Stanford students playing a tabletop game
Photo by Chris Bennett


The Stanford community of games and game research-related websites and courses offered on campus.

Groups (Current)


Lead by Dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education, Dan Schwartz, AAALab stands for Awesomely Adaptive and Advanced Learning and Behavior. They create pedagogy, technology, and assessments that prepare students to continue learning and adapting. Our niche is the integration of cognitive science methods with years of classroom and programming experience to create novel and carefully tested technologies and theories of learning. A theme throughout our research is how people’s facility for spatial cognition can inform and influence processes of learning, instruction, assessment, and problem-solving. The AAALab has been primarily supported by the National Science Foundation, Department of Education, MacArthur, Hewlett, and Moore Foundations. It contributes to national panels, as well as advising companies and projects internationally, and it is a member of an NSF-funded Science of Learning Center called LIFE and Stanford’s H-STAR Institute.


Online computer game at Stanford University School of Medicine and developed along with scientists at Carnegie Mellon University. Eterna is a game portal that allows players to design virtual RNA structures. Eterna most recently hosted a game event challenging players to build an RNA molecule that could simplify the widespread use of a tuberculosis test.

Stanford GSB Gaming Club

The purpose of the Gaming Club is to provide an environment for people to explore the gaming industry. The club focuses on two goals — one on the business side and one on the social side. On the business side, the club provides a place to gain insights into the industry and help students develop new venture ideas. On the social side, the club provides opportunities to network with other people interested in the gaming industry both within and outside Stanford GSB, Stanford, and the Bay Area.

Stanford Libraries Video Games Collections

Stanford Library is proud to house a number of archival, digital, and serial collections dedicated to the preservation and study of the history of video games.

Stanford Video Game Developers (Discord link)

SVGD is a student club open to anybody interested in game development at Stanford. All are welcome to join and meeting, design, and develop with artists, programmers, designers, storyboarders and cool people.


A student group that aims to promote the outreach and development of virtual reality and augmented reality at Stanford, and to create a community for students interested in such technologies.

Virtual Reality Human Interaction Lab

The mission of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab is to understand the dynamics and implications of interactions among people in immersive virtual reality simulations (VR), and other forms of human digital representations in media, communication systems, and games. Our work is centered on using empirical, behavioral science methodologies to explore people as they interact in these digital worlds. However, oftentimes it is necessary to develop new gesture tracking systems, three-dimensional modeling techniques, or agent-behavior algorithms in order to answer these basic social questions. Consequently, we also engage in research geared toward developing new ways to produce these VR simulations.

Groups (Previous)

Games and Interactive Media Seminar (GAIMS)

Interactive media and games increasingly pervade and shape our society. In addition to their dominant roles in entertainment, videogames play growing roles in education, arts, science, and health. These talks bring together a diverse set of experts to provide interdisciplinary perspectives on these media regarding their history, technologies, scholarly research, industry, artistic value, and potential future. As the speakers and title suggest, the series also provides a topical lens for the diverse aspects of our lives.

Critical Gaming Workshop

Our main goal is to create a space in which people from diverse academic fields and gaming backgrounds can come together to discuss video games in a critical way. Stanford University has many scholars working on games and new media without any official group to organize discussions, share resources, and workshop ideas; we hope to create that space. It is our goal that members not only explore new video games but that they also become more familiar with the theory and critical ideas through the hands-on approach of gaming. In our discussions, we intend to foster interdisciplinary approaches to video gaming—including performance, film, critical theory, and game design—by providing readings and organizing speakers and discussion moderators. Graduate students and faculty from any department interested in discussing gaming with a theoretical approach will be welcome to join.

Stanford Video Game Association

SVGA is a community on campus dedicated to providing students with events on all-things-gaming. SVGA hosts quarterly LAN parties, company visits, and is working to bring game design classes to the student body.

Stanford Game Developers (SGD) club

Stanford Game Developers is a new student group that brings people together to talk game design, work on games together, and celebrate each other’s work. This club puts on are small get-togethers called “Critical Let’s Plays” to play indie games and talk about them, and annual “game jams” that bring in students with different skillsets to spend the weekend making games together. The group is looking for more students to join club leadership, especially women and people of color!

Stanford Gaming Society

Long-running campus group that offers a mailing list of events and a weekly broad gaming night.

