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Top 10 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the Southwest – 2017

Written by ACR StaffApril 21, 2017
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 2017 rankings of the Top 10 schools for game design in the Southwest US. 

We define the Southwest as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 

The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts at University of Utah (The U) are home to the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). The Studio offers a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE). Tracks include Game Arts, Game Engineering, Game Production, and Technical Art. According to the Studio, “all students in each of the tracks have a series of common classes including Game Design, Rapid Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Final Project.” In addition, students will “develop and enhance a professional game portfolio” and they will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the game industry. 

The David Eccles School of Business and the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Program also offer a dual degree program “designed to take advantage of the complementary elements in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and the Masters of Entertainment Arts & Engineering.” The MBA/MEAE, which aims to bridge the ‘suits’ vs. the ‘dev’ divide, takes three years to complete. 

Other offerings include a BA in Film and Media Arts and a BS in Computer Science. Both programs offer an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE). The BA is available through the School of Computing and Department of Film and Media Arts, and the BS is available through the School of Computing. 

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About The U: University of Utah was founded in 1850. The school is home more than 31,000 students enrolled in close to 200 academic programs. The U houses 17 colleges and schools, and nearly 100 departments. A few include Fine Arts, Art & Art History, Film & Media Arts, Theater, Architecture + Planning, Communication, and Dance (Modern). 

2. University of Texas - Austin, Austin, Texas 

The University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) offers a unique game design program through a collaboration between the College of Fine Arts (CoFA), the Computer Science Department (CS), the Radio-Television-Film Department (RTF), and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET). The interdisciplinary program is known as “Game and Mobile Media Applications” or “GAMMA.” 

GAMMA allows students from a variety of different degree programs to “collaboratively develop 2D and 3D games for mobile, online, and social technology platforms in the program’s culminating experience: the Capstone Course.” GAMMA students also have the opportunity to work “alongside organizations such as UT’s EGaDS! and IGDA Austin,” and with local game and mobile studios, and industry professionals. 

GAMMA students may earn one of the following Certificates: 

  • CS Game Development
  • CS Mobile Computing
  • CoFA Digital Art Production
  • CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production
  • CoFA Digital World Designer
  • RTF Visual Effects & Animation 

Certificates are awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA. 

About UT Austin: The University of Texas – Austin was founded in 1883. It is home to nearly 51,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs. UT Austin houses 13 colleges and schools including the College of Fine Arts, the Cockrell School of Engineering, and Moody College of Communication, to name a few. 

3. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas 

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC). ATEC was created in 2015, through a merger of two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. As a School, ATEC serves more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students. 

Undergraduate offerings include BA in Arts and Technology (BA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), an MFA in Arts and Technology (MFA ATEC), and a PhD in Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC). Undergraduates may choose between several pathways such as Game Design or Animation. BA ATEC students may also choose electives in more than one area. Examples include User Experience Design for Games, Game Design, Interaction Design, Level Design, Modeling and Texturing, Virtual Environments, Rigging, Game Production Lab, Game Pipeline Methodologies, Serious Games, Game Production Lab, Interactive Narrative, and Educational Games. 

Research areas for all graduate students include Game Studies, Game Development, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and more. The program is a good pathway whether students are interested in teaching arts- and technology-related courses in colleges and universities or working in a professional studio or design practice. Graduate students may choose to pursue additional research opportunities. 

About UT Dallas: The University of Texas at Dallas was established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969. The school is home to 26,793 students enrolled in more than 130 academic programs across eight schools. In addition to ATEC, schools include Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Studies, to name a few. 

4. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 

Texas A&M University is home to the College of Architecture, which founded the Visualization Program in 1989. The Program features gaming-oriented study options leading to an MS or MFA, as well as enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level. The full list of degree options are the BS, MS, and MFA degree in Visualization. 

Visualization students have access to the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab. Established in 2014, the Lab “provides space for graduate and undergraduate students to create game prototypes while learning about game theory, the art and science of the visual image and game history. In the lab, through research and rigorous scientific process, students collaborate with specialists from visualization, educational psychology, computer science and engineering to create innovative, interactive software.” 

About Texas A&M: Established in 1876, Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. The school is home to more than 64,000 students enrolled in nearly 400 programs across 16 colleges and schools. A few include Agricultural and Life Sciences, Engineering, Liberal Arts, and Science. Other campuses include Galveston, Texas and Doha, Qatar. 

5. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 

The Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (SMU) has several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BFA in Digital Game Development and a BFA/Masters of Interactive Technology (M.I.T) in Digital Game Development. The BFA/M.I.T is also supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development. The Guildhall has been producing game developers since 2003.   

In addition to the M.I.T in Digital Game Development, the Guildhall offers a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development with a Specialization in Art Creation, Level Design, Production, or Software Development. 

