current students are supported by graduate teaching and research assistantships with generous stipends of $2000+ per month, tuition remission, and health benefits. University fellowships, dissertation completion fellowships, summer research fellowships, and stipends for travel to academic conferences round out the resources available for students.

Over three-fourths of our graduates are hired into faculty positions at four-year institutions at graduation. They are found in departments of mass media, journalism, advertising, public relations, and information studies across the United States and around the world. Others go on to careers in public service and business.

The 2015 QS World University rankings place MSU 6th in the world and 5th in North America in communication and media studies. The National Communication Association (NCA), in their most recent doctoral program reputation study, ranked MSU’s Ph.D. programs as No. 1 in educating researchers in communication technology, and in the top four in mass communication. Michigan State University ranked third in frequency of faculty publication in communication in a study reported in The Electronic Journal of Communication in 2012.

East Lansing and the greater Lansing area offer a vibrant cultural environment with easy access to a variety of outdoor activities and the scenic beauty of our state year-round. Blending urban and sub-urban living, it is one of the nation’s most affordable places to complete a doctoral program in media and information studies.

To learn more, see our web page, at: http://cas.msu.edu/programs/graduate-studies/apply/

Serious Game Graduate Certificate Information Session

Michigan State University (MSU) is holding an online information session on our online Serious Game Design (SGD) Graduate Certificate Program.

Date: Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
Time: 8pm (Eastern Time Zone)
RSVP: heeter@msu.edu

Michigan State University offers a carefully crafted three-course, transcriptable, university graduate certificate in serious games which can be completed either fully online or on campus through hybrid courses which meet in the classroom with an online component.

The program is designed to give game designers, business people, teachers, and researchers graduate-level insight into serious game theories, serious game design, and human-centered design.

Our online graduate certificate students include game industry professionals, fortune 500 and small business professionals in many different fields, museum designers, corporate trainers, university professors, and K-12 teachers with an interest in serious games and a desire to add additional knowledge and skills in this important domain.

Example board games for MI 830 Final Projects

Example board games for MI 830 Final Projects

Our graduate certificate students also include MSU Media & Information graduate students, other MSU graduate students such as MAET (Educational Technology) MA students, and doctoral students at other universities who are interested in serious games and gamification.

The certificate program is available to students enrolled in any MSU graduate degree program.  The certificate program is also available to non-MSU students as a stand-alone, 3-course graduate certificate program.   All three graduate certificate courses may be taken either as an on-campus hybrid course (section 001) or a fully online course (section 730).

The application deadline for Spring 2016 admission is November 15.

The information session is online (voice, chat and video), with faculty and students from MSU to answer questions.

For more Web-based information on the MSU Serious Game Graduate Certificate Program, please visit


You can also email the graduate certificate program director, Professor Carrie Heeter (heeter@msu.edu).

MSU Graduate Certificate in Serious Games: Now with BADGES!

The MSU Graduate Certificate Program in Serious Games now comes with badges. You earn one badge for each of the three courses, as soon as you successfully complete the course. And you earn a composite badge when you complete all three courses and earn the certificate.
Serious Game Certificate BadgesYou can post the badges you earn directly on your personal web site and your linked page, with a link to this web page describing the badges and criteria. We also award the badges through Mozilla’s Backpack badge system.

Instructions on how to obtain the digital badge will be provided upon successful completion of each course. If you already completed a course or the certificate but did not receive instructions on how to claim your badges, contact Carrie (heeter@msu.edu).

In fall 2012, MSU launched our fully online graduate certificate program in serious game design and research. We were experienced online teachers and we were clear about what courses to offer and key concepts, skills, and theories that would provide a great foundation for serious game design.

I didn’t realize how amazing it would be to get to teach passionate, diverse, incredibly expert “students” from across the US and around the world.

• Many are K-12 teachers or university professors.
• Some are doctoral students.
• They teach or study computer science or english or history or art or math or  education or HCI…
• Some work in the game industry.
• Some are corporate trainers.
• Some work in Fortune 500 companies.
• One designs exhibits for a science museum.
• Another creates visitors experiences for fisheries and wildlife centers.

