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Animation. Graphic Design. Game Art.

Unique Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs for Animation and Game Design in the South

Written by ACR StaffAugust 9, 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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The South is home to the South Atlantic Division, which consists of eight states and DC. We’ve already covered six—Delaware, DC, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and North Carolina, so now it’s time to end out coverage of the Division South with South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Beginning with South Carolina, we found that the state has its fair share of esteemed art and design schools such as the School of the Arts at College of Charleston and the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University. And then there’s Virginia, which is home to the prominent School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and College of William & Mary’s vast Arts & Sciences Department. Head to West Virginia, where the most popular art school is West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts. 

Celebrated institutions such as these offer a range of art and design programs, but which ones offer the “most unique” programs for animation and game design? Read on to find out if these and any other schools in South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia offer unique bachelor’s and master’s programs for animation and game design. We promise you won’t be disappointed! 

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Clemson University – Clemson, South Carolina 

Clemson University offers a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Digital Production Arts (DPA). Per the school, the professional degree program is “aimed at producing technically savvy, artistically talented graduates who are sought after by the growing electronic arts industry, particularly by those companies engaged in visual effects within the entertainment and commercial video, film, and gaming industries.” It offers a unique blend of courses in art, computer engineering, computer science, performing arts, graphic communications, psychology, and philosophy “targeted at production techniques specific to the animation, visual effects, and electronic games industries.” 

The MFA in DPA requires 60 credit hours, 12 of which are devoted to Digital Production Studio, wherein the student participates in group production work. Six credit hours are devoted to Graduate Research Studio, where students may choose to continue work on a team project, or pursue an individual project or production, and another six are devoted to the Master’s Thesis.

The remaining 36 credit hours consist of core courses, electives or foundation courses. Sample courses include Technical Foundations of Digital Production I & II, Visual Foundations of Digital Production I & II, Visual Narrative, Rendering and Shading, 3D Modeling and Animation, Special Effects Compositing, Advanced Drawing, Audio Engineering II, Virtual Reality Systems, Game Engine Construction, Human Computer Interaction, Physically Based Animation, Advanced Animation, and Physically Based Visual Effects. 

Clemson University has also introduced a new Master of Science (MS) in DPA for 2017. This 30 credit hour program is “a technical professional degree aimed at producing graduates who intend to seek employment in the software development of the electronic arts industry. Its focus includes the technical components of visual effects production for the film, electronic games, and commercial video industries.” The program offers a unique mix of courses such as 3D Modeling and Animation, Software Construction, 2D Game Engine, General Purpose Computation on Graphical Processing, Character Animation, Human and Computer Interaction, Audio Engineering, Improvisation, Virtual Reality, Stage Lighting, Visual Narrative, and Visualization. 

Per the school, “both programs are offered within the Division of Visual Computing in the School of Computing, with significant collaboration with the departments of Art and Performing Arts. Each offers a unique blend of instruction, with coursework ranging from the artistic to the technical, all with a strong emphasis on advanced studio methods for visual problem solving.” 

Clemson University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award the bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist and doctoral degrees. The Computer Science programs are accredited by the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) and the Art & Design (ART) programs at Clemson are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Arts and Design (NASAD). 

College of Charleston – Charleston, South Carolina 

Though the College of Charleston (CofC) has one of the top art programs in the state, the animation and game program is housed in CofC’s renowned School of Science and Mathematics, Department of Computer Science. The program (Computing in the Arts or CITA) highlights a unique mix of courses such as Animation and Virtual Worlds, Game Programming, Computer Programming, Computers, Music, and Art, Graphic Design & Digital Media, Artificial Intelligence, and Server-Side Web Programming. 

The program, which leads to a BA In CITA with a Digital Media Concentration, also has an interesting mix of electives. Just a few options include Message Design and Influence, Media in the Digital Age, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, Social Media Marketing, Message Design and Influence, and Website Programming. Note that the BA in CITA with an Art Concentration offers many of the same courses mentioned earlier, along with a range of film, drawing, photography, and painting courses that can be customized to meet students’ specific goals. Both programs require 55+ credit hours of study. 

The College of Charleston is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

Virginia Commonwealth University – Richmond, Virginia 

If you’re looking for a unique animation program in Virginia, look no further than the School of the Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The program is so distinctive, that it is only available through the school’s Department of Kinetic Imaging (KI). Per the Department, BFA and MFA degrees are offered to students “pursuing video, animation, sound, emerging media and the many hybrids and extensions of those areas. All students in the BFA in Kinetic Imaging program get a solid foundation in video, sound, and animation production. The curriculum allows flexibility, enabling students to focus on an area or to create a cross-disciplinary art practice. Student outcomes include: making art and media work that is meaningful, making meaningful analysis and evaluation, attaining high level of electronic and digital media technical skills, and professional preparation.” 

The BFA program consists of courses such as Animation (I-IV), Video (I-III), Sound Communications, Web Technologies for Media Artists, Motion Graphics, Computer Animation, Virtual Interactive Worlds, Sound Communication (I & II), and Socially Engaged Media.

This exclusive undergraduate program has 100 to 110 undergraduate students. The school accepts 28 to 35 new incoming sophomores each year. 

The MFA in Fine Arts/Kinetic Imaging “expands the field of video art, experimental animation, sound art and emerging media through the production of works of art that explore the artist’s relationship to culture and society.” The studio-based, fine art program was initiated in the Fall of 2007 and it is a two-year curriculum of 60 academic credits. The competitive program is designed to support just 4-8 graduate students. 