About SMU: Southern Methodist University was founded in 1911. The school is home to 11,739 students enrolled in 246 degree programs through seven schools. Besides Meadows School of the Arts, SMU houses Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, and Edwin L. Cox School of Business School of Business, among others. 

6. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado 

The Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science at University of Denver (DU) houses the Department of Computer Science. Here students can earn a BA or BS in Game Development. The program, which is a joint effort between Computer Science, Emergent Digital Practices, and Art, requires specific minors for each degree. The BS requires a Minor in Mathematics, and a second Minor of the students’ choice. A cognate of five approved classes from Art and Emergent Digital Practices is also required. 

The BA requires a major in Game Development and a Minor in Emergent Digital Practices. The program also requires “more courses in the allied art fields than the BS, and is balanced by having fewer required Math and Computer Science courses.” Graduates of this program will be able to study and work as a developer, game designer and artist. Graduates of the BS program will be able to “help in the programming and development of games, while understanding and being able to communicate effectively with the artists and designers who are part of any game development project.” 

About DU: University of Denver is home to more than 13,000 students. Founded in 1864, the school offers more than 200 programs across eight undergraduate schools and colleges and 14 graduate schools and colleges. Besides Felix Ritchie, a few include University College, Division of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Daniels College of Business, and Josef Korbel School of International Studies. 

7. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado 

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) is home to the College of Engineering and Applied Science. The College offers a unique degree programs for game designers called the Bachelor of Innovation (BI) in Game Design and Development. Offered since 2007, the BI in Game Design and Development has a 30-credit GDD core that works out to be about 70 percent programming and 30 percent design/prototyping. Students in the program may choose 15 credits of concentration electives tailored to their special interests. Concentration electives typically work out to 60 percent programming and 40 percent design/prototyping. 

About UCCS: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is home to more than 12,000 students enrolled in 45 bachelors, 22 masters, and five doctoral degree programs across seven colleges and schools. In addition to Engineering, schools include Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Public Affairs, Nursing & Health Sciences, and the Graduate School. 

8. University of Nevada Reno, Reno, Nevada 

University of Nevada Reno, Reno, was founded in 1874. The school is home to 21,353 students enrolled in more than 145 degree programs across nine colleges and schools. The School of Engineering, Department Computer Science and Engineering offers a Minor in Digital Interactive Games. Students may add the Minor to the BS in Computer Science and Engineering. An MS in Computer Science and Engineering, and a PhD in Computer Science are also available. 

The Minor in Interactive Games requires seven courses. A few sample courses include Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Artificial Intelligence (AI), AI Programming, Embedded Games Development, Advanced Digital Media, Advanced Game Development, Game Design for Journalists, Interactive Media, and Sound and Image. Required courses will depend on the major (computer science or engineering). 

About University of Nevada, Reno: University of Nevada Reno, Reno, was founded in 1874. The school is home to 21,353 students enrolled in more than 145 degree programs across nine colleges and schools. The College of Liberal Arts, Reynolds School of Journalism, and the College of Business are just a few. 

9. University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, Texas 

The School of Media and Design (SMD) at University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) offers two programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BFA in 3D Animation & Game Design with a Game Design Track and a BA in Design, Media, & Technology Studies (DM&TS). The BA program prepares students for careers in the videogame, technology, and television and film sectors. 

Many students earn their AAS in Game Production at Northwest Vista College (San Antonio) or other cooperating community college, before transferring into UIW’s BFA Program. Because the BFA is a “professional preparatory” degree with a heightened focus, it typically takes transfer students two to three years to complete the program, which is the same amount of time it takes other students to complete the degree. As a professional preparatory degree, all graduates of the BFA program are ready to enter the workplace upon graduation. 

About UIW: University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) was established in 1881 as Incarnate Word College. Home to nearly 11,000 students, the school offers more than 100 programs across 10 colleges and schools. A few include the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, the School of Math, Science, and Engineering, and the School of Applied Sciences. 

10. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado 

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) offers a BFA in Game Art. The program is offered on campus and online and it prepares students for a variety of careers such as Game Designer, Concept Artist, 3D Character Modeler, Motion Graphics Designer, Rigger Animator, and Interactive Media Designer, to name a few. 

Students in the program are required to take 51 credits of core classes, one three-credit elective, 21 credits of foundation courses, and 48 credits in liberal arts. A few sample cores include Digital Painting for Film + Games, Game Animation + Motion Capture, Game Creation Fundamentals, Game Particles + Effects, 3D Modeling, 3D Computer Animation Motion Studies, and Character + Level Design. 

Other program highlights include small class sizes, a collaborative environment, and knowledgeable professors.  

About RMCAD: Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design was founded 1936. It is home to 775 art and design students enrolled in 16 degree and certificate programs. Besides Game Art, a few program options include 3D Animation, 3D Character Animation, Graphic Design, Illustration, Design Processes and Production, and Fine Art.