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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Top 10 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the South – 2016 Rankings

Written by ACR StaffApril 11, 2016
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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Our 2016 rankings of the top 10 game design and development schools in the South. 

We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas. 

For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here

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1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to the School of Digital Media, which offers four programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA, BFA, MA, and MFA in Interactive Design and Game Development. The BA program is offered at the Savannah, Atlanta, eLearning campuses, while the BFA is offered at the Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong campuses. The MA and MFA ate offered at the Savannah, Hong Kong, and eLearning campuses.

A Minor in Interactive Design and Game Development is also available as well as a Certificate in Interactive Design.

Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design is home to more than 12,000 students enrolled in 40-plus majors and more than 60 minors. The school has campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, as well as an eLearning campus.

2. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida

Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) offers one program for game designers—a BFA in Game Art & Design. Students in the program will study “the basics of game design mechanics, meaningful play, interactivity, and options for creating and refining game content.” Graduates of the Game Art & Design program have landed jobs at Riot Games, Epic Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Gunfire Games, Evertoon, Naughty Dog, S2 Games, and many others. 

Established in 1931 by circus baron John Ringling, RCAD opened with just 75 students enrolled in 111 courses. Today, RCAD sits on a 35-acre campus that houses 1,300 degree-seeking students enrolled in 13 majors.

3. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 

Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) was founded in 1885. When the school opened on October 8, 1888, it welcomed just 129 students into just one program—the BS in Mechanical Engineering. Today, GeorgiaTech is home to more than 25,00 students enrolled in more than 80 degree programs and more than 50 minors through six colleges and more than 25 schools. 

The College of Computing is home to Games@GT—an “institute-wide initiative designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.” The College also offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Game Studies Focus (also supported by the School of Literature Communication and Culture within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts), MS degrees in Digital Media and Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. All College of Computing students will have access to resources offered by the GVU Center at Georgia Tech and the Institute for People and Technology.

4. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida

Full Sail University is home to 18,000 students from 50 states and 73 countries. Established in 1979, Full Sail offers dozens of programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media and the Arts and it awards Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Associate degrees, and Graduate Certificates. The Game School at Full Sail offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development, and Mobile Development and MS degrees in Game Design and Mobile Gaming. 

5. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida

Founded in 1963 and home to approximately 60,810 students, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of youngest and largest universities in the U.S. The school, which offers more than 200 degree programs across 13 colleges, is home to the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD). Housed within the College of Arts & Humanities, and the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), SVAD offers a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design, an MFA in Emerging Media with a Track in Digital Media, and an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media.  

The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy is UCF’s graduate video game design school. The Academy opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA is home to around 65 Students enrolled in the MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks. Track options include Art, Production and Programming. During semesters two and three of the program, all students will work on a “final, large-scale game with fellow producers, programmers and artists.”

6. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School, Orlando, Florida   

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School) offers a Game Production Diploma. Launched in 2014, the Game Production Diploma is designed for those interested in working on the artistic side of game production. The school’s comprehensive and intensive 15-month Game Production Diploma covers Modeling & Sculpting, Game Production, Game Engine Fundamentals, Game Asset Production, and Animation Fundamentals.

The DAVE School was founded on June 8, 2000 by Anne and Jeffery Scheetz—a Visual Effects Supervisor. The school is a 35,000 square foot facility located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida, Soundstage 25. Students have access to a Learning Lab, Studio Lab, Shooting Stage, Motion Capture Studio, and a 3D Lecture Theater. 

7. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina

The College of Engineering and Science at Clemson University offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA or BS in Computer Science with a Minor in Digital Production Arts (DPA), an MFA in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA), and a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Plan (BS) in Computer Science. All students have the opportunity to Minor in DPA, which emphasizes Games, Visual Effects, and Computer Animation. Many Clemson DPA graduates have been hired by Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, EA Games, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, ReelFX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College, Clemson University is home to 22,104 students enrolled in more than 190 programs through five colleges and the graduate school.

8. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 

Established in 1887, North Carolina State University (NC State) is home to just over 34,000 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Engineering is home to the Department of Computer Science, which offers a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Concentration. Students can expect to take courses such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) Building Game AI, Science Fiction, Game Studies, Music Composition, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Fantasy and, of course, Game Design and Development.

An Accelerated Bachelors/Masters (ABM) Program, a Minor in Computer Programming, and a Computer Programming Certificate are other viable options. 

9. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia

Founded in 1963 and home to 25,714 students, Kennesaw State University (KSU) is a comprehensive university that offers 150 undergraduate and graduate degrees across 13 colleges. The College of Computing and Software Engineering houses the Department of Software Engineering and Game Development. Program offerings for aspiring game designers include a BS and a Minor in Computer Game Design and Development.

According to the school, the Computer Game Design and Development program “builds on and applies expertise in computing hardware and software to create engaging and immersive multimedia systems.” Students will study Digital Media, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), the History and Theory of Gaming, Game Design, 2D and 3D Graphics, Simulation, Modeling, Software Engineering, Artificial Intelligence, Data Structures, and Algorithms.

The Game Design and Development program has another unique component. Students are required to select an upper-level concentration within the program to “ensure depth in their program of study.” Current offerings include Simulation-Informatics, Media-Production, Distributed-Mobile, Education-Serious, and Planning-Management. 

10. University of North Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina

Founded in 1946, University of North Carolina Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) is the fourth largest of the 17 institutions within the University of North Carolina system and the largest public institution in the Charlotte region. The school is more than 27,950 students enrolled in more than 170 undergraduate and graduate programs across seven professional colleges, University College, Honors College, and the Graduate School. The College of Computing offers two programs for aspiring game designers: an Undergraduate and Graduate Certificate in Computer Game Development.

Called “The Playground,” the UNC Charlotte Game Design and Development program consists of a track of four courses and an area Concentration in Graphics, AI, or Computation. Courses include Introduction to Game Design & Development, Advanced Game Design & Development, Introduction to Computer Graphics, and Game Design & Development Studio. According to the school, Certificate graduates from the UNC Charlotte Playground program have gone on to form their own game companies and work in the games industry.