Independent & Serious Games at UCA

Games that have meaning beyond entertainment are the focus of our new MA Independent & Serious Games degree course at UCA Farnham.

To meet the ever-changing landscape of digital games, which are now being incorporated and used in the worlds of advertising, museums, medical training, psychology, education and theatre, this course examines how games and interactive media are constantly and deeply intertwined. It will help develop you as a new kind of interactive creator, ready for a career in experience design or independent games.

So, if you want to work in smaller and independent games studios, apply interactivity to your established creative practice, or work in industries bordering the games industry, this course is for you.

You'll combine an advanced exploration of games design with solid technical skills, in order to create games at an independent level. You'll also focus on critical analysis and thinking as you work - this will enable you to craft your games mechanics with a supporting message or a specific goal in mind.

You'll be supported in your studies by our team of academic staff and gain insight from our established industry links, and have access to our extensive facilities. 


Course entry options

Select from the options below to find out more about the different study options available for this course:

What you'll study

What you'll

The content of the course may be subject to change. Curriculum content is provided as a guide.

For our students coming from a non-UK educational background, UCA has launched an Integrated International Pre-Masters year. On this course you’ll prepare for postgraduate study with a mix of online and face-to-face learning that will give you the study skills required to complete a Master’s, and you’ll also improve your English for academic study.

Your launch week is the chance get to know your peers and start working collaboratively.

Expressive Game Design
From basic design tools to conceptualizing, prototyping and critically play testing games, you will be able to craft and formalise game systems tailored towards end user engagement. Within this unit you will design and prototype compelling game mechanics for immersive play, which can support a given message, or meaning other than for commercial entertainment.

In addition to learning game design methods, you will learn how to talk about and understand games, deconstructing them and working out how game mechanics create experiential spaces.

Games Research and Professional Contexts 1
In this hybrid unit, you will get the analytical tools to not only interrogate and interpret existing games and gameplay experiences in written and verbal form, but to apply what you learn to their practice in a reflective report.   

You will learn to synthesise theoretical research methods and industry practices of game evaluation to provide a critically informed and reflective toolset for analysing and critically assessing games, gameplay experiences, and their practice.

You will learn about a range of methods for analysing video games on the level of their content and form drawing upon established research practices within the academy for analysing texts, images, and more recent Game Studies-specific approaches.

In tandem with this scholarly approach to research methods, the professional practice strand of this unit will provide you with industry and practitioner-led insights into how game design and art practices are analysed and assessed within the game development process. Delivered by industry insiders from a range of career stages and focuses, this element of the unit will provide opportunities for students to understand and apply industry standard best practice for evaluating games.

Opportunity week gives you the chance to work collaboratively to produce and replicate industry practice.

Independent and Serious Game Design and Development
This unit concentrates on narrative, visual, and procedural aspects of video games and play that may be produced for a purpose other than pure entertainment in their various forms and their design.

You will consider play and related concepts in tandem with developing the practice of narrative design and how to craft interactive narratives for successful user engagement, and gain an overview of art practices for smaller projects like indie games and interactive playable experiences. You will embody the role of a creative director, informing the boundaries of the visual language and product deliverables from their research and knowledge of the sub-genre they are working in and creating for.

Games Research and Professional Contexts 2

Includes Creative Business Start-up or Collaborative Practice Project option
Building on the methodological and analytical skills developed in Games Research and Professional Practice 1, you will be introduced to range of key concepts, theories and debates providing a conceptual lens through which to critically deconstruct game form and content. In addition, to this focus on game texts and concepts, topics will focus on players: on their experience of gameplay, on player cultures and identity and the role of game creators in shaping players as individuals and collectives. Centrally, these questions of player identities and cultures will be framed via concepts of equality, diversity, and inclusion.

In this unit, you will also choose to undertake one of the following two options:

  • A collaborative professional practice group project. This is expected to involve groups of students across the games postgraduate portfolio collaborating on a project which may be based on an industry brief.
  • A creative business start-up component, which is designed to give students from any creative discipline the opportunity to develop an idea, have it evaluated and win a prize. Throughout the process, students will develop their thinking and skills for innovation.


