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Top 15 Game Design and Development Schools in the Midwest - 2014

Written by ACR StaffApril 29, 2014
Did you know... Historically, The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School at Universal Studios Orlando) has placed a fair number of its graduates in the gaming industry, but now they have a new program specifically designed for careers in gaming. The program was designed and is overseen by a senior production supervisor who led teams on Ghostbusters and Kinect Star Wars. Learn more at www.DaveSchool.com.
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Our 2014 rankings of the Top 15 game design and development programs in the Midwest.

We define the Midwest as Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.


1. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) is home to the region’s leading game program. It offers degrees at all levels including a BS in Computer Game Development with a Concentration in Game Design, Gameplay Programming, and Systems Programming; a BS in Animation with a Game Art Concentration, a 5-year combined BS/MS in Animation and Digital Cinema, and an MS in Computer Game Development.

Students may also be interested in the BFA in Animation which focuses on Stop-Motion Animation for Game Development or the BS in Digital Cinema which prepares students for work in Game Development, Live-Action Special Effects, and 3-D Animation. All game design, film, and animation students are encouraged to enroll in DePaul’s coveted internship program which provides opportunities to work at studios such as WMS Gaming, EA Video Games, Entertaining Games, Inc., Wideload Games, Inc., and more.

Established in 1898, DePaul University is the country’s largest Catholic University. The school is home to more than 24,400 students enrolled in nearly 300 undergraduate programs of study, across 10 colleges and schools, and 5 campuses. The school’s largest campuses are located in the city’s trendy Lincoln Park neighborhood and in Downtown Chicago—home world-famous points of interest such as Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, Grant Park, The Art Institute, cultural centers, theaters, museums, renowned restaurants, and more.

2. Columbia College of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College of Chicago is home to the famed Interactive Arts and Media Department (IAM), which houses the school’s top-ranked game design programs. Offerings include BA/BFA Degrees in Interactive Arts and Media, BA/BS Degrees in Game Programming, a BA in Game Design: Sound Design, and a BA in Game Design: Game Art. Columbia’s IAM programs prepare students to become Game Art Directors, Lead Game Designers, 3D Character Animators, Mobile Game Developers, Game Programmers, Sound Designers for Games, Graphics/Special Effects Programmers, and more.

Graduates of Columbia’s IAM programs have landed jobs at major companies and studios such as Wideload/Disney Interactive, WMS Gaming, Google, JellyVision, NetherRealm, Volition, Relic, and many others.

Established in 1890, Columbia College of Chicago sits in the heart of Downtown Chicago, which offers access to art museums, design studios, nightlife, and more. This top art and design school is home to around 11,000 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in more than 120 academic majors and programs.

3. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University (MSU) is home to one of the region’s largest collections of academic programs. Among the school’s 200+ program offerings is a sizable assortment of exceptional programs for aspiring game designers. Options include BA and BS Degrees in Media & Information with Specializations in Game Design & Development, Design, Information Technology, and Information and Communication Technology for Development. Fiction Film Production and Documentary Studies are also on the menu.

MSU offers an MA in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with a Focus in Games and Meaningful Play, a BA/BFA in Studio Art with a Game Design and Development Specialization, and even a PhD in Media and Information Studies. In addition to numerous programs at all degree levels, MSU offers 275 Study Abroad programs in more than 60 countries across all continents. All game design students are strongly encouraged to enroll.

Michigan State University (MSU) has been around since 1855. It is home to 49,300 students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries. Listed as one of the world’s top research universities, MSU sits on one of the greenest campuses in the nation. The 5,200-acre campus is just 3 miles from the State Capital—Lansing.

4. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
Bradley University was established in 1897. The school sits on an 84-acre campus and it is home to 5,700 students. Located just one mile from Downtown Peoria, Bradley University is “one of only a small percentage of institutions offering Internet2 access, which provides learning opportunities in collaboration with students and faculty at other institutions.” Accredited by 22 national accrediting agencies, Bradley University houses 5 colleges and a graduate school that offer more than 130 programs.

Bradley University’s Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts is home to the school’s Department of Interactive Media which offers several outstanding programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA/BS in Interactive Media with a Game Design Concentration or an Animation and Visual Effects Concentration and Minors in Interactive Media and Game Design. In addition to offering excellent game design curriculums, the game design programs at Slane help students develop the business skills they need to start their own game studios and other businesses.

5. University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin-Stout is home to several excellent programs for aspiring game designers. UW-Stout Game Design and Development students won the 2013 E3 College Game Competition.  The College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics offers a BS in Game Design and Development with concentrations in Computer Science and Art.  The School of Art and Design offers a BFA in Entertainment Design with concentrations in Comic and Sequential Art, Digital Cinema, and Animation, a BFA in Studio Art with a concentration in Drawing, and a BFA in Graphic Design and Interactive Media with concentrations in Design and Interactive Media. 

In addition to a wide range of program offerings for game designers, UW-Stout has a unique National Student Exchange Program that welcomes more than 3,000 students each year. The Program allows design students to choose from more than 200 participating universities across the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and throughout Canada.