As the program enters its third year, we’ve learned a lot.

• We’ve been fine tuning ways to encourage each learner to approach class assignments to optimize their personal learning goals.
• We’ve been refining ways to connect classmates with each other so they benefit from each other’s ideas and experience.
• We’ve refined assignments and approaches to ensure that our courses, along with being full of content and projects, are sensitive to busy professional’s lives.

Wizard CarrieSo, if you’re passionate and awesome and interested in learning more about designing and studying game to change the world, apply to our program. Find more information here. If you have questions, email me, Professor Carrie Heeter, heeter@msu.edu.

The deadline to apply for admission for Spring 2016 is November 15!

It’s Time to Apply!

The deadline for online, certificate-only applications for spring  2016 admission to the Michigan State University Graduate Certificate Program in Serious Games is November 15, 2015.  That means you need to get started now!

Here is a link to information about the program. And here is application information for online students.

Please contact me for more information.

Carrie Heeter, PhD, Professor of Media and Information

Serious Game Alumni #11: Lissy Torres


This is me! My face, right here.

I’m Lissy Torres, the graduate student who has been the social media “voice” of the Michigan State University serious game graduate certificate program for the last 2 years. I’m graduating this week! Carrie Heeter, director of the graduate certificate program, thought it would be appropriate to end the semester by having me interview myself! (Thanks, Carrie?)

And with that short intro, a bit about me, Lissy Torres, and my adventures in serious gaming at MSU.

Let’s start at the end. I defended my MA project last week, and I’m pretty sure it made at least one of my committee members blush.

I certainly didn’t set out to develop an R-rated game (for mature audiences only).  I’m actually a shy person. Trust me, I am not someone who regularly (or ever) uses pickup lines to meet people at a bar.  So how is it that I came to create Activists Looking for Action, a hilarious game that invites players to create pick-up lines based on serious issues? It all started with #activistspickuplines on Twitter.

I was inspired by all the great, funny pick-up lines that were being generated by the hashtag, which were also occasionally witty and contextual. I took the inspiration to one of my last classes, Implementing Interactivity, where I prototyped it for the first time and realized that it needed a somewhat close-knit group of friends to be successful, as well as a few other tweaks.

Affirmative ActionPolice Brutality









A couple of the cards from the game. A judge draws a card and players write and perform pick-up lines to each other.

Taking from my Serious Game and game design courses here at MSU, I created this awkward, potentially offensive, educational card game that kept players intrinsically motivated to continue. In my three playtests, all players enthusiastically played through the game. And with a little prodding, it seemed possible that the opinions of the players were slowly changing to view serious topics as something to be discussed and explored, one of the major goals of my thesis.

The best part is that the closer the group of friends, the more outrageous the pick-up lines became. And some players frowned upon them, and wagged their fingers, while other players laughed uproariously. It was clear to me that my thesis was successful, thanks to the help of my amazing committee, and also what I took with me from each class.

During my first semester, in Theories of Interaction Design, I developed a curiosity for background research and for designing games. In Understanding Users, I learned the tools for testing and interviewing. In my second semester, during Foundations of Serious Games, I discovered many theories, such as scaffolding, but also concepts of fun and how to build them into an effective serious game.


Looking back, it’s easy to see just how my thesis started. Activists Looking for Action is my solution to introducing the fun that can come with learning about topics that are typically not so fun. It encourages players to talk about them and discover them among friends, in a safe environment. The idea of Activists Looking for Action is to make people comfortable with the uncomfortable, and learn to like exploring issues and maybe someday even doing something about those issues.

Activists Looking for Action is being submitted to IndieCade, hopefully for showcase and more playtesting in October. In the meantime, feel free to make your own card set, submit your pick-up lines, or tell me how the game goes!

I’m grateful for my experiences here in the serious game certificate program and the Media and Information program. I’ve absorbed a lot from professors and my peers, online and in person, and even though I will miss being a student, I aim to take what I’ve learned and make something seriously fun.