Our 2016 rankings of the Top 10 schools for game design in the Southwest US.
We define the Southwest as Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
The University of Utah (The U) is home more than 31,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world. Founded in 1850, the school offers nearly 100 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs. The school houses 17 colleges and schools, and close to 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts offer the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). Tracks include Arts, Engineering, Technical Arts, and Production. 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 viable offerings include a BA in Film and Media Arts and a BS in Computer Science. Both programs offer an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE). The BA is available through the School of Computing and Department of Film and Media Arts, and the BS is available through the School of Computing.
2. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school is home 59,000 students enrolled in nearly 400 bachelors’, masters, doctoral, and first professional degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture founded the Visualization program in 1989. It features gaming-oriented study options in the MS and MFA degrees as well as enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level. Degree options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees 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.”
According to the school, “LIVE Lab students work with industry partners including EA, Epic Games and Side Effects Software. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at numerous game design companies, including EA, Certain Affinity, BioWare, gumi America and Virtuix Omni.”
3. University of Texas - Austin, Austin, Texas
The University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) was founded in 1883 as “The University of Texas.” It is home to more than 51,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, Computer Science Department, Radio-Television-Film Department, and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) offer an interdisciplinary undergraduate Certificate program for aspiring game designers.
The interdisciplinary Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) Program allows students from a variety of different degree programs to “collaboratively develop 2D and 3D games for mobile, online, and social technology platforms in the program’s culminating experience: the Capstone Course.” GAMMA students also have the opportunity to work “alongside organizations such as UT’s EGaDS! and IGDA Austin” as well as “local game and mobile studios and industry professionals.”
GAMMA students may earn one of the following Certificates:
- CS Game Development Certificate
- CS Mobile Computing Certificate
- CoFA Digital Art Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital World Designer Certificate
- RTF Visual Effects & Animation Certificate
The Certificate is awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.
4. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
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 23,095 students enrolled in 133 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts and Humanities, Department of Arts and Technology (ATEC) is home to more than 1,100 students and it offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a BA in Arts and Technology (BA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), an MFA in Arts and Technology (MFA ATEC), and a PhD in Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC).
ATEC students have the opportunity to choose electives in more than one area. Just a few options for game designers 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, name a few.
5. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Southern Methodist University (SMU) was founded in 1911 and it is home to 11,000 students enrolled in 246 degree programs through seven schools. The Meadows School of the Arts offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BFA in Digital Game Development and a BFA/Masters of Interactive Technology (M.I.T) in Digital Game Development that is also supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003).
In addition to the M.I.T in Digital Game Development, the Guildhall offers a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development with a Specialization in Art Creation, Level Design, Production, or Software Development. Alumni are employed at over 200 video game studios including Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Bungie Studios, DreamWorks Interactive, Insomniac Games, Microsoft Game Studio, Obsidian Entertainment, Rock Star Games, Riot Games, and Ubisoft, to name a few.
6. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Denver (DU) was founded in 1864. It is home to 11,797 students enrolled in more than 220 degree programs across eight colleges and schools and a graduate school. The Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering & Computer Science - Department of Computer Science offers a variety of programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BA and BS degrees in Game Development, a BA in Applied Computing with a Concentration in Humane Games, and a BS, MS, BS+MS or Minor in Computer Science with a Concentration in Humane Games. A PhD in Computer Science (Area: Humane Games) is also on the menu.
7. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Design (RMCAD) was founded in 1963. It is home to 775 on-campus/ hybrid and online students enrolled in nine majors. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA in Game Art. This program is available on campus only. Several Certificate offerings are also on the menu for students interested in enhancing their BFA degree. The Certificate in 3D Animation – Pre-Production and 3D Animation - Character Animation are offered online.
8. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Baylor University was founded in 1845. It is home to 16,787 students enrolled in more than 130 programs through nine schools. The School of Engineering and Computer Science - Department of Computer Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BA and BS degrees in Computer Science. Both programs offer Specializations in Gaming, Software Engineering, and Computer Science. An MS in Computer Science is also on the menu.
According to the school, the gaming specialization at Baylor does not limit graduates to just the gaming industry. Graduates are also prepared to work in all computer science jobs.
9. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) was founded in 1965. It is home to 11,299 students enrolled in 37 undergraduate, 19 graduate, and five doctoral degree programs through seven schools. The College of Engineering & Applied Science-Department of Computer Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a Bachelor of Innovation (BI) in Game Design and Development, a Game Design Minor, and a Minor in Game Programming + 3D.
10. University of Nevada – Reno, Reno, Nevada
Reno was founded in 1874 as the State University of Nevada in Elko, Nevada. The school is home to 20,898 students enrolled in dozens of programs across seven colleges and schools. The College of Liberal Arts offers around 60 degrees in more than 20 different majors. Among them are several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BA Studio, BFA, and MFA in Art Studio degrees with a Focus in Digital Media or Digital and Time-Based Media, Minors in Digital Interactive Games and Serious Games, and a PhD in Computer Science and Engineering with a Games and Simulations Research Area.