|1||University of Southern California||California|
|2||New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts||New York|
|3||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|4||The New School/Parsons||New York|
|5||Texas A&M University||Texas|
|7||Academy of Art University||California|
|8||University of Texas at Dallas||Texas|
|9||The Ohio State University||Ohio|
|10||American University||District of Columbia|
Below are the Top 10 Game Design schools and colleges offering Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree programs for 2018. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
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. MFA program options are offered through Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Media & Games Division. Offerings include an intensive three-year MFA in Interactive Media and an MFA in Interactive Media (Games and Health). Dornsife programs are offered in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts.
All MFA students have the opportunity to participate in 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.
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of New York University (NYU) and home to the NYU Game Center, Department of Game Design. Also known as Tisch or TSOA, the school has more than 3,000 students enrolled in games, animation, film, interactive media, acting, dance, design, performance, writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television, preservation, recorded music, photography, and public policy programs.
The NYU Game Center, Department of Design offers a Game Design MFA. This two-year degree includes classes in Game Design, Game Production, Game Studies, and Game History. Students in the program gain hands-on experience by taking studio courses and participating in play labs, and electives will allow students to “explore everything from Game Journalism to Games and Players (a class on the psychology and emotions of game play).”
Classes and events for Game Center programs take place at the Media and Games Network (MAGNET) at the NYU Brooklyn campus. MAGNET also houses the Game Center Open Library, which is "the largest collection of games held by any university in the world."
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.
An MFA in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD) is offered through the School of Digital Media. The program consists of graduate intensive courses such as Game Design Perspectives, Game Art Methods, and Design Methods for Interactivity. Students will also take courses such as Interactive Design and Media Applications, Scripting for Interactivity, Game Design Documentation, Environments for Games, and Human-centered Interactive Design.
The MFA in IDGD can be taken at the Savannah and Hong Kong campuses and through eLearning.
The New School was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. Back then, the school was known as The Chase School, and later as New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Today, known as The New School/Parsons, this art and design college is home to nearly 5,500 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, School of Art Media and Technology, School of Constructed Environments, School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.
The School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT) offers an MFA in Design and Technology. This studio-intensive program consists of major, collaborative, and thesis studios. Students have many elective options to choose from, which allows them to create their own “coherent” study plan. In addition, students have the opportunity to work with peers in related programs including Communication Design, Photography, Fine Arts, and Illustration.
Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school is home to 68,625 students enrolled in nearly 400 degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture founded the Visualization program in 1989. It features gaming-oriented study options at all levels, including an MFA 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.”
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, which enrolls more than 2,000 students annually, from around the country and across the globe, offers 29 areas of study 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 offers an MFA in Interactive Media and a BA in Interactive Media Design/MFA Fine Arts 4+1 (Game+) Program. A unique benefit of the program is access to the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI) at Becker.
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.”
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 MFA in Game Development. According to the school, this multidisciplinary 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.” The Game Development programs at Academy of Art prepare students for positions such as game designer, 3D modeler, concept artist, UI/UX designer, and many others.
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 MFA in ATEC with Gaming Studies, which allows students to choose electives in more than one area. Examples 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.
Research areas for all graduate students include Game Studies, Game Development, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and more. The graduate program 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.
Established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, The Ohio State University (OSU) offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations. The school’s Department of Art offers an MFA in Studio Art with an Emphasis in Art and Technology. The school says that the emphasis allows students to focus on the creative use, misuse, and investigation of technology in an art-making practice.
Students engage the meaning and material of science and technology through the production of interactive installations, electronic objects and interfaces, moving images, 3D modeling and animation, art games, tactical media, bio-art, performance, digital imaging, rapid prototyping, holography, Internet art, sound, and emerging forms.
Students in this emphasis area discover an individual aesthetic and artistic vision through conceptualization, theory, and an awareness of history that critically engages the use of advanced science and technology. Students are encouraged to consider content, contexts, and approaches that may not fit within traditional definitions of art or display venues.
Advanced technologies are explored as creative tools and as agents, which can lead to the production of new meaning, ideas, and artistic invention, all central to contemporary art. In addition to faculty in the Department of Art, students also benefit from affiliated faculty in Film Studies, Physics, the Advanced Computing Center for Arts and Design (ACCAD), Biology, Architecture, and the Nanotech West Lab.
Interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary experimentation that forges connections to other departments is encouraged.
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. The School of Communication (SOC) offers an MFA in Games and Interactive Media, as well as a concentration in Games and Interactivity within the MFA in Film and Electronic Media.
Students in both programs get 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. In addition, MFA students have access 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.