What is the best game design school in the Southwest?
|1||University of Utah||Utah|
|2||Southern Methodist University||Texas|
|3||University of Texas at Dallas||Texas|
|4||University of Texas at Austin||Texas|
|5||Texas A&M University||Texas|
|6||University of Denver||Colorado|
|8||University of Colorado at Colorado Springs||Colorado|
|9||Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||Colorado|
|10||University of Advancing Technology||Arizona|
Our 2019 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) was founded in 1850. Serving 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 EAE Interdisciplinary Teaching Program now offers a BS in Games (BSG) designed “specifically for students who aspire to hold careers within the professional games industry or a related field, such as simulation, edutainment, or visualization.” The new program “provides a technical grounding in mathematics and computational skills, core knowledge in the design and production of digital playable experiences, and specialization options that prepare students for technical supervision, tools development and overall game design.” A Minor in Games is also available.
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.
2. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) serves nearly 11,800 students enrolled in 261 degree programs through seven schools. The Meadows School of the Arts offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BFA in Art/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). Per the school, “this program provides the breadth and rigor of a BFA degree, which will develop skills supportive of the in-depth investigation of digital game development fundamentals through the curriculum of the Master of Interactive Technology.”
BFA/M.I.T and M.I.T Specializations include Art, Design, Production, or Programming for Games. In addition to the M.I.T in Digital Game Development, the Guildhall offers a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development “tailored to students who wish to become actively involved in the game development industry as designers or artists.” Specializations for the program include Art Creation, Level Design, Production, and Software Development.
3. 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 serves 28,755 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.
Program 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.
4. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
Founded in 1883, the University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) serves nearly 52,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs across 13 colleges and schools. A unique program for aspiring game designers 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).
Formerly known as the Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) program, the University of Texas at Austin Game Development and Design Program allows participating students to “individually build their pertinent skills within their respective degree programs, then come together to collaboratively develop 2D and 3D games for AR/VR, mobile, online, and personal computer platforms in the program’s culminating experience: The Capstone Course,” says the school.
Game 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.
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 the Game Development and Design Program.
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. The Game Development Concentration culminates in a Capstone Course, which includes 2D Game Development and the 3D Game Development Studio. All CS programs offer internships and the opportunity to obtain permanent employment in game development and interactive entertainment.
Graduates of all Game Programs at UT Austin are “ready to design, develop, and provide leadership for the exploding growth in AR/VR, game, mobile app, and creative media agencies and studios in Texas and around the world.”
5. 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 serves nearly 69,400 students enrolled in close to 400 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. A Minor in Game Design and Development is also available.
Per the school, the undergraduate Visualization curriculum “integrates elements of fine arts, three-dimensional design, scientific inquiry and digital technology to provide a broad, wide-ranging educational experience. The core of the program is the studio experience, which explores the relationship between theory and practice through a variety of exercises and projects using traditional and electronic media.”
Another highlight of the program is the required semester away during the Junior year followed by a capstone proposal and studio during the Senior year. “A broad range of directed electives allows the student to gain an in-depth understanding in an area of specialization.” Graduates of the program are prepared for employment in such fields as user interface and web design, the entertainment industry (game design and development, animation and visual effects), as well as fields such as modeling and simulation, data analytics and other fields where visualization contributes to understanding.
Graduates may also “enter graduate programs that emphasize digital media in either computer science or art/design.”
The MS in Visualization is “designed to prepare students for a range of long-term careers in visualization. The program helps students develop the focused expertise and broad foundation knowledge needed in this rapidly developing field.” The program’s core curriculum will give students a “basic grasp of the artistic, scientific, cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline. Beyond this broad training, the program requires students to develop a strong focus area of advanced expertise, and to complete a research thesis in this focus area.”
The MFA in Visualization is the only program of its kind in Texas and one of only a handful of its kind in the U.S. The program is designed for students “seeking a computing technology-infused terminal degree in the visual arts applicable to employment in digital media fields, working as a contemporary artist, and teaching in post-secondary digital arts programs.” This non-thesis degree requires the completion of 60 hours of coursework and a satisfactory presentation of a body of work by the candidate. “A written document addressing issues pertinent to the final study is also required.”
All 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.”
Visualization program alumni can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios including Pixar, Blue Sky, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Rhythm & Hues Studios and Reel FX.
6. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
Founded in 1864, University of Denver (DU) serves around 12,000 graduates and undergraduates. The school offers more than 200 programs across eight undergraduate schools and colleges and 14 graduate schools and colleges. Just a few include the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, University College, the Division of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Daniels College of Business, and Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
The Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science offers a BA or BS in Game Development. The program is a joint effort between Computer Science, Emergent Digital Practices, and Art, each with specific requirements. The BA requires a double major, one in Game Development and one in either Digital Media Studies, Electronic Media Art Design or Studio Art.
