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Higher National Diploma in Computer Game Design
Department of Art & Multimedia Design

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Awarding Body  Pearson BTEC Course Title  Computer Game Design
Award  Higher National Diploma   Award Level  QCF 5
UCAS Code HND154G Study Mode 
Start Dates September 2018 and January 2019 Duration 2 years
  1. About this course
  2. What you will cover
  3. Entry Requirements
  4. How to apply
  5. Fees and Finance
  6. Careers and employability
  7. Professional Recognition

About this course

BTEC Higher National Diploma in Computer Game Design is a specialist vocational programme, linked to professional body requirements and with a strong work related emphasis.

This innovative course, derived from professional standards and principles, will allow you to develop a range of practical skills for the design of computer games. It provides a wide range of transferable skills, such as problem solving, negotiating, critical analysis and project management.

The course adopts a hands-on approach, encouraging you to be creative and imaginative. You will be encouraged to think in terms of generating, developing and implementing real-life games design projects to understand how modules studied integrate with industrial practice. You explore topics in ideas generation, principles of game design, computer platforms, scripting, storytelling, music and sound, research and creative media.

You will be taught through a combination of practical laboratory sessions and seminars. Your studies will be supported by trips to trade exhibitions, career fairs and guest speakers from the industry.  

This course is assessed through practical game design projects, reports, group work, case studies, presentations and written reports.

General Entry Requirements

    If you are under 21 years of age at the start of the course, you must have at least one of the following:

    • At least one GCE A-level pass. In addition, you should have appropriate supporting passes at GCSE (including English and Maths at grade C or above) or Key Skills Level 2 qualifications in communication, IT and Application of Number or equivalent.
    • A Level 3 qualification such as: BTEC level 3 Diploma, National Diploma, Advanced GNVQ/NVQ, AVCE/VCE, Foundation Certificate in a relevant subject
    • Access to Higher Education in a relevant subject
    • Advanced Modern Apprenticeship with Level 3 qualifications in a relevant subject
    • Baccalaureate/International Baccalaureate
    • An equivalent foreign qualification
    • Any other level 3 qualification in a relevant subject

    If you are over 21 years of age, you may demonstrate a more varied profile of achievement that is likely to include relevant work experience and/or achievement of a range of professional qualifications in their work sector.

Careers and employability

Pearson BTEC Higher National Diplomas are well-established and internationally recognised qualifications to offering graduates progression directly to employment. You will be able to apply for work as a game designer within the games, film and TV production industries.  

On successful completion of your Higher National Diploma you can progress directly to a 1-year degree top up in a relevant subject. 

Professional Recognition

Pearson BTEC qualifications are nationally and internationally recognised by employers and professional organisations. This recognition is a way for students to prepare for jobs and careers in their chosen field through membership of relevant professional bodies. The Higher National Diploma in Computer Game Design has the support of Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the creative media sector.

What you will cover

    You will study these modules:

Year 1
HNCM 001 Contextual Studies for Creative Media Production - 4415
HNCM 002 Research Techniques for Creative Media Production - 4415
HNCM 009Practical Skills for Computer Game Design - 4415
HNCM 014Computer Game Studies - 4415
HNCM 048Computer Game Platform Fundamentals - 4415
HNCM 051Computer Game Storytelling Techniques - 4415
HNCM 052Ideas Generation for Computer Games - 4415
HNCM 075Computer Game Design Techniques - 5515

Year 2
HNCM 003Project Design, Implementation and Evaluation - 5520
HNCM 004Special Subject Investigation for Creative Media Production - 5515
HNCM 018Career Development for Computer Games Industry - 5515
HNCM 050Music and Sound for Computer Games - 4415
HNCM 074Production Techniques for Computer Games - 5515
HNCM 076Level Design for Computer Games - 5515
HNCM 077Scripting for Computer Game Design 5515
HNCM 078Quality Assurance for Computer Games - 5515

Online Application & Eligibility Assessment

Note: Please scan your supporting documents, such as a photo, passport, visa, qualifications, references etc before starting the application form. You will also need access to your e-mail.

