Our 2014 rankings of the top game design and development schools in the South.
We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas.
For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here
1. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
In addition to a strong presence in the southern region of the U.S., Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has made its mark overseas. Established in 1978, SCAD has trendy campuses in Hong Kong, China and Lacoste, France as well as Atlanta, Georgia, and of course, the main campus in charming Savannah. The school, which offers 40 majors and more than 60 minors in art and design, has a large collection of prominent programs for aspiring game designers.
Offerings include BA, BFA, MA, and MFA Degrees in Interactive Design & Game Development, a Minor and an MFA in Themed Entertainment Design, a BFA, MA, MFA, and Minor in Motion Media Design, and an Interactive Design Certificate. SCAD also offers a BFA, MA, MFA, and a Minor in Visual Effects, a BA, BFA, MA, MFA, and Minor in Illustration, and an MA in Illustration Design. No matter which program you choose, all SCAD students have all-access to ultramodern Mac and PC labs with Adobe Creative Suite, Maya, Motion Builder, Dragonframe, Houdini, NUKE, Massive, and more.
Atlanta-based students also have access to a real-world studio environment, in-house theater, and green screen lab at the SCAD Digital Media Center. Upon graduation, most students take one of two paths—pursuit of an advanced degree or employment in the field. In fact, around 91 percent of alumni respondents reported being employed, pursuing further education or both within 9 months of graduation.
2. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
The School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) offers several top-rated degree programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a Bachelor of Science in Computational Media (BSCM), a BS in Science, Technology, and Culture, a 5-Year BS/MS in Science, Technology, and Culture with Media Studies/Digital Media, and a 5-Year BS/MS in Computational Media/Digital Media.
The BSCM program offers a Focus (or “Threads”) in Game Studies, Interaction Design and Experimental Media, Film, Performance Media, and Narrative. The program prepares students for careers in Game Design & Development, Digital Arts, Animation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Special Effects as well as graduate study in the areas of Digital Media Design, Computer Science, Film, Human-Computer Interaction, and more. Graduate offerings include an MS in Digital Media, an MS in Human-Computer Interaction (MS HCI), and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Digital Media.
Georgia Tech graduates (from all programs) have accepted positions at Electronic Arts: EA Games, Google, Lucasfilm Animation, South Park Studios, PlayOn Sports, Technicolor, Turner Broadcasting, Universal Studios, Apple, CCP, Zynga, and Major League Baseball.
Founded in 1885, Georgia Institute of Technology is home to more than 21,500 students enrolled in 100+ academic programs through 6 colleges including the Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, and Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts—home the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC).
3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 and it is home to 1,364 students from 44 states and 53 foreign countries. The school, which sits on a 48-acre campus, offers 14 majors in the areas of art and design. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BFA in Game Art & Design, a BFA in Motion Design, a BFA in Graphic & Interactive Communication, and a BFA in Computer Animation. Other options include BFAs in Digital Filmmaking and Illustration—RCAD’s most popular BFA program, as well as a Minor in Business of Art & Design. This minor is very popular among designers looking to start their own business.
If you’re interested in working for a major studio, you’re in luck. RCAD is such a force within the game design and animation industries that more than 60 recruiters visit the school each year searching for fresh talent. Just a few frequent visitors include recruiters from Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts: EA Games, Epic Games, Industrial Light & Magic, Pixar Animation, Riot Games, Sony Pictures Animation, and Universal Studios.
4. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
The University of Central Florida (UCF), School of Visual Arts and Design (SVAD) offers an impressive 21 programs for aspiring artists of all kinds. Offerings for game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game Design Specialization, and a Master's of Interactive Entertainment with 3 Tracks including Game Art, Game Production, and Game Programming.
In addition to offering a nice collection of top-ranked programs for aspiring game designers SVAD offers another place for game designers to immerse in creating games. UCF’s Center for Emerging Media (CEM) in Downtown Orlando houses the famous Florida Interactive Academy (FIEA). FIEA opened its doors in August of 2005 and offers a Video Game Development Curriculum with 3 Tracks including Art, Production, and Programming. UCF’s CEM also houses the Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology, and Entertainment (CREATE), the Advanced Design Lab (ADLab), Flying Horse Press, Citylab Orlando, and Vicon Entertainment's House of Moves motion capture studio.
Established in 1963, the University of Central Florida is the second largest school in the U.S. and the largest school in the State of Florida. It is home to 60,000 students and a main campus that sits on 1,415 sprawling acres. The school also houses 12 colleges that offer more than 212 degree programs and +125 certificates and minors.
5. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University was established in 1979. It sits on a 212-acre campus that houses 15,700 students and more than 110 studios & production environments. Backlots, game film facilities, production studios, dubbing stages, soundstages, art labs, and a digital arts center are just a few. The school also offers 44 degree programs, including 5 popular programs for aspiring game designers.
Offerings include a BS in Game Art, a BS in Game Design, and a BS Game Development. Full Sail University also offers a sought-after MS in Game Design and an equally competitive MS in Mobile Gaming. Students with the entrepreneurial spirit might consider the schools notable MFA Degree in Film Production with a Focus in Marketing, Pitching, & Distribution. Related programs include a BS in Computer Animation, a BS in Digital Arts & Design, a BS in Film, and a BS in Digital Cinematography.
6. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
NC State University offers more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 departments. The school’s Department of Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Development. This program prepares students to enter the competitive world of Computer Science and Game Design and Development. In fact, according to the Department, the objective of the Concentration is to “graduate skilled computer scientists with deep knowledge in the algorithms, processes and technologies used to make games.”
Established in 1887, North Carolina State University (NC State University) is home to a population of 34,000 students from all 50 states and 119 foreign countries. The school, which sits on a 21,075-acre main campus, is just minutes from Downtown Raleigh and it is the largest 4-year university in North Carolina.
7. Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, Georgia
Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) is a member of the University System of Georgia. Also called “Southern Poly,” the school sits on a 203-acre campus just 20 minutes from Downtown Atlanta. Founded in 1948, SPSU is home to 5,500 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across 5 schools.
The School of Computing and Software Engineering-Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSWE) in collaboration with the School of Arts and Sciences-Department of English, Technical Communications and Media Arts (ETCMA), offers several options for game designers. Options include a BS in Computer Game Design and Development, a BA, BS, and MS in Computer Science, a BA in New Media Arts (includes Special Effects, Video, Computer Graphics, 2D & 3D Design, Drawing, and more), and an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Visual Communication.
Accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission (ABET), Southern Poly CSWE also offers a rigorous Minor in Computer Game Design and Development.
8. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
East Tennessee State University’s College of Business and Technology-Department of Engineering Technology, Surveying & Digital Media offers several programs for aspiring game designers including the popular BS in Digital Media with Concentrations in Digital Interaction and Game Design, Digital Animation, and Digital Visualization. The Department also offers an MA in New Media Studio and an MS in Technology with a Digital Media Concentration. The MA in New Media Studio is a collaboration between Digital Media and Art & Design which allows students to expand their knowledge of Gaming, 3-D Animation, Motion Capture, Video and Special Effects, Image Editing, and Visualization.
East Tennessee State University’s College of Arts and Sciences-Department of Art and Design has several additional offerings that might be interesting to designers looking to enhance their education and career opportunities. The BA, BFA or MFA (Studio Art) with an Emphasis in Drawing are well worth considering.
East Tennessee State University (ETSU) was established in 1911 as East Tennessee State Normal School. The school sits on a 350-acre campus and it is home to more than 15,000 students. Besides ETSU’s game design programs, students have their pick of more than 170 programs across 11 colleges and schools.
9. University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina-Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) began as “The Charlotte Center” in 1946. When it opened, the school was home to 278 freshmen and sophomore students taking evening classes in the facilities of Charlotte’s Central High School. Today, UNC Charlotte sits on a 1,000-acre campus in North Carolina’s largest metropolitan area and it is home to more than 26,200 students and 900+ full-time faculty. The school offers more than 170 undergraduate and graduate programs across 7 professional colleges.
The College of Computing and Informatics offers several unique programs for aspiring game designers. Students may choose the BA or BS in Computer Science + Certificate in Computer Game Development or the MS in Computer Science + Certificate in Game Design and Development. Head over to the College of Arts + Architecture where you’ll find several additional options for aspiring designers.
Options include a BFA in Art with a Concentration in Digital Media or Illustration, a BA in Art, and a Minor in Film.
10. The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale was established in 1968. At the time, it hosted just a handful of students and offered 3 fields of study—Fashion Illustration, Commercial Art, and Interior Design. Today, the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale is home to more than 3,000 students and it offers Bachelor of Science (BS) and Associate of Science (AS) Degrees as well as Diplomas in the areas of Culinary Art, Design, Fashion, and Media Arts.
Aspiring game designers have a number of programs to choose from in the areas of Design and Media Arts. Options include BS in Game Art & Design, a BS in Visual Effects & Motion Graphics, a BS in Illustration (with an on-campus Illustration Club), and a BS in Media Arts & Animation. Aspiring designers may also consider the BS in Digital Filmmaking & Video Production, the AS in Video Production, or the AS/BS in Web Design & Interactive Media. These programs are often selected by students looking to enhance their education and employment opportunities.