Game Lab Summer Institute

Thank you for visiting the Game Lab Summer Institute Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page! Here, you will find answers to questions that students and parents most commonly ask us specifically about this program.

Still have questions? Check out the general Summer Institutes FAQ page at


Despite the transition to an online/distance-learning institute, the curriculum and educational goals of the program remain the same: to deliver a comprehensive, four-course introduction to game making as an artistic practice. These courses will be taught by the same instructors and teaching assistants, and students will be working on mostly the same projects they would complete in an in-person program. To facilitate a virtual classroom experience, the program will combine live, instructor-led online class sessions with live lab sessions with teaching assistants on a daily basis. All instructor-led class sessions also will be recorded and posted each day for students who cannot access the live classroom. All of this will be augmented by supplemental resources made available to students through a classroom web portal for each of the four courses. Students will receive a digital welcome packet prior to the summer institute, which will lay out all the details and procedures for online instruction.

What background are students expected to have? Are beginners welcome to apply?

We strongly encourage students with an interest in art and games to consider enrolling in the program. A familiarity with using computer applications and some exposure to computer code is useful but not required. Students are not expected to have a formal background in any of the subjects we teach at the Game Lab Summer Institute. 

Students who already have demonstrable experience in game development or art can apply for a merit-based scholarship.

Is this program designed to help students develop a portfolio?

Students are certainly welcome to use the projects they make in the Game Lab Summer Institute in their own art portfolios and college applications. More broadly, however, we view the program experience as a foundational opportunity--not only to learn some of the techniques and tools for making games, but also to cultivate a passion for developing as a game artist beyond our program.

Which game genres will students be studying?

Typically, students create a physical, tabletop game based on their own ideas and experiences, and they develop game art assets such as characters and environments that could be found in a videogame. The themes, aesthetics, and generic content of the games are up to the student to decide. As a rule, we seek to expand students’ ideas of what games can be about, steering them towards non-traditional or personal subjects and away from the more typical game genres and images (such as fantasy and war).

Does this program explore careers in game design?

This program gives students an idea of the work and expertise that go into game creation. Students are exposed to the full pipeline of game creation, both digital and physical. However, our program does not go into detail about specific types of careers in the field of game design, instead focusing on the act of independent game creation.

What materials will students need to bring? Is a laptop required?

As an online/distance-learning institute for 2020, all class instruction and student work will need to be facilitated through student-acquired hardware and software. The exact specifications are listed below. In most cases, these requirements are already met by most desktop or laptop computers students already have. Extra software may have to be purchased by students (specifically, Adobe Creative Cloud) through a cloud-based subscription for a nominal fee. Please email the UCLA Game Lab Summer Institute if you have any technical questions at


Desktop/laptop recommended specifications:

  • CPU: Multicore Intel/AMD processor with 64-bit support
  • GPU: 2GB of GPU VRAM
  • Microsoft® Windows® 10 / macOS v10.13
  • RAM 16GB recommended
  • 20 GB of available hard-disk space; Additional disk space for disk cache (10 GB recommended)


Adobe Creative Cloud - All Apps subscription for one month

Unity (free):


Also recommended:

  • Keyboard and mouse
  • Web camera (built into computer is fine)
  • Microphone (built into computer is fine)

How can parents see their student’s work?

The Game Lab Summer Institute typically concludes each year with a gallery-styled exhibition of all student work developed during the program. However, as an online program this summer, the exhibition likely will be moved to a website where students and parents will be able to see all completed projects created during the program. Also, after the institute has ended, digital files of all student work will continue to be available online for downloading.

What is the homework load like?

The courses are built around daily lesson plans and work assignments--so students should expect to submit or update their work each day to an online form or folder. However, if students miss online class sessions (either live or recorded), or fall behind for any reason, instructors and teaching assistants may ask students to put in some extra time to catch up with overall course progress. Falling too far behind may result in a Not Pass grade if assignments cannot be completed in a timely fashion.









Program Dates

JULY 12 - JULY 23, 2021

JULY 26 - AUGUST 6, 2021

Important Dates

FEBRUARY 15 - APRIL 1: Summer Scholars Support for California High School Students Application Period

FEBRUARY 15: Registration Opens

MAY 1: Payment due in full

JUNE 15: Refund Deadline - Refund Deadline for Summer Institutes

JULY 12-23: Game Lab (A) - Session A

JULY 26 - AUGUST 6: Game Lab (B) - Session B

UCLA Summer Sessions 2021 will be remote. Learn More.