Independent and Serious Games Major Project
This unit serves as the culmination of the course and enables the synthesis of the knowledge and skills acquired in all the previous units. You will undertake a specialist and challenging project of your interest and choosing within independent and serious games and demonstrate a professional level of accomplishment. Optionally, the project may also involve collaboration with industry. The project will encompass research, design, development, and evaluation stages, which will be suitably planned and documented and accompanied by a set of digital assets and artefacts produced by the project.

Course specifications

Please note, syllabus content indicated is provided as a guide. The content of the course may be subject to change in line with our Student Terms and Conditions for example, as required by external professional bodies or to improve the quality of the course.

Fees & funding

Fees & financial support

Tuition fees

  • 2024/25 entry: £10,500

Tuition fees

Tuition fees

  • 2024/25 entry (MA): £18,000
  • 2024/25 entry (Integrated International Pre-Masters course - Sept & Jan): £17,500
  • 2024/25 entry (Integrated International Pre-Masters course - May): £8,750

Please note: the fees listed here are correct for the stated academic year only. For more detailed information about our course fees please see our fees and finance pages

UCA scholarships and fee discounts

At UCA we have a number of scholarships and fee discounts available to assist you with the cost of your studies.

Current UCA students and alumni may be eligible for a tuition fee discount.

Financial support

There are lots of ways you can access additional financial support to help you fund your studies - both from UCA and from external sources. Discover what support you might qualify for please see our financial support information.

Additional course costs

In addition to the tuition fees there may be other costs for your course. The things that you are likely to need to budget for to get the most out of a creative arts education will include books, printing costs, occasional or optional study trips and/or project materials.

These costs will vary according to the nature of your project work and the individual choices that you make. 

Explore our gradshow

Each year, we’re privileged to be able to share our graduates’ incredible work with the world. And now’s your chance to take a look.

Visit the online showcase


Our outstanding computer games studios have high-end PCs dedicated to games design with games systems and interactivity software including Maya, Photoshop and Substance, and Unity and Unreal games engines. There are also sound production studios, a Foley studio and pro tools suites. There is a modern library with a wealth of books, journals, special collections and online resources.

View 360 virtual tour

Games studios, UCA Farnham

Games studio, UCA Farnham

Sound studios, UCA Farnham

Library, UCA Farnham

Career opportunities


Across our gaming courses, graduates have gone on to work within large companies in the gaming industry and may work within a variety of different roles, including:

  • Games producer
  • Community manager
  • Esports producer
  • Games publisher
  • Gameplay designer
  • Technical artist

You may also wish to progress onto a PhD or MPhil research degree.

Entry & portfolio requirements

Entry & portfolio

MA course

  • A good honours degree or equivalent qualification in a related discipline


  • Relevant work experience, demonstrating your ability to study at postgraduate level.

Consideration will also be given to applicants who can make a strong case for admission in relation to a particular project and can demonstrate their potential to satisfactorily complete the course.

Portfolio requirements

For this course we will need to see your portfolio for review. You can either submit a digital portfolio or request an in-person portfolio review with the course team. Further information will be provided once you have applied.

MA course

The entry requirements will depend on the country your qualifications are from, please check the equivalent qualifications for your country:

Any additional entry requirements listed in the UK requirements section, e.g., subject requirements, work experience or professional qualifications, also apply to international applicants applying with equivalent qualifications.

Portfolio requirements

You will be required to submit a portfolio for review. Further information on specific portfolio requirements and how to submit your portfolio will be sent to you after we have reviewed your application.

MA course with Integrated International Pre-Masters course

  • A recognised bachelor degree or 3 year diploma with a strong portfolio in a relevant subject.

Any additional entry requirements listed in the UK requirements section, e.g., subject requirements, work experience or professional qualifications, also apply to international applicants applying with equivalent qualifications.

Portfolio requirements

You will be required to submit a portfolio for review. Further information on specific portfolio requirements and how to submit your portfolio will be sent to you after we have reviewed your application.

English language requirements

To study at UCA, you'll need to have a certain level of English language skill. And so, to make sure you meet the requirements of your course, we ask for evidence of your English language ability, please check the level of English language required:

Don't meet the international entry requirements or English language requirements?

You may be able to enter the course through the following entry pathways:

Apply now

Please use the following fields to help select the right application link for you: