2020 Game Design School Rankings

What is the best game design school in the Southwest for 2020?

Top 10 Game Design Schools and Colleges in the Southwest – 2020 College Rankings
1University of UtahUtah
2Southern Methodist UniversityTexas
3University of Texas at DallasTexas
4Texas A&M University, College StationTexas
5University of Texas at AustinTexas
6Baylor UniversityTexas
7University of Advancing TechnologyArizona
8University of DenverColorado
9Rocky Mountain College of Art and DesignColorado
10University of Houston-VictoriaTexas

Our 2020 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

Founded in 1850, University of Utah (The U) serves nearly 33,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world. The school offers over 100 undergraduate 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
Southern Methodist University

Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) serves nearly 11,800 students enrolled in more than 200 programs through seven schools. Programs for game designers are offered through Meadows School of the Arts and Lyle School of Engineering. Options include a BFA in Art/Masters of Interactive Technology (M.I.T) in Digital Game Development and a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Track. 

The BFA/M.I.T is supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). The school says, “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. 

Lyle School of Engineering houses the Computer Science Program - Game Development Track. The 10 credit hour track consists of Math and Physics, Programming for Commercial Game Engines, Software Development for Games, and Team Game Production. A Gaming Design Project is also part of the program as well as a 47 credit hour Computer Science Core consisting of courses such as Programming Languages, Assembly Language Programming and Machine Organization, and Digital Computer Design. 

Computer Science students who would like to enroll in the Game Development Track must be admitted to the Guildhall Professional Certificate program and attend classes at SMU Guildhall.

3. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

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

Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school serves 69,465 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 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.

5. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
University of Texas at Austin

Founded in 1883, the University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) serves nearly 52,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs in 18 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.”

6. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Baylor University

Chartered in 1845, Baylor University serves more than 18,000 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.

7. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology

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 such as Artificial Life Programming, Game Design, Robotics and Embedded Systems, Digital Video, Advancing Computer Science, and Cyber Security.

UAT Game Design (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,” says the school. Specific options 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 a 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.

8. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Denver

Founded in 1864, University of Denver (DU) serves 11,600 students enrolled in 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.

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

In 1963, well-known illustrator and educator Philip J. Steele founded Rocky Mountain School of Art, which later became Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD). The school serves 760 students enrolled in 16 degree and certificate programs offered in campus/hybrid and online formats. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA in Game Art.

The school says the 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 Houston-Victoria, Victoria, Texas

Founded in 1973, University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) serves nearly 4,400 students enrolled in 70 bachelor's and master's degrees and concentrations in the fields of arts and sciences, business administration, and education, health professions and human development. Programs are offered through the Schools of Arts & Sciences, Business Administration, and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. The School of Arts & Sciences houses the Digital Gaming Program, which leads to a BS or Bachelor of Applied Arts & Sciences (BAAS) in Computer Science in Digital Gaming and Simulation.

Students in the programs “will gain a cultural perspective on the history, philosophy, ethics, and sociology of digital games and game playing,” says the school. As the program grows, the department plans to add additional components such as the business of gaming and serious game development. 

Course highlights for the programs include Game Artificial Intelligence & Behavioral Modeling, Game Engines, Gaming Networks Architecture, Game Programming using DirectX, Digital Games as Communication, Interactive Narrative, and Project Management. Students pursuing the BS or BAAS also have a variety of electives to choose from including Game Internship, Art for Gaming, Virtual Worlds, Visual Communication, 3D Modeling, and Multimedia.  A Senior Project is also part of the program. This “group activity” involves an interdisciplinary team of programmers, artists, storywriters and others.

Students in all programs have the opportunity to complete an internship, and as a member of the Microsoft Academic Alliance and Oracle Initiative programs, the Computer Science Department offers opportunities to work with the computer industry standards in software development.