Established in 1891, the University of Wisconsin Stout (UW-Stout) is part of the University of Wisconsin System and the state’s polytechnic university. The school, which sits on a 131-acre campus, is home to 9,286 students from 45 states and 47 nations. Accredited by 21 national accrediting agencies, UW Stout houses 4 colleges, 3 schools and a graduate school that offer more than 65 degree programs in all areas of study from Apparel Design to Technology.  UW-Stout was the first Malcolm Baldrige Award recipient in higher education

6. Dakota State University, Madison, South Dakota
Dakota State University (DSU) was established in 1881. The school, which specializes in computer technology, sits on more than 20 acres and it is home to more than 3,100 students enrolled in 100+ programs across 5 colleges. Dakota State University’s College of Arts and Sciences is home the school’s Digital Arts & Design (DAD) Program.

The DAD Program offers a number of well-respected programs for aspiring game designers. The most popular program, however, is the BS in Computer Game Design. This is an interdisciplinary program which includes coursework in Game Design, Software Design, and Digital Arts. The program allows students to focus on specific topics such as Narrative Design, Software Design, Technical Art, and others.

Other noteworthy offerings include a BS in Digital Arts & Design with Concentrations in Digital Storytelling, Computer Graphics, and Production Animation as well as a Certificate in Information Systems Management with a Concentration in Multimedia or Multimedia Design and Production, and Minors in Production Animation (2D), Production Animation (3D), Art, Digital Editing, and Computer Graphic Design.

Dakota State University is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

7. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan
Lawrence Technological University (LTU) is one of the nation’s top colleges for Applied Technology, Engineering, Architecture, and Science. Founded in 1932, the school sits on a 102-acre campus in the City of Southfield Michigan. Also called “Lawrence Tech,” LTU is home to more than 3,000 students enrolled in more than 50 academic programs, across 4 colleges. The College of Architecture + Design-Department of Art + Design and the College of Arts & Sciences-Department of Math + Computer Science offer several top-tier programs for aspiring game designers.


Offerings include a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Software Development, a BA/BFA in Game Art, and a BFA in Interaction Design. The BA/BFA in Game Art and the BFA in Interaction Design are offered through the College of Architecture + Design-Department of Art + Design, and the BS in Computer Science/Game Software Development is offered through the College of Arts & Sciences-Department of Math + Computer Science. This Department also offers a Master of Science in Computer Science (MS) with a Concentration in Computer Graphics, and a Minor/Dual Major in Computer Science leading to a BS.

It is important to note than the Computer Science major is listed as one of the school’s most popular programs, so admission is competitive, but truly rewarding.

8. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) opened in 1926 with just 280 students and under the name “The Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts.” It was one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, 4-year program in art. Today, CCS is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than a dozen programs in Design and Transportation Design.

The Entertainment Arts Department at CCS offers several first-rate programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a BFA Degree in Entertainment Arts with Concentrations in Game, Video, and Animation; BFA Degrees in Illustration and Design; MFA Degrees in Interaction Design and Interdisciplinary Design, and Minors in Animation & Digital Media, Illustration, Fine Arts, and Visual Culture.

Besides a large collection of program offerings for aspiring game designers, The College for Creative Studies has an outstanding faculty made up of working professionals in the field with everything from major motion pictures to video games to their credit.

9. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Established in 1910, Kent State University houses more than a dozen colleges offering more than 200 academic programs. The College of Arts and Sciences—home of the Department of Computer Science, offers several impressive programs for aspiring game designers.

Programs include BA and BS Degrees in Computer Science with a Game Programming Concentration. A Minor in Computer Science is also on the menu as well as an Accelerated BS/MS Program. Head over to the College of Communication and Information-School of Visual Communication Design (VCD) and you will find several other options worth mentioning.

The School of VCD offers BA and BFA Degrees in Interaction Design (Motion and Animation), BA and BFA Degrees in 2D Design, and BA and BFA Degrees in Illustration. The School also offers an MA and an MFA in Visual Communication Design. The MA in VCD is one of only 3 in the State of Ohio, and the MFA in VCD was the first and is one of just 2 programs in the State to offer this terminal degree.

Kent State University’s 8-campus system is one of the largest regional systems in the U.S. Home to more than 27,500 students from all 50 states and 100 countries, Kent State sits on an 866-acre campus just 11 miles east of Akron, 33 miles southeast of Cleveland, 40 miles west of Youngstown, and 28 miles north of Canton.

10. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Miami University is home to the College of Creative Arts, which houses the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS). Here, students will find several significant game design programs including a Co-Major and Major BA in Interactive Media Studies (IMS), a Digital Game Studies Minor, and an Interactive Media Studies Minor (IMS Minor). The Co-Major and Major Programs are interdisciplinary, the Digital Game Studies Minor offers 3 Concentrations including Game Art and Design, Game Studies, and Game Development, and the IMS Minor has 3 phases including Foundation, Advanced Track, and Capstone Course.

All AIMS students have access to state-of-the-art facilities such as a the Game Lab, Huge Immersive Virtual Environment (HIVE), and Motion Capture Lab, as well as job opportunities in  Game Design and Development, 3D Design and Animation, Interactive and Digital Art, Virtual Environments, Simple Robotics, Games and Learning, Interactive Data Visualization, and more.

Founded in 1809, Miami University has a main campus in Oxford and regional campuses in Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, Ohio. The main campus, is just 35 miles north of Cincinnati and it houses 7 colleges and schools that offer around 200 programs. Miami University is home to 23,000 students across all campuses and it has a campus in Europe which welcomes 230 lucky students each year.