Game Design and game-related courses at Stanford (Current)

Adventures in Video Gaming and Society (STS 144)

By framing video games as complex sociotechnical systems, this course works to reveal the threads of identity, power, and politics present throughout the video games that, in turn, configure players and play. Although the primary ‘texts’ of the course will be video games themselves, we will intersect these readings with work in STS, the Philosophy of Technology, and constellated fields to draw out the deeper social orders video games reproduce, amplify, and challenge. Material understanding will be evaluated via discussion, debate, written assessments, and a final conceptual design of a video game.

Digital Learning Design Workshop (EDUC 254)

Digital Learning Design Workshop is a project-based course offered in Fall and Winter Quarters that students can take as part of the Digital Learning Initiative’s Student Accelerator. In hands-on workshops, led by prominent academic and industry experts, students will define specific learning problems, recruit teammates, develop an approach to learning and community building using digital technology, create prototypes, test them with target learners, and progressively refine them for potential entry in the Digital Learning Design Challenge.

Engineering Education and Online Learning (EDUC 391/ENGR 391)

A project-based introduction to web-based learning design. In this course, we will explore the evidence and theory behind principles of learning design and game design thinking. Over the course of the quarter, interdisciplinary teams will create a prototype or a functioning piece of educational technology.

Core Mechanics For Learning (EDUC398)

In game play, core mechanics refers to the rules of interaction that drive the game forward. This class will consider whether there are core mechanics that can drive learning forward, and if so, how to build them into learning environments. The course mixes basic theory, research methods, and application of learning principles.

Design For Play (CS 247G/SYMSYS 195G)

A project-based course that builds on the introduction to design in CS147 by focusing on advanced methods and tools for research, prototyping, and user interface design. Studio-based format with intensive coaching and iteration to prepare students for tackling real-world design problems. This course takes place entirely in studios; please plan on attending every studio to take this class. The focus of CS247G is an introduction to the theory and practice of the design of games. We will make digital and paper games, do rapid iteration and run user research studies appropriate to game design. This class has multiple short projects, allowing us to cover a variety of genres, from narrative to pure strategy.

Designing Serious Games (CS377G)

Over the last few years we have seen the rise of “serious games” to promote understanding of complex social and ecological challenges, and to create passion for solving them. This project-based course provides an introduction to game design principals while applying them to games that teach. Run as a hands-on studio class, students will design and prototype games for social change and civic engagement. We will learn the fundamentals of games design via lecture and extensive reading in order to make effective games to explore issues facing society today. The course culminates in an end-of-quarter open house to showcase our games.

How to Build a World (in a Video Game) (PHIL 26Q)

What makes a video game world feel like a real place? What is our relationship to the real world? Can we learn anything from video games about our relationship to the real world, and can we learn anything from philosophy that can help us create compelling video game worlds? In this course we will examine elements of video game design and development in the context of related philosophical topics including the nature of worlds, the nature of the mind, and the nature of action. For example, while some games are open-world, some consist of a set of sandboxes, and could the distinction between what philosophers call ‘possible worlds’ and ‘situations’ help us understand the difference? (Or vice versa?) Video game worlds are often sprinkled with ‘pick-ups’ — do philosophical accounts of how agents perceive the real world help to explain why this is such an intuitive game mechanic? In this course we will play and tinker with video games while also reading philosophical texts, and see if each domain can stimulate our thinking about the other.

Interactive Computer Graphics (CS 248)

This is the second course in the computer graphics sequence, and as such it assumes a strong familiarity with rendering and image creation. As a final project, students implement an interactive video game utilizing various concepts covered in the class. Games may be designed on mobile devices, in a client/server/browser environment, or on a standard personal computer.

Music, Computing, Design: The Art of Design (CS 476A/MUSIC 256A)

This course explores the artful design of software tools, toys, games, instruments, and experiences. Topics include programming, audiovisual design, strategies for crafting interactive systems, game design, as well as aesthetic and social considerations of shaping technology in our world today. Course work features several programming assignments with an emphasis on critical design feedback, reading responses, and a “design your own” final project. 

Neuroplasticity and Musical Gaming (MUSIC 257)

What changes in a musician’s brain after hours and years of daily practice? How do skills that make a great violinist transfer to other abilities? Can directed neuroplasticity be used to target skill learning? This course will include fundamentals of psychoacoustics and auditory neuroscience. Focus will be development of video games that use perceptually motivated tasks to drive neural change.

Technology for Learners (EDUC 281)

How can we use technology to improve learning? Many hope that technology will make learning easier, faster, or accessible to more learners. This course explores a variety of approaches to designing tools for learning, the theories behind them, and the research that tests their effectiveness. Strong focus on evaluating new tools for specific learners and subjects.

