2018
Top 10 Game Design Schools Offering Master of Science (MS) Degree Programs - 2018 Rankings
RankingSchoolState
1University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
2Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
3University of UtahUtah
4Digipen Institute of TechnologyWashington
5DePaul UniversityIllinois
6University of California, Santa CruzCalifornia
7Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts
8Georgia Institute of TechnologyGeorgia
9University of Central Florida Florida
10Worcester Polytechnic InstituteMassachusetts

Below are the Top 10 Game Design schools and colleges offering Master of Science (MS) degree programs for 2018. For an explanation of 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. Program options for aspiring game designers are offered through Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Media & Games Division. Dornsife programs are offered in in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts.

Viterbi School of Engineering offers an MS in Computer Science (Game Development) and a Progressive Degree Program (PDP). The PDP allows exceptional undergraduate students to start graduate-level classes during their senior year and request a reduction in the units required for the Master’s degree. This allows students to earn the MS in Computer Science with one or two additional semesters of study.” The PDP is available for the MS in Computer Science (Game Development).

In addition to unique program options for graduate game designers, 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. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was founded in 1885 as Mechanics Institute. When it opened, the school offered mechanical drawing, which eventually attracted more than 400 students. Today, RIT is home to nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from everything from 3D Digital Design to Web and Mobile Computing.  

The B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) offers an MS degree in Game Design and Development. The program The MS degree in game design and development explores the entertainment technology landscape, along with other related areas of software development. The school says that the program has its technical roots in the computing and information science disciplines, while simultaneously covering the breadth of the game development field through coursework in topics such as computer graphics, game engines, interactive narrative, and game design.

The program also highlights cooperative education (co-op), which consists of full-time paid work experiences that provide students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. The MS degree is specifically for students who aspire to careers within the professional gaming industry or a related field such as simulation, edutainment, or visualization.

3. 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 globe, 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 the Masters of Entertainment Arts & Engineering.” The MBA/MEAE, which aims to bridge the ‘suits’ vs. the ‘dev’ divide, takes three years to complete.

Other graduate offerings include a five-year BS/MS with a Graphics and Visualization Specialization offered through the School of Computing. This accelerated program makes it possible for students to get both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in just five years. The degree has three options: course-only, project, and thesis and students can choose a number of electives to refine the degree. Sample courses include Character Animation, 3D Computer Vision, Physics-Based Animation, Virtual Reality, and Human/Computer Interaction.

4. Digipen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
Digipen Institute of Technology

DigiPen Institute of Technology was founded in 1988. It is home to approximately 984 undergraduates and 78 graduate students from all 50 states and close to 50 countries. Ten graduate and undergraduate program options are available in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Graduate offerings for aspiring game designers include a five-year BS in Real-Time Interactive Simulation (RTIS)/MS in Computer Science with a Minor in Game Design.

The BS offers extensive training in mathematics and physics, says Digipen, and students in the program also work both individually and collaboratively to learn the fundamentals of Game Design, Production, and Programming. Additionally, they write game design documents and technical design documents, learn how to schedule tools and techniques, and participate in the full production of several games.

Once in the MS program, Digipen says students will further their understanding of computer science while focusing on its applications in video game and simulation software development. Topics covered include mathematics and physics, advanced computer science, and game creation including advanced game design, documentation, project management, marketing, networking, streaming media testing, and working with external contractors.

The Game Design programs at Digipen Institute of Technology are offered through the Department of Game Software Design and Production.

5. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

DePaul University (est. 1898) offers 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools and two campuses in Chicago. In keeping with the university’s commitment to diversity and access to education, 35% of total enrollments are students of color and 86% of students receive some type of financial aid. The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM), where the game programs are housed, is also home to programs such as animation, computer science, and sound design, offering cross-disciplinary courses and collaboration among students. 

