Top 10 Game Design Schools Offering a Master of Arts (MA) - 2018 Rankings
1University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
2University of UtahUtah
3Michigan State UniversityMichigan
4Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
5Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
6University of Texas at DallasTexas
7North Carolina State University at RaleighNorth Carolina
8American UniversityDistrict of Columbia
9George Mason UniversityVirginia
10University of ConnecticutConnecticut

Below are the Top 10 Game Design Schools and Colleges offering a Master of Arts (MA) degree program for 2018. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California

Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is home to 45,500 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors. The school’s MA in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts, Games and Health) is offered through the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Media & Games Division, along with the Graduate School in conjunction with the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center.

This unique graduate program highlights initiatives Social and Sensorimotor Play, Games for Health, and Storytelling for mHealth (mobile health). Social and Sensorimotor Play highlights investigation of novel assessment and treatment techniques using interactive play for improving social skills, visuospatial navigation and motor coordination in physical space. Games for Health promotes, develops and assesses innovative games with behavioral health applications, and Storytelling for mHealth highlights mobile interactive entertainment with general health and wellness applications, or a specific chronic illness focus.

Sample courses for the program include Advanced Game Development, Design and Technology for Mobile Experiences, Gesture Movement for Animation, Experiments in Interactivity, Visual Effects, Visual Music, Tangible Computing in the Humanities and Sciences, Interactive Entertainment, Science, and Healthcare, and Design for Interactive Media.

In addition to the MA program, USC is home to the GamePipe Laboratory. Sponsored by Intel, Sony, and other technology companies, the Lab produces a "Demo Day," which allows students to showcase their work. The semiannual event attracts game industry reps, reporters, faculty, students, and hundreds of spectators from across the country.

2. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
University of Utah

The University of Utah (The U) was founded in 1850. Home to more than 31,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world, the school offers 100 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs across 17 colleges and schools, and nearly 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts are home to the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). The Studio offers a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE). Tracks include Game Arts, Game Engineering, Game Production, and Technical Art.

According to the Studio, “all students in each of the tracks have a series of common classes including Game Design, Rapid Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Final Project.” In addition, students will “develop and enhance a professional game portfolio” and they will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the game industry.

The David Eccles School of Business and the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Program also offer a dual degree program designed to take advantage of the complementary elements in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and MEAE. The MBA/MEAE, which aims to bridge the ‘suits’ vs. the ‘dev’ divide, takes just three years to complete.

3. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) is home to more than 50,000 students from all 82 counties in Michigan, all 50 states, and more than 133 other countries. MSU students have access to more than 200 programs across 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department—home of the game design program.

Graduate game offerings include an MA in Media and Information with a Focus in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) + Serious Game Design & Research Certificate. The program is highly customizable, providing students with the opportunity to advance their current skills, and move into new areas and collaborate with others within the program. Besides Game and Serous Design or Media and Information, sample areas include Interaction Design, User Experience, Information Architecture, Entrepreneurship, and Usability.

Besides offering a variety of pathways for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses 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.”

4. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, SCAD is home to nearly 13,000 students from around 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and 60-plus minors, including game design. The graduate program, which leads to an MA in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD), is offered through the School of Digital Media.

Sample courses for the program include Game Design Perspectives, Game Art Methods, Visual Interface and Information Design, Character Development, Environments for Games, Human-Centered Interactive Design, Scripting for Interactivity, and Design Methods for Interactivity. All students will complete a final IDGD project.

The MA in IDGD is available at the Savannah and Hong Kong campuses, and online.

5. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school serves more than 7,200 students enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online. The School of Game Development offers an MA in Game Development. The school says that the   multidisciplinary game program provides 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.

Students will study game design, programming, 3D modeling/texturing, concept art, UI/UX design, animation, rigging, visual effects, and emerging technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality. Graduates of the program will be prepared to seek positions such as game designer, 3D modeler, concept artist, UI/UX designer, and many others.

6. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

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 around 37,650 students enrolled in more than 130 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) was created in 2015. It merged two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. ATEC serves more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students.

The school offers an MA in ATEC with Gaming Studies. Research areas for graduate students include Game Studies, Game Development, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and more. The MA in ATEC is a good pathway whether students are interested in teaching arts- and technology-related courses in colleges and universities or working in a professional studio or design practice. Graduate students may choose to pursue additional research opportunities as well.

7. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University (NC State) was founded in 1887. The school serves 33,755 students across 12 colleges representing all major academic fields. The College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science houses the game program. The graduate program leads to an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) degree.

The school says that the ABM program produces skilled computer scientists with deep knowledge in the algorithms, processes and technologies used to make games. Highlighted courses include Game Design and Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Building Game AI, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Human-Computer Interaction, Computer Graphics, Advanced Graphics Projects, and Advanced Game Development Projects. Electives run the gamut from Game Studies and Fantasy to Film and Science Fiction.

The ABM program allows students to complete the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree and a non-thesis Master’s in the same field within 18 months of completing the Bachelor’s degree.

8. American University, Washington, DC
American University

American University (AU) was founded in 1893. The school serves more than 13,000 students enrolled in over 160 programs, through eight schools and colleges. AU is also home to the Game Lab, which the school says serves as a hub for experiential education, persuasive play research, and innovative production in the fields of games for change and purposeful play.

AU has an MA degree program that is offered jointly by the School of Communication (SOC) and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). AU says that the MA in Game Design is the only program of its kind in the U.S. The program goes beyond traditional game design and development, by teaching students how to tailor play design for distinct education purposes. Highlighted courses include The Design of Play, Game Design & Art Pipeline Production, Games and Society, Games and Rhetoric, Advanced Game Development, Digital Art Tools and Techniques, 3D Animation, Games Research Methods, and Introduction to 3D Static Modeling.

Students in the MA in Game Design at AU will also gain real-world experience by working on projects with the Game Studio, and with clients like the Educational Testing Service, the National Institute of Mental Health, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and WAMU 88.5. 

9. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
George Mason University

George Mason University was initially founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949. The school became an independent institution in 1972. Today, GMU serves 34,000 students enrolled in hundreds of programs across 10 colleges and schools. The Volgenau School of Engineering at George Mason University (GMU) is home to the Department of Computer Science, which offers an MA in Computer Game Design.

Program highlights include internship opportunities, and access to the only U.S. 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. Students also have access to a variety of electives to enhance the degree. Sample courses for the program include Game Business, Entrepreneurship, and Practice, Game Production, Game Studio Management, Advanced Game Art, Interactive Game Systems Design, Advanced Music and Sound for Games, Research Methodologies in Game Design, and Issues in Interactive Entertainment.

10. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut
University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut (UConn) was founded in 1881 by brothers Charles and Augustus Storrs.  under the name Storrs Agricultural School. At the time, SAS was a two-year vocational school, which eventually became Storrs Agricultural College, and began officially admitting women. Today, UConn serves more than 32,000 students enrolled in 113 majors, 90 research and professional practice fields of study, and six professional degree programs across 14 schools and colleges.

The School of Fine Art at University of Connecticut (UConn) is home to the Digital Media and Design Department, which offers an MA degree in Digital Media & Design: Game Development and Design. Students are required to take the foundation curriculum, which consists of Digital Foundation, Animation Lab, Fundamentals of Web Design, Digital Culture, Motion Graphics I, Critical Perspectives of Digital Media, Student Agency (2 semesters), and Design Lab.

Game design courses include Intro to Digital Game Design, Virtual Worlds & Simulations, Stories in Video Games, Advanced Digital Game Design & Development, Game System Design, Multiplayer Game Development, Disruptive Technologies, and Advanced Game Scripting.

Besides a variety of course offerings, the MA program offers internship opportunities at places such as Boston Interactive, Disney, and Rocket Software, and participation in several clubs including DMD Club, After Effects Club, and Video Game Club.