Top 10 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the Southwest - 2018
1University of UtahUtah
2Southern Methodist UniversityTexas
3Texas A&M UniversityTexas
4University of Texas at AustinTexas
5University of Texas at DallasTexas
6University of DenverColorado
7Baylor UniversityTexas
8University of Colorado at Colorado SpringsColorado
9Rocky Mountain College of Art and DesignColorado
10The Art Institute of AustinTexas

Our 2018 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
University of Utah

The University of Utah (The U) houses the College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts. The two colleges 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 offerings include a BS, five-year BS/MS, and Minor in Computer Science and a BA in Film and Media Arts. The BS in Computer Science and the BA in Film and Media Arts 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 offered through the School of Computing.

About The U: The University of Utah 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.

2. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University (SMU) is home to the Meadows School of the Arts, which 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. The BFA/M.I.T is supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). BFA/MIT and MIT Specializations include Art, Design, Production, and Programming for Games.

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.

About SMU: Southern Methodist University was founded in 1911. The school serves nearly 11,800 students enrolled in 261 degree programs through seven schools.

3. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University (TAMU) is home to the College of Architecture, which founded the Visualization program in 1989. The program 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. A Minor in Game Design and Development is also available.

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.”

About TAMU: 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.

4. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) offers a unique program for aspiring game designers. The program is available through a collaboration between the College of Fine Arts (CoFA), the Computer Science Department (CS), the Radio-Television-Film Department (RTF), and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET).The interdisciplinary program is known as Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA).

The 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,” and with local game and mobile studios, and industry professionals.

GAMMA students may earn a certificate in CS Game Development, CS Mobile Computing, CoFA Digital Art Production, CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production, CoFA Digital World Designer or RTF Visual Effects & Animation. Certificates are awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.

Other program offerings include a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Development (BS CS), an MS in Computer Science (MS CS), and a Five-Year BS/MS Integrated Program in Computer Science.

About UT Austin: The University of Texas – Austin was founded in 1883. The school serves more than 51,300 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs across 13 colleges and schools.

5. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC). Created in 2015, the school 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.

Undergraduate offerings include a BA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (BA ATEC), an MA in ATEC, an MFA in ATEC with Gaming Studies, and a PhD in ATEC. Undergraduates may choose between several pathways such as Game Design or Animation. BA ATEC students may also 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 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.

About UT Dallas: The University of Texas at Dallas was established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969. The school serves around 37,650 students enrolled in more than 130 academic programs across seven schools.

6. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Denver

The Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science at University of Denver (DU) offers a BA or BS in Game Development. The program, a joint effort between Computer Science, Emergent Digital Practices, and Art, requires specific minors for each degree. The BS requires a Minor in Mathematics, and a second Minor of the students’ choice. A cognate of five approved classes from Art and Emergent Digital Practices is also required.

The BA requires a major in Game Development and a Minor in Emergent Digital Practices. The program also requires “more courses in the allied art fields than the BS, and is balanced by having fewer required Math and Computer Science courses.” Graduates of this program will be able to study and work as a developer, game designer and artist. Graduates of the BS program will be able to “help in the programming and development of games, while understanding and being able to communicate effectively with the artists and designers who are part of any game development project.”

About DU: Founded in 1864, University of Denver serves more than 11,400 students. The school offers more than 200 programs across eight undergraduate schools and colleges and 14 graduate schools and colleges. In addition to Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, a few include University College, the Division of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Daniels College of Business, and Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

7. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Baylor University

The School of Engineering and Computer Science at Baylor University houses the Department of Computer Science, which offers a Game Development Concentration within the BA and BS in Computer Science (BSCS) programs. The school says the concentration is designed to provide an understanding of the development and application of interactive digital media technologies. This program is offered in cooperation with the Film and Digital Media Division of Communication Studies and it combines media course offerings with technical content in order to produce a graduate with skills that go beyond design and implementation.

The program features the Computer Science core, with a three-course game development sequence, and a four-course media production sequence taught in the Film and Digital Media department. As a specialization of the BSCS, the curriculum features the breadth of an undergraduate Computer Science degree along with specialization in areas central to the game development industry. Graduates of the program are awarded a fully-accredited Computer Science degree with all the associated career and graduate education opportunities.

About Baylor: Chartered in 1845, Baylor University serves more than 16,100 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 89 countries. The school offers a broad range of degrees (more than 250) among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

8. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) is home to the College of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS). The College offers a unique degree program for game designers called the Bachelor of Innovation (BI) in Game Design and Development. Offered since 2007, the BI in Game Design and Development has a 30-credit GDD core that works out to be about 70 percent programming and 30 percent design/prototyping. Students in the program may choose 15 credits of concentration electives tailored to their special interests. Concentration electives typically work out to 60 percent programming and 40 percent design/prototyping.

The College of Engineering and Applied Science also offers an MS in Computer Science with a Games and Media Integration Option and a Minor in Game Design and Development. The Games and Media Integration option is an interdisciplinary degree that gives students a firm foundation in pursuing research and development in the area of games, animation and movie making, VR/HCI, complex systems, and wearable computing.

The Minor is a 21 credit hour program for students with strong programming skills. This means, students often come from EAS. Sample courses for the program include Data Structures and Algorithms, Game Development, Advanced 3D Games and Digital Content Creation, and Object-Oriented Programming Using C++.

About UCCS: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is home 12,400+ students enrolled in 45 bachelors, 22 masters, and five doctoral degree programs across seven colleges and schools. In addition to Engineering, schools include Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Public Affairs, Nursing & Health Sciences, and the Graduate School.

9. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) offers a BFA in Game Art. The program is offered on campus and online and it prepares students for a variety of careers such as Game Designer, Concept Artist, 3D Character Modeler, Motion Graphics Designer, Rigger Animator, and Interactive Media Designer, to name a few.

Students in the program are required to take 51 credits of core classes, one three-credit elective, 21 credits of foundation courses, and 48 credits in liberal arts. A few sample cores include Digital Painting for Film + Games, Game Animation + Motion Capture, Game Creation Fundamentals, Game Particles + Effects, 3D Modeling, 3D Computer Animation Motion Studies, and Character + Level Design.

Other program highlights include small class sizes, a collaborative environment, and knowledgeable professors. 

About RMCAD: Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design was founded 1936. It serves 775 art and design students enrolled in 16 degree and certificate programs. Besides Game Art, a few program options include 3D Animation, 3D Character Animation, Graphic Design, Illustration, Design Processes and Production, and Fine Art.

10. The Art Institute of Austin, Austin, Texas
The Art Institute of Austin

The Art Institute of Austin offers a BFA in Game Art & Design. The school says students begin the program with the fundamentals like the principles of design, drawing, and color, in both traditional and digital art. Students will then build skills in game design, level design, 2D concept art, 3D modeling, texturing, and real-time lighting.

The focus of the program is on the principles of gaming, balance, and usability, creating the entire gaming experience, and developing games that’ll be used in industry-standard engines. Students explore the planning, scope, problem-solving abilities, and economics of creating a market-ready game. All Game Art & Design students will have the opportunity to showcase their games in the Gaming Expo at SXSW.

About the Art Institute of Austin: The Art Institute of Austin, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston, is one of The Art Institutes, a system of non-profit schools located throughout the United States. The school prepares students for entry-level positions in the design, media, fashion, and culinary arts fields, as well as lifelong learning.