The Kinetic Imaging programs at VCU are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Virginia Commonwealth University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate, master's, doctoral and first-professional degrees. 

George Mason University – Fairfax, Virginia 

George Mason University (GMU) hosts the nation’s only Serious Game Institute (in partnership with the University of Coventry U.K.), that concentrates on game-related applied research and new innovative game company cultivation. Auxiliary interests include the Game Analysis and Design Interest Group (GADIG) Student Club and the ‘Writing for Games’ National Conference, and GMU’s corporate partners range from Microsoft Game Studios and Electronic Arts, to Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Bethesda Softworks. With so many initiatives, interests and partnerships, it’s not surprising that GMU offers one of the top game design programs in the state, if not the U.S. And yes, the program is unique too. 

Per the school the Computer Game Design Program “hosts a BFA undergraduate degree,” a graduate MA degree, and “several minors with sports management and business, and multiple international exchange partnerships.” Student in the programs “study both the sciences and the arts, all in a revolving-role team-based, project-based new pedagogical environment.” The 120 credit hour BFA highlights major cores such as Advanced Game Design Studio, Writing and Editing Music and Sound, Story Design for Computer Games, Online and Mobile Gaming, Computer Animation for Games, Advanced Game Design Animation, Consumer Game Platform Analysis, Computer Programming, and Two-Dimensional Design and Color. 

The graduate MA in Game Design consists of 36 credit hours of study is “distributed among the following categories of courses: Core Courses (22 credits), Elective Courses (9 credits), the Comprehensive Experience (5 credits). The curriculum proposed has been modeled after the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) most recent ‘Curriculum Framework’ for the Study of Games and Game Development. Students may take electives in subject area categories that include critical game studies and research, games and society, game design and production, and game business and entrepreneurship. These subject areas reflect the current and future roles that computer games occupy in the scientific, entertainment, cultural, and economic sectors in society.” An internship experience is also part of the MA and BFA programs. 

The Game Design programs at GMU are offered through the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The GMU Computer Game Design Program is accredited with commendation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) to award bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. 

Virginia State University – Petersburg, Virginia 

Offered through the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Department of Art & Design, the Animation Program at Virginia State University (VSU) ranks among the top programs in the U.S. The program, which leads to a BFA in Visual Arts with a Concentration in Animation, begins with “the CORE program (Communication, Organization, Realization, Expression), which produces a strong understanding of the design fundamentals and applications of traditional art media” says the school.  “Foundation level courses, including Two-Dimensional and Three-Dimensional Design, Color Theory, Drawing, and Computer Fundamentals, are designed to prepare students to begin their advanced concentration coursework in the sophomore year.” 

Advanced concentration coursework for the 123 credit hour program consists of a unique mix of options such as Perspective Drawing, Cognitive Development for the Artist, Electronic Animation, and Animation Team. Students in the program will also take Animation I & II, Animation Basic I, II, & III, Life Drawing I &II, Sound for Animation, World Art, Computer for Artists, Color Theory, Art Appreciation, and a number of electives. An 18 credit hour Animation Minor is also available. 

The Art and Design Programs at VSU are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Virginia State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees. 

West Virginia University – Morgantown, West Virginia 

Reed College of Media and the College of Creative Arts at West Virginia University (WVU) offer two unique programs that, when combined, provide could prepare graduates for a career in Game Art and Design. The College of Creative Arts in the School of Art and Design offers a BFA in Intermedia/Photography and Reed College of Media offers a Minor in Interactive Media Design. Per the College of Creative Arts, the BFA program “fosters creative exploration and critical inquiry in the production of contemporary art.” Through a range of “media explorations” including animation, digital video, interactivity and sound design, digital and traditional photographic processes, and installation, “students are encouraged to develop unique and compelling forms of expression.” 

Sample courses for the 120 credit hour BFA include Interactive Art, Figure Drawing, Multi Media, Electronic Media, Drawing, Visual Foundations, Digital Photography, Graphic Design, and Advanced Photography. Other unique components of the program include summer field courses in Chile's Atacama desert or the wilderness of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, national and international exhibitions and distinguished visiting artists hosted by The Mesaros Galleries in the Creative Arts Center, and access to WVU's art collection, which includes 3,000 works from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Ansel Adams. 

Students in the Minor in Interactive Media will “gain critical skills in interactive design, visual narrative and new technologies, making them highly competitive in the dynamic media industry.” The Minor consists of 18 credits (six courses) “split between the Reed College of Media and the School of Art and Design.” Courses include Gaming Design and Digital Narrative, Interactive Design, Advanced Interactive Design, Design for Multimedia, Media Tools and Applications, and the option to choose either Introduction to Electronic Media or Introduction to Visual Journalism and New Media. 

The College of Creative Arts is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). The undergraduate programs at the Reed College of Media of West Virginia University are accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC). West Virginia University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). 


"Accredited Institutions Search." NASAD. National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), 2017. Web. 30 July 2017. 

Census Regions and Divisions of the United States. Suitland: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016. PDF. 

"South Atlantic Summary." NOAA. NOAA Office of Science and Technology National Marine Fisheries Service, 2007. Web. 30 July 2017. 

Note: Program information has been obtained from each school’s official website. All information was accurate at the time of publication.