Apply through UCAS [Prefered]

Apply Online Directly

Please click here to proceed with Direct Online Application (opens in new window)

Fees and Finance

Tuition Fees for Academic Programmes

More Information:

Tuition fees for Full-Time Programmes - 2017/2018

Study Programme Yearly Fees
UK/EU Students
Higher National Certificate £6,165.00   1 year
Higher National Diploma
£6,165.00   2 years
Foundation Degree FdA £6,165.00   2 years
BA/BSc (Hons) £6,165.00   3 years
BA/BSc (Hons) Top-Up
£6,165.00   1 year

Tuition fees for Part-Time Programmes - 2017/2018

Study Programme Yearly Fees
UK/EU Students
Higher National Certificate
£4,500.00   2 years

Higher National Diploma

£4,500.00   3 years
Foundation Degree FdA £4,500.00   4 years
BA/BSc (Hons) £4,500.00   5 years
BA/BSc (Hons) Top-Up

£4,500.00   2 years

Important Notes

Undergraduate funding (2017/18)

Student Finance England

Full-time study
The majority of undergraduate funding comes from the Student Loans Company and is assessed by your funding authority. Please visit Student Finance England (SFE) website pages for detail information.


Eligible Undergraduate students can apply for a tuition fee loan of up to £6,165 to cover the full cost of their annual tuition fees. A maintenance loan (for living costs) of up to £8,430 is also available. This can be used to pay for general living costs, accommodation, travel and other course related costs.

The simple online calculator (https://www.gov.uk/student-finance-calculator) will give you an accurate idea of what level of student funding you will be eligible for.

Part-time study
If you are a part-time student you can apply now for a tuition fee loan. The maximum tuition fee loan you can get if you are a part-time student is £4,500 per year.
The amount you get depends on the cost of your tuition fees and not on your household income.
The tuition fee loan is paid directly to your university or college.
For more information and downloadable guides, visit the Direct Gov website

Repaying loans
You will not start repaying your student loans for fees and living costs until you have finished studying and you are earning over £21,000 a year. For more information visit the Direct Gov website https://www.gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan

Other Sources of Funding

You do not have to apply for a tuition fee loan from the Student Loans Company to fund your studies. Some students use private funding or employer sponsorship to pay for their course.


Contextual Studies for Creative Media Production - 4 [HNCM 001 ]

Unit type:Core

    This unit provides an opportunity for learners to undertake a study of the creative media in a chosen context. The unit will develop an appreciation of industry, products and audiences and the theoretical approaches used to analyse them. The unit requires the application of academic research and referencing methods which are appropriate for learners at this level of study. On completing this unit learners will have gained an understanding of general media theory which can then be applied and expanded upon in the specialist area of study or transferred to the wider context of the work environment to inform their own production work.

Research Techniques for Creative Media Production - 4 [HNCM 002 ]

Unit type:Core

    This unit will develop learners’ ability to use the research techniques required in the media industries and will provide them with the opportunity to develop production research skills to a professional level. Production research is crucial to all media products and is, in career terms, a key role in film, television and radio production teams, computer game design teams, and journalism. Learners will develop an understanding of the various types of research and sources of information. They will develop the ability to check the validity and accuracy of information and will also develop an understanding of legal issues such as copyright.

Practical Skills for Computer Game Design - 4 [HNCM 009]

Unit type:Core

    This unit introduces learners to the process of developing a computer game by taking it through its full production cycle. They will begin this process at a design stage, taking a concept and defining it in terms appropriate to the production of a computer game. Following this, learners will take a defined concept and transform it into a working prototype of a game. A variety of methods may be employed in both of these stages and it should be stressed that, during the design and prototyping stages, there is no requirement to use digital tools – any method or medium the tutor feels appropriate may be used here. Learners will build upon the skills acquired in the design and prototyping stages to build a functional computer game. In conjunction with this, they will continually evaluate the practical work by employing a number of testing and quality assurance methods.

Computer Game Studies - 4 [HNCM 014]

Unit type:Core

    In this unit, learners will explore the medium of computer games from a number of points of view. Beginning with an examination of the history of computer games, learners will then explore the relationship between games and the wider culture of which they form a part. Learners will also apply relevant theories to the analysis of specific computer games.

Computer Game Platform Fundamentals - 4 [HNCM 048]

Unit type:Specialist

    For employment in any role in the computer games industry, good technical knowledge is required, with awareness of the various game platforms and technologies. In order to communicate effectively with others, entrants to the games industry must be able to comprehend the technical language used to describe elements of game systems, and be able to recognise the limitations inherent in the choice of destination platform selected for any game title. To avoid making impossible demands of the specified platform, all those working in the industry must be aware of the function and purpose of each component of the modern interactive game system.

