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Top 50 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the US – 2016 Rankings
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. It is home to 43,239 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 323 degree programs and majors through the College of Letters and Science, the university’s 11 professional schools, and more than 109 academic departments. The School of Arts and Architecture is home to the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers a BA in Design Media Arts. With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab.
According to UCLA, the Game Lab “supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres.” In addition to producing games and research, the lab “functions as a center that develops public programming around critical issues in gaming, including: public lectures, workshops, exhibitions, a visiting artist program, and an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum.”
22. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 15% of schools considered)
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was founded in 1740. It is home to nearly 25,000 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. The School of Engineering and Applied Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a BS in Engineering (BSE) with a Digital Media Design (DMD) Major, an MS in Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT), and a PhD in Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS). A DMD Minor is also on the menu.
23. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is home to more than 20,000 students enrolled in 150-plus majors, dozens of combined majors in new and emerging fields, and 24 programs that allow students to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years. Programs are offered through seven colleges and schools. Among them are two schools that offer several programs for aspiring game designers.
The College of Arts, Media and Design offers five programs for game designers at all degree levels. Offerings include a BFA in Digital Art and Game Design, a BFA in Games, an MS in Game Science and Design, a Graduate Certificate in Game Analytics, and a Minor in Game Design. The College of Computer and Information Science offers a BS in Computer Science and Game Design. Students in the BS program may choose to concentrate in areas ranging from Game Design to Interactive Media and Video.
24. Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is home to 2,100 students from 47 states and 18 countries. The school offers more than 80 programs through several academic divisions and one school. The Robert P. Stiller School of Business, the Division of Communication & Creative Media, and the Division of Information Technology & Sciences offer several programs for aspiring game designers.
The School of Business offers a BS in Management of Creative Media with a Specialization in Game Production Management. The Division of Communication and Creative Media offers a BFA in Creative Media with Specializations in Game Media and Interactive Design, a BS in Game Design with an optional Specialization in Sonic Arts, and a BS in Game Art & Animation. The Division of Information Technology & Sciences offers a BS in Computer Science & Innovation with a Specialization in Mobile Application Development or Software Engineering.
The school also offers a BS in Game Programming. Considered one of the first bachelor’s degrees of its kind in the nation, the program features a collaborative Game Studio where Game Programming majors “work with their counterparts in Game Art & Animation and Game Design as well as Management of Creative Media majors specializing in Game Management to build games from start to finish. The Game Studio replicates a professional game development setting,” which gives students a “firsthand understanding of how creative teams collaborate to develop individual game assets and coordinate them into a functional product.”
Another major benefit of the program is the study abroad experience in Montreal, Canada, which is one of the world’s largest game development centers. Students have also had the opportunity to intern at Bigpoint Inc., Microsoft Game Studios, and Wired Magazine. With a 92 percent placement rate, Game Programming graduates have landed positions at Microsoft Entertainment Studios, Sledgehammer Games, Warner Bros./Turbine, Subatomic Games, Ubisoft, and Square Enix.
25. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (top 15% of schools considered)
Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) was established in 1961 as the “Laguna Beach School of Art.” Home to just under 500 students, LCAD offers five undergraduate majors and three graduate programs. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA with an Emphasis in Game Art, 3D Character, or 3D Environment.
This “project-based and highly collaborative” program features graduate and undergraduate partnerships, such as with USC’s graduate program, GamePipe. The BFA program has a placement rate above 94 percent and graduates have landed positions at Blizzard Entertainment, Obsidian, Crystal Dynamics, Visceral Games, and many others.
An Art of Game MFA is also on the menu. This unique program allows students to complete their first year by taking evening and weekend online classes ending in a six-week intensive at the LCAD campus in Laguna Beach, CA. The program takes two years to complete.
26. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school is home 59,000 students enrolled in nearly 400 bachelors’, masters, doctoral, and first professional degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture founded the Visualization program in 1989. It features gaming-oriented study options in the MS and MFA degrees as well as enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level. Degree options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees 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.”
According to the school, “LIVE Lab students work with industry partners including EA, Epic Games and Side Effects Software. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at numerous game design companies, including EA, Certain Affinity, BioWare, gumi America and Virtuix Omni.”