Per the school, the program is “designed to allow students to bridge the gap between game programming and art, allowing the broadest range of opportunities throughout the field as developers, designers and artists.” Students receive “intensive instruction in computer science, graphics and programming skills in order to develop the technical know-how to make [their] ideas real.”
The program 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.
The BS requires a Minor in Mathematics, and a second art-related Minor. A cognate of five approved classes from Art and Emergent Digital Practices is also required. A heavy focus is placed in on developing computer science and programming skills, while building a strong foundation in the artistic, critical, and design elements of games. Students will have the option to “focus either on the appreciation, understanding and production of art, or on the critical, technical and design elements of digital media.”
Graduates of the BS program will be prepared to seek positions in game development and “effectively collaborate with artists and others throughout the development process.”
Students in both programs have access to study abroad and travel opportunities, as well as internships and cooperative education opportunities.
7. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Chartered in 1845, Baylor University serves more than 17,200 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 89 countries. The school offers a broad range of degree programs (more than 250) among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. The School of Engineering and Computer Science 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 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.
8. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS) serves nearly 12,600 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
The College of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) offers a unique degree program for game designers known as 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++.
Graduates of the Game Programs at UCCS EAS are prepared to form their own companies, join established game development companies or pursue traditional programming employment opportunities. Graduates may also pursue careers in areas such as simulation and training games, educational games, games for healthcare, and more.
9. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) was founded 1936. The school 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. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA in Game Art.
Per the school, RMCAD’s Game Art curriculum “is a merger of technical and artistic coursework that covers the computer, analytical, and technical skills necessary to understand the mechanics of game design.” Students will also be introduced to everything from the different aspects of graphic design to creative and technical writing.” Requirements for the 123 credit hour program include 16 Art History credits, 30 Liberal Arts credits, 24 Foundations credits, 48 Core credits, and six Studio Elective credits.
Course highlights include Digital Painting for Film + Games, Game Animation + Motion Capture, Game Creation Fundamentals, Game Particles + Effects, 3D Modeling, 3D Computer Animation Motion Studies, Visual Storytelling, Lighting & Texture, Business Ethics & Copyrights, and Character + Level Design.
Other program highlights include small class sizes, a collaborative environment that allows students to interact with students from different programs, and professors working in the field.
The BFA in Game Art prepares graduates for careers such as Game Designer, Concept Artist, 3D Character Modeler, Motion Graphics Designer, Rigger Animator, and Interactive Media Designer, to name a few.
10. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology (UAT) was founded in 1983 as the CAD Institute, where students were trained in computer-aided design and engineering. Today, UAT serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in 20 undergraduate technology degrees and five graduate degrees in advancing technology disciplines including Artificial Life Programming, Game Design, Robotics and Embedded Systems, Digital Video, Advancing Computer Science, and Cyber Security.
Per the school, UAT’s game design program (established in 1995) “is the only fully accredited game design program that boasts a connection to a full continuum of game development degrees including: Game Design degree, Game Art and Animation degree, Game Programming degree and Serious Game Simulation degree.” Specific degree levels include BA degrees in Game Design, Game Art and Animation, and Virtual Reality, a BS in Game Programming, and an MS in Game Production and Management.
Students also have the opportunity to start as Game Design major and then graduate with dual gaming degrees from the schools “prolific suite” of game degree programs.
All Games students are “exposed to all the tools of the trade, as well as programming and asset creation video game design skill sets. Coursework emphasizes design skills such as strong initial concepts, design documentation, game balancing and play testing, interactive storytelling, and interface design. Students will also take “a critical approach to the study of gameplay, player interaction, role playing, and community dynamics as well as the unique features of the numerous game platforms available in the marketplace.”
Game students will work with video game design artists and programmers to create innovative projects through team-based assignments and they will “develop the leadership skills to see video game design projects through from an initial design concept to a publisher-ready final product.”
Other program highlights include access to the largest game incubator lab in Arizona, access to UAT Game Studios (a game production pipeline that fosters game development and connection to the game industry), access to UAT’s Gamer Group (supported by the Games Job Fair networking event), and access to UAT’s Greenlight Committee where game projects vie for UAT sponsorship at GDC. The committee awards winning teams the additional resources they need to ensure game readiness and celebrates students’ innovative work.
Students can expect to complete the undergraduate programs in eight semesters and the MS program, which does not require a thesis, in as few as six semesters, thanks to flexible year-round schedules.