Computer Game Storytelling Techniques - 4 [HNCM 051]

Unit type:Core

    As games have become more and more mainstream entertainment and their development budgets have grown larger, the importance of good writing has also grown. Successful games are more than likely to have a solid story and lifelike characters to guide players through the game space while allowing them to have a personal game experience. This unit aims to provide learners with an appreciation of the underlying principles of storytelling and how they can enhance a player’s immersion in the game world. Learners will thus develop a sound understanding of game story writing strategies before applying them to their own interactive narratives. Learners will develop an understanding of how to use elements such as narration, dramatic tension, monologue and dialogue to serve the purposes of their game story and will apply their observations of human attitudes and emotions to the development of convincing characters for their game concept. Since this unit requires learners to exercise imaginative skills, it is appropriate that some critical self-reflective practice is undertaken. This professional skill will be of great value in any future career.

Ideas Generation for Computer Games - 4 [HNCM 052]

Unit type:Specialist

    The most difficult part of being a creative of any kind is ideas generation. This is a skill that it is necessary to develop and use in the creation of computer games. One technique many designers use is mind mapping to brainstorm and generate ideas. The loose and visual manner in which a mind map is created stimulates ideas better than linear note taking because it helps the brain make new connections and is an effective way to communicate to clients and team members while a project is in its concept phase. In this unit learners will originate ideas which fulfil communication objectives for game graphics, animation or game design. Learners will also be required to use a range of techniques to communicate their ideas on paper and they will be able to identify the cultural contexts in which their ideas work. Since this unit requires learners to exercise imaginative skills, it is appropriate that some critical self-reflective practice is undertaken. This professional skill will be of great value in any future career.

Computer Game Design Techniques - 5 [HNCM 075]

Unit type:Core

    Game design is the first stage in the development of a new computer game and in the highly competitive environment of the computer games industry it is a vital skill, requiring imagination, a thoroughly up-to-date understanding of the way games entertain and work as systems, and a profound knowledge of the market. This unit will provide learners with the skills to build a proposal for a game design by means of applied research. The focus is on building a project plan around a game design which learners will then develop into a working production. Learners will also develop the necessary skills for working collaboratively in a professional environment, including the presentation and communication skills needed to convey their ideas clearly to other team members.

Project Design, Implementation and Evaluation - 5 [HNCM 003]

Unit type:Core

    This unit provides opportunities for learners to develop skills in decision making, problem solving and communication, integrated with the skills and knowledge developed in many of the other units within the programme to complete a realistic project. It requires learners to select, plan, implement and evaluate a project and finally present the outcomes, in terms of the process and the product of the project. It also allows learners to develop the ability to work individually and/or with others, within a defined timescale and given constraints, to produce an acceptable and viable solution to an agreed brief. If this is a group project, each member of the team must be clear about their responsibilities at the start of the project and supervisors must ensure that everyone is accountable for each aspect of the work and makes a contribution to the end result. Learners must work under the supervision of programme tutors or work-based managers.

Special Subject Investigation for Creative Media Production - 5 [HNCM 004]

Unit type:Core

    The creative media sector provides a wide range of technical, professional and academic areas of interest for development. This unit provides the opportunity for learners to identify a particular area of study or practice and develop a proposal and set specific objectives for investigation. Learners will apply research skills to the identification and selection of materials and resources and present the results of this investigation in a way that suits the chosen subject and their own learning style. They will review and evaluate their work considering improvements in learning and performance, the professional context of the work and the process by which the presentation is produced.

Career Development for Computer Games Industry - 5 [HNCM 018]

Unit type:Specialist

    This unit covers the relationships between the various roles in game development studios, publishers and specialised outsource companies. Learners will investigate how these people interact with each other to produce, test and publish computer games. An understanding of the structure of jobs within the industry will provide a foundation for learning about the working conditions within these various groups, as well as the employment opportunities they offer. As the ability to pitch ideas effectively is a key component in getting a game published and communicating ideas to a development team, learners will develop their ability to communicate through written, oral and visual means. Through following this unit, learners will prepare themselves for the next stage, whether this be further training or seeking employment.

