From playing video games as a kid to developing his own games in high school, Matthew Knight has always been passionate about gaming. Now, as a graduating senior in the game design and interactive media (GDIM) program, Knight is ready to enter the game development world and craft immersive gaming experiences with what he’s learned at UCI.
Knight, a transfer student from Palomar Community College in San Marcos, California, shares that he applied to UC Santa Cruz and UC Irvine because of their game development programs. Both schools accepted him, but he “ultimately chose UCI because of its reputation” — a decision he says was the right one.
“I chose to major in GDIM because I wanted to develop my game creation skills in a more formal setting as I learn better within the structure of a classroom,” says Knight. “I loved a majority of my classes that I took within the GDIM department, but I would say my favorite classes have been GDIM 165 Games Entrepreneurship and GDIM 167A/B Capstone Game Project.”
Since high school, Knight has developed multiple games as an individual and with his peers. The hardest part of developing games for him is “starting a project and seeing it through the end.” He is most proud of “The Summoner,” which he worked on with a team of 16 students as a level designer and programmer.
“This was my senior project and I had so much fun taking everything I had learned from college and implementing it into this final project,” he says. “I used Unreal Engine 5 and my knowledge of traditional RPGs to help me create the game’s main level. A lot of inspiration was taken from games such as ‘Skyrim’ and ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ as I tried to craft an open-world setting for players.”
Knight’s passion for game development was sparked by his desire to blend two worlds together: the logical problem-solving of math and the imaginative storytelling of English. When he researched careers after graduating high school, he knew he wanted to find a path that combined his passions. That’s why GDIM is the major for him.
“Game development is the perfect overlap of these two subjects through its programming and design work,” says Knight.
Despite the countless hours spent brainstorming, designing and coding games, Knight remained dedicated to his studies throughout college and boasts an impressive 3.914 GPA. His advice for fellow students is to be organized and set aside enough time to do work. Two tools he uses often are Notion to keep track of his assignments and deadlines and Google Calendar to plan out his week.
Knight also makes time outside of his classes to learn new things. He’s currently teaching himself Japanese, art and piano. And, of course, he plays “games of all sorts, whether it is video games, board games, or D&D!”
As Knight wraps up his final quarter, he looks forward to entering the game development industry. There’s no doubt his academic success, project experience and dedication to his craft will help him unlock his next achievement: becoming a level designer who creates captivating and engaging games we will play one day.
“UCI has given me the tools and confidence to continue with this passion of [mine] and has helped me know how to move forward with my career once I graduate,” says Knight.
— Karen Phan