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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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36. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas (top 25% of schools considered)

Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) is home to 11,000 students enrolled in 246 degree programs through seven schools. The Meadows School of the Arts offers 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 that is also supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). 

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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. Alumni are employed at over 200 video game studios including Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Bungie Studios, DreamWorks Interactive, Insomniac Games, Microsoft Game Studio, Obsidian Entertainment, Rock Star Games, Riot Games, and Ubisoft, to name a few. 

37.  College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan (top 25% of schools considered)

The College of Creative Studies (CCS) was established in 1906 as The Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. The school is home to more than 1,400 students enrolled in more than a dozen degree programs across 14 academic departments. The Entertainment Arts Department has an enrollment of 285 students, making it the largest department at CCS. The Department of Illustration, which enrolls more than 200 students, is the second largest.

The Department offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BFA in Entertainment Arts with a Focus in Games, Animation, or Video. Students may customize their curriculum by choosing coursework from other areas or a Minor in Animation & Digital Media, Illustration, Fine Arts, or Visual Culture as a complement to the BFA program.

CCS graduates have been hired at Pandemic Studios, Stardock Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Bento Box Entertainment, Pixomondo, Blur Studio, and many others. 

38. Woodbury University, Burbank, California (top 25% of schools considered)

Woodbury University was founded in 1884. Home to 1,552 students, Woodbury is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California. The school, which also has a campus in San Diego, offers more than 20 programs across three schools including the School of Architecture, the School of Business, and the School of Media, Culture & Design. The School of Media, Culture & Design “promotes cross-disciplinarity as a core attribute of the school.” This means Game Art & Design BFA students may study in other areas such as Animation, Media Technology, Filmmaking and others.

39. American University, Washington, DC (top 25% of schools considered) 

American University (AU) was chartered in 1893. It is home to 12,371 students from 129 countries and all 50 states, and more than 800 non-degree, certificate, Washington Semester, and AU Abroad students. AU offers 150 programs through seven colleges and schools, and more than 100 AU Abroad programs. The College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Communication are home to the Game Lab. 

According to AU, the Lab “serves as a hub for experiential education, persuasive play research, and innovative production in the fields of games for change and rhetorical play.” Academic offerings include a MA in Game Design, which AU says is the only degree in persuasive play in the U.S. The 36 credit-hour program “provides an immersive curriculum that spans communication, computer science, and art.” 

40. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 25% of schools considered) 

The Ohio State University (OSU) was established in 1870. It is home to 45,289 undergraduate students and 10,219 graduate students enrolled in more than 200 majors, specializations and minors across more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art offers interdisciplinary three-year MFA, a four-year BFA program in Art with an Emphasis in Art and Technology, and an MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media.

The Art and Technology program focuses on 3D modeling, 3D animation, 3D virtual environments within unity and oculus, art games, interactive projection mapping environments, video Art, interactive robotics, speculative design and professional Practices.  The Digital Animation and Interactive Media program concentrates on Videogame Prototyping and Production, Digital Cinematography, 3D Virtual Environments, Experimental and Independent Animation and Interactive Arts Media.  

41. Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio (top 25% of schools considered) 

Established in 1986, Shawnee State University is home to more than 4,400 students enrolled in 80 bachelor’s and associate degree programs, and several master’s degree programs. The Fine, Digital and Performing Arts Department has several for aspiring game designers—a BFA in Game and Simulation Arts, an AA in Art with a Game Design Concentration, a Minor in Gaming Arts, and a BFA in Visualist Design and Interactive Media with a 3D Design or Interactive Media Track. 

42. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, (top 30% of schools considered) 

Cornell University was established in 1865 and opened in 1868. Home to 21,904 students, Cornell offers well over 100 degree programs through 14 colleges and schools, and 100 academic departments. The School of Computing and Information Science (CIS) is home to the Game Design Initiative at Cornell University (GDIAC).  According to GDIAC, the Initiative is an “interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty dedicated to the academic study of game design.” Program offerings include a Game Design Minor meant to “complement” traditional majors such as Computer Science, Information Science, Art, Music, or New Media Studies. 