Music and Sound for Computer Games - 4 [HNCM 050]

Unit type:Specialist

    Games technology changes constantly and with every new development each new game title tries to outperform the previous one. As technology improves, every game title attempts to implement new ways of making games faster, bigger and louder than before; this means constantly adapting to new techniques of producing sound and music for games. The soundtrack for games is becoming like that of feature film music — developers are using techniques where characters have personal themes and signature instruments. Game world locations and destinations with highly recognisable ambient and musical settings will begin to develop and expand, including the implementation and development of interactive (true adaptive) music to next-generation games. In this unit learners will develop their understanding of how music and sound are used in a game and how sound is designed and produced for games. Learners will design and produce appropriate original sounds for a game and will integrate these sounds and stock audio content into a scene of a game. Since this unit requires learners to exercise imaginative skills, it is appropriate that some critical self-reflective practice is undertaken. This professional skill will be of great value in any future career.

Production Techniques for Computer Games - 5 [HNCM 074]

Unit type:Specialist

    Efficient project management is vital to the commercial success of computer games. Wasted time is not just wasted money, but can mean a wasted opportunity. Project managers need to be able to see projects both as a whole and in detail, and need highly developed management and interpersonal skills to get the best out of their teams. In this unit, learners are introduced to the processes of managing time, tools and people on a game development project. The unit begins with an overview of the elements of a game design project, both human roles and technological tools. Learners integrate and manage these elements in the context of a structured workflow, appropriate to a particular project. Following this, learners analyse their project in terms of its goals and its needs. Target audience, target platform and a desired method of publication must be considered, along with the choice of appropriate tools necessary to fulfil the requirements of the project. There is also a focus on collaboration at the conceptual level, which gives learners an opportunity to hold structured team meetings. The meetings are incorporated into team management methodologies which are implemented throughout the life cycle of a project.

Level Design for Computer Games - 5 [HNCM 076]

Unit type:Specialist

    Level design is a key part of the game development process, bridging the gap between art and programming. Level designers create the experience that the player will have, both by constructing the 3D environment in which play will take place, and by writing scripts to trigger events in the environment. This unit takes learners through the development process for designing interactive 3D computer game levels. The unit begins with an understanding of the technical constraints that designers must work within, such as planning projects and choosing appropriate technology. Learners will apply narrative and aesthetic approaches to level design, in order to enhance their designs beyond the purely functional. To produce computer game levels to a professional standard, an understanding of the fundamentals of 3D modelling is essential and, while models in level editors are generally imported from other software, in this unit, learners will arrange libraries of 3D assets, images and sounds in 3D spaces. Following this, learners will apply materials and lighting techniques to the environments they create. Learners will then focus on making the space more interesting, developing the skill of balancing dynamic elements with the negative space of the environment.

Scripting for Computer Game Design 5 [HNCM 077]

Unit type:Specialist

    Scripting skills are required by game designers to prototype games, level designers to create triggered or sequential events, and programmers to write game logic. This unit familiarises learners with the resources required to write software code and teaches them to write scripts that can run interactive computer games. The unit also emphasises collaborative work, which reflects common industry practice.

Quality Assurance for Computer Games - 5 [HNCM 078]

Unit type:Specialist

    The job of ‘tester’ is for many recruits their initial entry point into a career in the computer games industry. The commercial success of each game title depends on how ‘good’ the game is in terms of playability, its look and feel, and how well it performs on the platforms that it has been designed for. If a game is shipped to the consumer still containing major bugs or defects then the reputation of the game or brand can be affected. Modern agile production methods employ quality assurance (QA) systems from the outset to ensure that the final game build is the best achievable within the constraints prevailing at the time. Game testing is a crucial part of the production process. The target for this unit is that learners are able to write concise, clear and effectual bug reports as a result of conducting tests on sample game builds. To enable this the unit provides structured opportunities for learners to develop their understanding of modern approaches to a systematic identification of defects. Learners will study defects and testing by examining the relevance of quality assurance work within the game development process. Learners will then examine typical modern QA procedures, categorising defects and identifying characteristic stages at which bugs may present. This will, in turn, lead to an investigation of the design of structured tests to permit identification of bugs. These studies will culminate in the execution of the tests obeying the test designs and hence the authoring of the bug reports.

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