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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Top 50 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the US – 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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11. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (top 10% of schools considered) 

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Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) is home to approximately 50,543 students from all 83 counties in Michigan, all 50 states in the United States, and more than 138 other countries. MSU offers more than 200 programs across 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department. Program offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA and a BS in Media and Information with a Game Design and Development Specialization, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Design and Development Specialization, and a BA or BFA in Studio Art with a Game Design and Development Specialization. 

Also on the menu is an interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor. According to the school, “the minor brings together students in Media and Information, Computer Science, and Studio Art. For most majors outside of MI, the Minor often nearly fulfills the student's cognate requirements.” 

Graduate game offerings include an MA in HCI with a Games and Meaningful Play Focus, a PhD in Media and Information Studies (Research Area: Games and Meaningful Play), and a Graduate Certificate in Serious Games. Besides offering a wide variety of program offerings for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences is home to the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. According to the College, the mission of the GEL Lab is to “design innovative prototypes, techniques, and complete games for entertainment and learning and to advance state of the art knowledge about social and individual effects of digital games.” 

12. New York University Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York (top 10% of schools considered) 

Tisch School of the Arts was founded in 1965. It is part of New York University (NYU) and home to the NYU Game Center – Department of Game Design. According to Tisch, the Game Center is "a nexus for the New York City game community." It offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BFA, MFA, and a Minor in Game Design. Classes and events take place at the Media and Games Network (MAGNET) at the NYU Brooklyn campus. MAGNET also houses the Game Center Open Library, which is "the largest collection of games held by any university in the world." 

13. University of California - Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (top 10% of schools considered) 

The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened in 1965. The school is home to 17,280 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs across 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), Department of Computer Science (CS), offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design, an MS in Games & Playable Media, and MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a (research) focus in Computer Games.  

UCSC’s Art Department houses the Arts Division, which offers an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) with a Playable Media research option. Finally, UCSC is home to The Center for Games and Playable Media. Established in 2010, the Center houses the schools “five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world.” 

14. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York (top 10% of schools considered)

American Impressionist William Merritt Chase founded Parsons in 1896. The school is home to nearly 5,000 students enrolled in 27 undergraduate, graduate, and associate degree programs. Parsons houses five schools, including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, the School of Art, Media, and Technology, the School of Constructed Environments, the School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion. The School of Art, Media, and Technology, offers several degree programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology.

According to the school, “the program focuses on time-based media, interaction, and experiential design. Through courses, collaborative projects, internships, and sponsored projects, the program immerses you in emerging design and art practices such as computational art, game design, physical computing, computer graphics, and experimental interfaces.” 

15. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (top 10% of schools considered) 

Established in 1979, Full Sail University is home to 18,000 students from 50 states and 73 countries. The school offers dozens of programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media, and the Arts and it awards graduate certificates and degrees at all levels. 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. 

16. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered) 

Established in 1898, DePaul University is the nation’s largest Catholic University. It is home to 23,539 students enrolled in more than 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools. The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include an MS in Computer Game Development and a BS in Computer Game Development with Concentrations in Game Design, GamePlay Programming, and Systems Programming.

In addition to a variety of game design offerings, DePaul University offers a Game, Cinema and Animation Summer Academy as well as the DePaul Game Experience (DGE). The Summer Academy is a weeklong program that features “hands-on instruction using the latest equipment and technology.” Participants may focus on Computer Game Development, 3D Computer Modeling and Animation for Games and Cinema or Digital Cinema Production. 

The DePaul Game Experience allows a select group of students to work on a game to submit to the Student IGF Competition. Past DGE teams have made entries that were finalists in the IGDA student competition.

17. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California (top 15% of schools considered) 

Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. It is home to more than 100 students enrolled in variety of computer graphics classes and programs. Offerings for aspiring game designers include one-, two-, and three-year programs leading to a Certificate. Programs include Entertainment Design (One-Year Track), Digital Production for Entertainment (Two-Year Program), Entertainment Design and Digital Production (Three-Year Program), and Maya Fast Track (10-Week Program).

Gnomon also offers a variety of online courses ranging from Games Tools and Techniques to Character Animation, and Master Classes that “focus on different elements of the visual effects and games industries in a private forum.” Master Classes are offered exclusively online. 

18. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 15% of schools considered)

Established in 1891, Drexel University is home to 26,359 students, making it the 14th largest private university in the U.S. The school offers 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The College of Computing & Informatics offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BS in Computer Science (BSCS) and a BA in Computer Science (BACS). Both programs offer a Concentration in Game Programming and Development (GMPD).

The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design also offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BS in Game Art and Production and an MS in Digital Media. The two-year MS program features comprehensive studies in Gaming and Digital Media History, Theory and Methods, 3D Modeling, Interactivity, and Animation. 

19. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 15% of schools considered)

Founded in 1890, Columbia College is home to more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in more than 100 academic majors or programs. The School of Media Arts, Department of Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) offers a variety of programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BA in Game Design with Concentrations in Game Art, Game Development, or Game Sound Design for Games, a BA or BS in Game Programming, a BA in Interactive Arts and Media, a BA in Game Art, and a BA in Interaction Design. Minor options include Game Art, Game Design, and Game Programming. 

20. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida (top 15% of schools considered) 

Founded in 1963 the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the nation’s youngest universities. With approximately 60,810 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 13 colleges, UCF is also one of the nation’s largest schools. The School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which is housed within the College of Arts & Humanities, and the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) offer several programs for aspiring game designers. The School of Visual Arts & Design 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.”