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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Game Design & Development Programs in Washington State

Written by Michelle BurtonNovember 11, 2015
Did You Know.....Full Sail University offers online degree programs in computer animation, game art, and game design? Learn more about Full Sail University's online programs.
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The video game industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world. In fact, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Economists Incorporated, the game industry is growing four times faster than the U.S. economy and annual job growth increased more than 13 times the rate of the U.S. labor market between 2009 and 2012. Further, the industry generated more than $93 billion in sales in 2013 and more than $110 billion in 2015. 

While console games have continued to do well, mobile gaming and online gaming are expected to experience the largest amount of growth. In addition to a shift in the way America plays games, the players themselves have changed, and so has the number of people that indulge regularly. Around 67 percent of U.S. households play video games and according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the average age of these players is 34. The most frequent game purchaser is often around 39 and in 2010, 49 percent of gamers were 18 to 49 years of age. Twenty-six percent were over 50. Finally, just 25 percent of gamers were under 18 and around two out of every five players are female.

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The gaming industry will continue to change as technology continues to advance. Already, video games are so realistic and the stories are so powerful, that it’s tough for many players to separate fantasy from reality. It takes a tremendous amount of creativity and superior technical skills to create games that have this type of effect on people. It takes an even greater amount of effort to ensure that these games can compete in today’s tremendous video game market. Fortunately, most colleges recognize the demand for highly skilled game design and development artists, so students will find a range of competitive training programs in most states.

In Washington State, where the population of artists and designers has increased by more than 1,200 since 2013 and the population of software developers has increased from 54,150 in 2013 to 58,670 today, more than a dozen schools offer programs for aspiring artists and designers. Dozens more offer programs for aspiring software developers. Just a few popular options include Cornish College of Arts, Whitworth University, Seattle Pacific University, and the University of Washington.

In addition to a variety of schools that offer programs for aspiring game designers and developers, The Evergreen State is home to a very active gaming industry, with much of the occurring in major cities. Just a few popular production studios include Microsoft Studios in Redmond, Big Fish Games in Seattle, The Pokemon Company in Bellevue, and ArenaNet, also in Bellevue. 

Washington State Game Design & Development Schools

Washington State is home to 85 Title IV degree-granting institutions. Several schools offer programs for aspiring game designers and developers. They include:


DigiPen Institute of Technology – Degrees Offered: BFA Interactive Design, Entertainment Art; BFA Double Major Combinations: Motion Design and Interactive Design, Entertainment Art and Interactive Design, Entertainment Art and Illustration 


DigiPen Institute of Technology – Degrees Offered: BA Game Design, BS Computer Science, BS Computer Science and Game Design, BS Computer Science and Real-Time Interactive Simulation, BS Computer Engineering, MFA Digital Arts, MS Computer Science, Minor Game Design 


Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) - Degrees Offered: Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development, Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development Specializing in Modeling, Texturing, Animation or Level Design, Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media Specializing in 3D Animation and Visual FX

Art Institute of Seattle - Degrees Offered: BFA Game Art & Design

Other options include the University of Washington in Seattle, which offers a Certificate in Game Design and Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Redmond, which offers an AAS in Digital Game and Media. 

Employment and Salary Trends for Washington State Game Designers & Developers

While game designers and developers are certainly artists, they must have technical skills, such as software development skills, to create games. As such, salary and career outlook information for game designers and developers are more in line with software developers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is home to more than 1 million software developers. Average salaries range from $90,060 to $99,000 per year. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $55,190 per year, and the top 10 percent earn more than $138,880. Washington is home to 58,670 software developers averaging $113,610 to $115,370 per year.

Several other sources offer salary information for game designers and developers. According to Gamasutra’s latest Game Developer Salary Survey (2014), game developers nationwide averaged $83,060 in 2013. It is important to note that salaries for Game designers and developers vary based on location, company, experience, employer, and more. For example, according to Indeed, Seattle-based game designers and developers average around $111,000 per year, while Bothell-based designers average $102,000 per year. According to the site, the average salary for Washington-based game designers and developers overall is $106,000 per year.

As mentioned earlier, Washington State has one of the most active video game scenes in the country. It is home to dozens of studios that offer plenty of job opportunities for aspiring game designers and developers. In addition to the studios mentioned earlier, Washington is home to:

  • Game House, Seattle
  • Fun Bits Interactive, Seattle
  • PopCap Games, Seattle
  • Flying Lab Software, Seattle
  • Wargaming Seattle (formerly Gas Powered Games), Seattle
  • Turn 10 Studios (subdivision of Microsoft Studios), Redmond
  • Bungie Studios, Bellevue
  • Sucker Punch Productions, Bellevue
  • Torpex Games, Bellevue
  • Valve Corporation, Bellevue
  • Signal Studios, Bothell
  • Humongous Entertainment, Bothell
  • Snowblind Studios, Kirkland
  • Griptonite Games, Kirkland

While job opportunities can be found across the state, as mentioned, major cities are the best places to begin your search. Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, Kent, Everett, Renton, Federal Way, Yakima, Kirkland, and Bellingham are the state’s largest cities.

Awesome Animation FactFor the stop motion blockbuster, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), set designer Gregg Olsson built a quarter-scale mock-up of Halloween Town as a model for the real set. The set also had trapdoors so animators could pop up and do the animation from beneath. -BuzzFeed