43. Becker College, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 30% of schools considered)

John Hancock and Samuel Adams signed Becker College’s founding charter. Notable graduates and students include Eli Whitney (1788), William Morton (1836), and Elliott P. Joslin. Founded in 1784, Becker College is the nation’s 19th oldest campus. The school offers dozens of programs in across six academic divisions including Animal Studies, Business, Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, Design, Education and Psychology, and Nursing and Health Sciences.

The Design Division houses the Interactive Media Design program, which has several offerings for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA in Design with a Video Game Production and Management Concentration, a BA in Interactive Media Design with a Game Design Concentration, and a BA in Interactive Media Design with a Game Development and Programming Concentration. 

Besides a variety of game programs, Becker College houses the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI). Established in 2011, “MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, industry and government, aimed at fostering the growth of the game industry and innovation economy,” according to the school. It is a statewide center, “designated by the Commonwealth, for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.” 

44. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (top 30% of schools considered) 

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. The College of Engineering and Science 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. 

45. Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, Washington (top 30% of schools considered)

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) was established in 1996. The school has seven campuses in the U.S. and Australia, and one dedicated online campus. AIE offers a variety of programs for aspiring game designers. Options include an intensive Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development - Game Programming and an Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development - Game Art & Animation. Both programs take two years to complete, full-time. 

46. Ex’Pression College for Digital Art, Emeryville and San Jose, California (top 30% of schools considered) 

Established in 1998, Ex’pression College for Digital Arts (ECDA) is home to more than 1,000 students enrolled in six programs. The school offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Game Art and Design and a BAS in Interactive Audio. The Interactive Audio BAS covers Video Game Audio Creation & Integration. Both programs are available at the Emeryville and San Jose campuses.

47. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (top 30% of schools considered) 

Miami University was chartered in 1809 and it has campuses in Oxford, Hamilton, Middletown, West Chester, Ohio and Luxembourg, Europe. The University is home to nearly 24,000 students across all campuses and it offers more than 200 programs across seven colleges and schools, and the European Center in Luxembourg. The College of Creative Arts and the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS) offer several programs for aspiring game designers.

The College of Creative Arts offers an MFA in Experience Design (XD:MFA). The program is collaboratively offered by Interactive Media Studies (IMS) and Graphic Design. AIMS offers a BA in IMS with game-related Tracks in Game Design, Game Development, Game Studies, Interactive Business, and Art and Interaction. AIMS also offers a co-major in IMS with Game Design, Game Development, Game Studies, Interactive Business, and Art and Interaction Tracks, a Graduate Certificate in IMS, and a Minor in IMS. All students will have the opportunity to study at the AIMS/Entrepreneurship Institute’s Digital Innovation Center in San Francisco and they also have the opportunity to design their own advanced track.   

48. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana, (top 30% of schools considered)

Established in 1969, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is home to 30,488 students enrolled in more than 250 degree programs across 19 schools. Several programs are available for aspiring game designers through the School of Informatics and Computing (SOAC). Offerings include a BS in Media Arts and Science with a Specialization in Game Design and Development and a five-year BS+MS in Media Arts and Science with a Specialization in Human-Computer Interaction.

49. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois (top 30% of schools considered) 

Chartered in 1896 as Bradley Polytechnic Institute, Bradley University is home to 5,300 students from across the U.S. and 33 countries. The school offers more than 130 programs across five colleges and a graduate school. The Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts houses the Department of Interactive Media, which offers a BS and a Minor in Game Design. The Game Design program is a “technology heavy program” that emphasizes “design and production of games, focusing on the creative process from conception to implementation.” 

50. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan (top 30% of schools considered) 

Founded in 1932, Lawrence Technological University (Lawrence Tech, LTU) is home 4,500 students representing 25 states and 50 countries. The school, which has a full-service campus in Southfield and learning centers in southeastern and northern Michigan, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, and Taiwan, offers nearly 100 associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management

Programs for game designers are available through two schools—the College of Architecture and Design and the College of Arts and Sciences. The College of Architecture and Design-Department of Art and Design offers BA degrees in Game Art and Interaction Design. The College of Arts & Sciences-Department of Mathematics and Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Software Development. Also on the menu are a Minor in Computer Science and Minor/Dual Major in Computer Science and another discipline.