27. University of California - Irvine, Irvine, California (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) was established in 1965. It is home to 30,736 students enrolled more than 100 programs across more than a dozen schools. The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences offers a BS in Computer Game Science (CGS). According to the School, CGS students will “acquire a solid foundation in computer science and software development” and “learn how to create interactive and human-centered computer game designs.” Students will have the opportunity to work in teams to “design and implement new games.”
28. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) was founded in 1883 as “The University of Texas.” It is home to more than 51,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs across 18 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, Computer Science Department, Radio-Television-Film Department, and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) offer an interdisciplinary undergraduate Certificate program for aspiring game designers.
The interdisciplinary Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) Program 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” as well as “local game and mobile studios and industry professionals.”
GAMMA students may earn one of the following Certificates:
- CS Game Development Certificate
- CS Mobile Computing Certificate
- CoFA Digital Art Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital World Designer Certificate
- RTF Visual Effects & Animation Certificate
The Certificate is awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.
29. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1929, Academy of Art University had a Fall 2015 enrollment of 8,813 students. The school offers dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs through several schools. The School of Game Development offers a variety of degree programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include AA, BFA, BS, and MFA degrees in Game Development.
According to the school, these multidisciplinary programs provide a “well-rounded education in the arts with an emphasis on understanding and applying techniques including 3D modeling, animation and lighting in video game production.”
30. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is home to more than 6,000 students enrolled in 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs through several divisions and schools. The Division of Arts & Sciences offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include a BS in Interactive Media & Game Development (BS IMGD) and a Minor in IMGD. Graduate offerings include an MS in IMGD.
31. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) was established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969. The school is home to 23,095 students enrolled in 133 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts and Humanities, Department of Arts and Technology (ATEC) is home to more than 1,100 students and it offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a 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).
ATEC students have the opportunity to choose electives in more than one area. Just a few options for game designers 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, name a few.
32. Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1965, Hampshire College is home to 1,400 students enrolled in more than 50 areas of study. The school is a member of the Five College Consortium, so students have access to an additional 5,300 courses offered through nearby University of Massachusetts (UMass) and at Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. Hampshire Collee offers an undergraduate degree in Game Design and Development that gives students the opportunity to “grow and strengthen their skills in teamwork, communication, iterative development, playtesting and user testing, storytelling, game programming, 2D and 3D art and animation, game design, audio design, entrepreneurship, and project management.”
Just a few unique sample courses include Pixelbending, Designing Treasure Hunts, Women in Game Programming, Analog Game Design, and Radical Innovation in Digital Arts. Students will also become skilled in animation and complete a game development workshop. Other program highlights include access to the Game Lab and Library, the Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility, and The Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video and the Johnson Library Center, which house facilities for Computer Animation; Film and Video Editing; and Digital Design.
33. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School, Orlando, Florida (top 20% of schools considered)
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (The DAVE School) is a 35,000 square foot facility located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida, Soundstage 25. The school offers intensive and “comprehensive training” in Game Production, 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, and 3D Visual Effects. The school’s intensive, 15-month Game Production Diploma covers Modeling & Sculpting, Game Production, Game Engine Fundamentals, Game Asset Production, and Animation Fundamentals. Launched in 2014, the Game Production Diploma is designed for those interested in working on the artistic side of game production.
34. Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California (top 25% of schools considered)
The Art Center College of Design opened in 1930. The school, which spans two campuses and four structures in the U.S. and Berlin, offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in the areas of Industrial Design and Visual and Applied Arts. Art Center also offers a joint MS/MBA program with the Drucker School of Management. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BS in Entertainment Design with a Track in Concept Design or Character Animation. The BS program prepares students for a career in both Game Design and Animation.
35. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (top 25% of schools considered)
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was founded in 1918 by General Harrison Gray Otis—the founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Home to 1,140 students, OTIS offers more than a dozen interdisciplinary art and design programs from Animation and Motion Design to Illustration, Sculpture/New Genres, and Toy Design. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game & Entertainment Design Major and a Minor in Digital Media.
According to the school, “in Game & Entertainment Design, students learn to create the visual elements for games, apps, feature films, and other entertainment platforms. Students also develop the skills to design the gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters of interactive games, apps, and websites.” Digital Media graduates have landed positions at Electronic Arts, Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Sony Imageworks, and many others.
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