DePaul offers an MFA in Game Design and an MS in Game Programming, in addition to Real-Time Game Systems and Technical Artist concentrations in other graduate degree programs. The MFA in Game Design is for creative visionaries intent on producing socially, culturally, and emotionally substantial work. The degree prepares students to advance the frontier of games by exploring emerging theories and applying them to practice. The MS in Game Programming is designed for those interested in game development programming at the highest level, including real time computing, computer graphics, and professionals retooling for the game industry.  

Game students showcase their work at both public and private (for industry professionals) events annually. Additionally, MFA students showcase their games that advance the medium--including VR, tabletop, and digital--at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair.

CDM has over 40 labs with roughly a dozen dedicated to gaming, including game development and research labs, a gameplay lab, playtest and usability labs, and, new in 2018, a Virtual and Augmented Reality Design Lab that supports multiplayer, room-scale VR and AR game dev on cutting-edge devices.

6. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
University of California, Santa Cruz

The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened in 1965. The school is home to more than 18,000 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs across 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), Department of Computer Science (CS) and Computational Media (CMPM) Department, offers MS degrees in Games & Playable Media and Computational Media or Computer Science with a Research Focus in Computer Games.

All students have access to The Center for Games and Playable Media. Established in 2010, the Center houses the schools five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world.

7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded 1861. The school serves nearly 11,500 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across five schools including the School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences (HASS), MIT Sloan School of Management, and the School of Science. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also home to the MIT Game Lab, the MIT Education Arcade, and the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.

Together, the labs provide the opportunity to study, design, and develop games as a supplement to several degree programs. Simply put, students who are interested in games can create their own program is study. Graduate students may choose the MS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster.” The CMS program is available through the HASS Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.

An MS in Computer Science and Engineering is also available. This offering is an extensive graduate program that allows students to study and participate in active research of aspects in computer science that are vital in the creation of modern digital games, such as artificial intelligence, networking, and computer graphics.

8. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) was founded in 1885. The school opened for classes October 8, 1888, with just 129 students enrolled in a BS in Mechanical Engineering program. Today, GeorgiaTech is home to more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in over 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors. Offerings for aspiring game designers are available through GeorgiaTech’s College of Computing.

Known as [email protected], this “institute-wide initiative” was “designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.” MS degree options include an MS in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology), an MS in Digital Media – HCI, a BS/MS in Computational Media/Digital Media, and an Accelerated 5-Year Bachelor's/Master's.

Students in all programs will complete an eight to ten week full-time, non-credit internship between the first and second year. In addition, students will have the opportunity to choose between a six-credit project or thesis, as well as elective courses in Digital Media or related disciplines, such as Architecture, Industrial Design, Cognitive Science, Computing, Management or Policy Studies.

9. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

Established in 1963 and home to more than 66,000 students across four campuses, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second-largest university. One of the nation’s youngest universities, UCF offers around 230 degree programs across 13 colleges. One of the school’s largest programs is game design.

The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) is UCF’s graduate video game design school. The school says that the Academy opened its doors to a select group of future game developers and creators in August of 2005. Today, FIEA is home to dozens of students enrolled in the MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks: Art, Production, and Programming.

The MS program teaches artists, programmers, and producers the techniques, tools, and skills to succeed in the gaming industry, says the school. It provides specific skills in the area of game design, as well as essential skills such as problem solving, teamwork, and project management.

Program highlights include student production teams and access to internship opportunities and job interviews with game and media companies from across the country. Student production teams are mentored by industry experts and researchers who provide instruction in game design, technical design, creative collaboration, rapid prototyping, 3-D animation and modeling, technical art, motion capture, software engineering, legal and ethical issues, preproduction, and postmortems.

10. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is home to more than 6,000 students enrolled in 50 degree programs through several divisions and schools. The Division of Arts & Sciences at WPI offers an MS in Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD). One of the earliest gaming programs in the U.S., WPI’s IMGD program blends the artistic and technical aspects of game development and interactive media, says the school.

Students in the program will explore diverse topics such as Writing for Games, Game Audio, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Virtual Reality, and 3D Modeling. As such, graduates of the IMGD program are prepared to work in the gaming industry, and apply their technical and creative skills in areas such as education, health care, art, and social sciences.