MA Certificate

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.  View detailed course descriptions here.

Our graduate certificate students include Media & Information graduate students, other MSU graduate students including MAET MA students, doctoral students at other universities interested in serious games and gamification.

Our online graduate certificate students also 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.

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).

Those who were available joined the end of semester online meetup for the fully online section of TC830: Foundations of Serious Games

Those who were available joined the end of semester online meetup for the fully online section of TC830: Foundations of Serious Games.

Application deadlines

For new and certificate-only students, all required application materials must be received 8 weeks prior to the new term for admission consideration.

• Spring: November 15, 2017
• Fall: June 15, 2018

*Current on-campus, non-MI students who do not need to fill out an application through the admissions page may require additional override approval to register for MI classes (i.e. MAET students). Although they may receive course enrollment approval after the deadline dates, these students may have to wait until the subsequent semester to be “admitted” to the Serious Game Design Certificate Program.

The graduate certificate can be completed as a stand-alone certificate by  learners not otherwise enrolled in an MSU degree program, such as game industry professionals already versed in game design who want to expand their knowledge to the domain of serious games, professional educators, and educational technology specialists who want to understand how and why games can be used for learning.

The certificate program exposes students to examples of the current state of the art in the different strands of serious games (games for learning, corporate training, newsgames, games for health, exergames, military games, and games for social change), distribution, and industry structure, theories to inform serious game design, and research methods for understanding players.

To be considered for admission into the graduate certificate in serious game design and research, applicants must have completed a bachelor’s degree

Academic Calendar

You can find key dates (for classes starting and ending, and holidays) here.

Required courses for MA Certificate

These can be taken in any order, on campus or fully online.

MI 831 Theories of Games and Interaction for Design

(3 credits, fall semesters)

Theories of mediated interaction including narrative theory, communication, learning, health, global and local development, and social justice to inform the design of social systems, games, and media products. The final project in this course is writing a grant proposal for a theory-driven serious game project.

MI 841 Understanding Users

(3 credits, fall semesters)

Students learn about and conduct user experience design research methods for asking and answering questions throughout the design process. Techniques include ethnographic research, interviewing, personas, focus group interviews, competitive analysis, playtesting, and usability testing.

MI 830 Foundations of Serious Games

(3 credits, spring semesters)

Rationales, principles, processes and pedagogies for serious game design. Applications of serious game genres and simulations. Funding and distribution.  In the first third of the semester, students complete a serious of short gameLab assignments through which they learn about the elements that comprise a game, the process of moving from game idea to game concept to game mechanics, and how to conduct rapid user tests of a core mechanic. For the remainder of the semester, while continuing to learn about different types and examples of serious games, students work on creating their own serious board or card game and taking it through at least one round of testing and refinement.

MSU students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program may propose an alternative graduate research methods course offered in their major in lieu of MI 841 that contributes to their expertise in serious game design and research in their chosen discipline.

Students who initially enroll only for the certificate may eventually decide to pursue a graduate degree from Michigan State University, such as an MA in Media and Information ( or a Master’s of Educational Technology (MAET) (  You may transfer up to 9 credits of graduate certificate credits towards the degree.  All three Serious Game graduate certificate courses would count towards the requirements of either program.

How to Apply