Previously Offered Courses at Stanford:

Play and Games (EDUC 414/SOC 301)

Social life would be unimaginable without play and games. Students will be introduced to social theories of play and games; the history of games and their variation; readings concerned with how play and games affect interaction and socialization; how race and gender are enacted in and through play and games; how play and games relate to creativity and innovation; and how games can be designed for engrossment and the accomplishment of various tasks and learning goals.

Beyond Bits and Atoms (CS 402 + CS 402L, EDUC 236 + EDUC 211)

Teaches how to design, build, and critique constructionist educational technologies. Consists of a theory-oriented class (CS 402 / EDUC 236) and a practice-focused lab (CS 402L / EDUC 211), which are required to be taken together. Can build a game for your final project.

Virtual Reality: The Possibility and Peril of Immersive Artwork (ARTSTUDI 169)

How can we use virtual reality systems to create powerful, beautiful and socially engaged artworks? Is it possible to use technically sophisticated (and sometimes frustrating) tools to share our unique personal visions? What can working in virtual reality teach us about our embodied reality and sense of presence? How might we question the hype and techno-utopianism surrounding VR, by using the medium itself? What is left out of the current conversation around VR that you would like to explore?nnIn this introductory studio art course, students will learn to create artworks using virtual reality systems.

How To Make VR (CS 11S)

In this hands-on, experiential course, students will design and develop virtual reality applications. You’ll learn how to use the Unity game engine, the most popular platform for creating immersive applications. The class will teach the design best-practices and the creation pipeline for VR applications, and will include tangents that explore sister fields such as augmented reality and 360 video. Students will work in groups to present a final project in building an application for the Oculus Go headset. Enrollment is limited and by rolling application only.

Interactive Media and Games (CS 544/BIOE 196)

This seminar series brings together a diverse set of experts to provide interdisciplinary perspectives on these media regarding their history, technologies, scholarly research, industry, artistic value, and potential future.

Game Studies (FILMSTUD 259/459)

This course aims to introduce students to the emerging, interdisciplinary field of game studies. We will investigate what games (including but not limited to digital games) are, why we play them, and what the functions of this activity might be.

Introduction to Game Design and Development (CS 146)

This project-based course provides an introduction to game design covering topics like 2D/3D Art, Audio, User Interfaces, Production, Narrative Design, Marketing, and Publishing. Speakers from the profession will provide relevant context during a weekly seminar.

Looking at Violence (ARTHIST 442)

Violence in the media and its effects upon viewers, especially the young, is an issue of national concern that has produced legislation for the ratings of movies, television shows, and computer/video games.

The Design of Technologies for Casual Learning – Lab (EDUC 196/396)

Lab. Studio-based, participatory, and user-centered development of casual learning technologies is explored, using the Apple iPhone as a prototype platform. The term “casual” is borrowed from casual gaming to denote that the learning technologies are meant for learners to use in “extreme informal” learning circumstances. The class builds on learning about and synthesizing knowledge, theory and development activity in four areas including learning theories, mobile technologies, games and participatory design processes.

Game Engines for Artmaking (ARTSTUDI24)

Introduction to using Video Game Engines as art-making tools. Utilizing the Unity video game authoring environment primarily, students will create interactive and dynamic artworks and artifacts within the virtual space. Rudimentary 3D scanning of physical assets merging with the creation of digital ones combine with sound, physics and simulations. Experimentation with both narrative and non-narrative forms as well as display solutions (Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Printed Sculpture and Digital Projection) is discussed and encouraged.

Special Topics in Intermediate Fiction Writing (ENG 190T)

Focus on a particular topic or process. Work includes aspects of reading short stories and novels, writing at least 30-50 pages of fiction, and responding to peers’ work in workshop. In the past, this class has involved games and interactive fiction.

Writing & Rhetoric 1: The Rhetoric of Gaming

Rhetorical analysis of readings, research, and argument. Focus is on development of a substantive research-based argument using multiple sources. Individual conferences with instructor.

Video Game Law (LAW 4029)

This seminar discusses a variety of legal issues raised by video games and game platforms. We will devote substantial attention to intellectual property matters, but will also include business and licensing issues, tort law, the First Amendment, and legal issues presented by virtual reality.

Virtual Realities: Art, Technology, Performance (TAPS 253T)

Contemporary virtual reality extends a long-standing quest to create a fully immersive, multisensory environment, a quest that may go back to the earliest cave paintings and includes such projects as cathedrals, operas, panoramas, theme parks, video games, and multimedia “happenings.” What is VR’s relation to this long and varied history?