What are the best game design schools in the Southwest for 2022?

Top 10 Game Design Schools in the Southwest – 2022 College Rankings
1University of UtahUtah
2Southern Methodist UniversityTexas
3University of Texas at AustinTexas
4Texas A&M UniversityTexas
5University of Texas at DallasTexas
6Baylor UniversityTexas
7University of DenverColorado
8University of Advancing TechnologyArizona
9Rocky Mountain College of Art and DesignColorado
10University of ArizonaArizona

Our 2022 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 Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) Program at the University of Utah (The U) offers five programs for game designers. Degree pathways include BS degrees in Games and Computer Science, a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE), and a 24 credit hour Minor in Games. The BS in Computer Science has an EAE Emphasis, and a three-year, 84 credit hour, dual MBA/MEAE is available.

The EAE Programs at The U are interdisciplinary and immersive with a focus on computational research, art, social science, and art. Course examples across EAE include Alternative Game Development, Ethics in Games, Assets Pipeline, Digital Content Creation, Traditional Game Development, Survey of Games, Programming, Scientific Computing, Machinima, Serious Game Development, Algorithms, Game Engineering and Production, and Competitive Strategies.

Students in the programs will work through every level of game creation and they will graduate with one or more completed games. Depending on the program, EAE graduates will be prepared to pursue positions in game art, design, development or engineering, simulation or edutainment, business (games), and visualization, among others.

University of Utah is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Founded in 1850, The U is Utah’s public flagship institution and a top-tier research university. University of Utah serves around 34,425 students, enrolled in more than 200 programs in 17 colleges and schools.

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

Southern Methodist University (SMU) houses the SMU Guildhall, which launched in 2003 with 32 full-time students. When it opened, the Guildhall became the first graduate-level digital game development program of its kind. Today, the program has partnerships with hundreds of studios and companies across the globe. Some 860+ SMU Guildhall alumni have worked at more than 270 studios worldwide.

A sampling of Guildhall industry partners includes Disney Interactive, Blizzard Entertainment, Gameloft, Insomniac Games, Riot Games, Unity, Bethesda Softworks, Samsung, Epic Games, Microsoft Game Studios, Bungie, and Gearbox Software, to name a few. 

Other Guildhall highlights include professional development coursework, career fairs, guest speakers, workshops, lectures, mentorship programs, team game projects, and portfolio reviews.

Program offerings at SMU Guildhall include a Master of Interactive Technology (MIT) in Digital Game Development (thesis required) and a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development (no thesis). Guildhall specialization options include Art Creation, Level Design, Production, and Software Development. To graduate, students will develop a minimum of three industry-ready 2D and 3D games.

Southern Methodist University has several additional program options for game designers. Meadows School of Art houses the Division of Art, which offers an Art BFA. In collaboration with the Guildhall, the BFA program allows students to add the Art Creation or Level Design Specialization offered in the MIT Digital Game Development Program.

Lyle School of Engineering houses the Computer Science Department, which offers a BS in Computer Science. Core requirements for the program include Programming Languages, Assembly Language Programming and Machine Organization, Digital Computer Design, Graphical User Interface Design and Implementation, and Software Engineering Principles.

Students may add the 10 credit-hour Game Development Track, which consists of Programming for Commercial Game Engines, Software Development for Games, Team Game Production, Math and Physics, and the final Gaming Design Project.

Southern Methodist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The school is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Founded in 1911, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students from all 50 states, DC, and 90 foreign countries. SMU offers 250 programs at all degree levels across seven colleges and schools.

3. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
University of Texas at Austin

The College of Natural Sciences at University of Texas Austin (UT Austin) houses the Computer Science (CS) Department, which offers a BS in CS (BS CS) with a Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) Concentration. Graduate students may also study game design through the MS in CS (MS CS), and Five-Year BS/MS Integrated Program in Computer Science. In all options, students will study game technology and computer graphics. An internship and project-based capstone are also part of the program.

Students will also have opportunities to complete an internship with both local and national companies. Many internships lead to job offers.

A Game Design and Development curriculum was created in 2020 by the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies (AET) in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Design and Creative Technologies, the CS Department, and Moody College of Communication-Department of Radio-Television-Film (RTF). AET offers courses focused solely on gaming, the CS Department covers visualization and coding for games, and cinematic arts, emergent media, and narrative design coursework is offered through RTF Department.

Students may focus in games through minor programs and concentrations offered in all three departments.

The University of Texas at Austin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1883, UT Austin serves nearly 52,000 students, making it one of the largest universities in Texas. Across 18 colleges and school, the University of Texas offers 156 undergraduate degree programs with more than 170 fields of study, 139 graduate degree programs, and nearly 100 doctoral programs.

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

The College of Architecture at Texas A&M University (TAMU) is home to the Visualization Program (VISL or Viz Lab). Established in 1988, VISL consists of BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization and a Game Development Minor. Across programs, student have opportunities to study game design through free electives or emphasis areas such as Gaming or Interactive Design. Students may also add the Game Development Minor.

Course options across Viz Lab degree programs include Principles of Design, 2D and 3D Visualization Techniques, Visual Studies Studio, and Computing for Visualization. The 16 credit hour Game Development Minor consists of courses such as Computer Graphics, Programming, Communication and Video Games, HCI, and Interactive Virtual Environments.

The VISL MS program has thesis and non-thesis tracks. The thesis option is designed for students interested in games research development or entering a PhD program. The non-thesis track is a popular option for TAMU students who would like to focus on portfolio development in a specific area.

Texas A&M University VISL graduates are often hired at major studios such as Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), DreamWorks Animation, and Pixar.

Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Established in 1876, TAMU is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. With more than 73,000 students, Texas A&M University is also one of the nation’s largest universities by enrollment. More than 400 degree programs are offered in 17 colleges and schools.

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

The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is a research school that offers multidisciplinary STEAM (science, technology, art, engineering, and management) programs. Serving more than 1,800 students today, ATEC launched in 2015 after the merging of two departments: Arts and Technology and Emerging Media and Communication. Programs lead to the BA, MA, MFA, or PhD in ATC.

All ATEC Programs offer opportunities to study game design and development. For example, the ATEC BA has an Animation & Games (A&G) Concentration, and the MFA has a Game Development Concentration. Students may also create a specialization through electives and other courses.

Other ATEC Program highlights include access to the following studios and facilities: Game Lab, Motion Capture Studio, Games Research Lab, Surround Studio, The Studio for Mediating Play, Animation Lab, ATEC Lecture Hall, CG Animation Lab, 3D Studio, experimenta.l., Render Farm, Mixed Media Lab, Games and Media Library, Render Farm, Surround Studio, and the Narrative Systems Research Lab. The ATEC Lecture Hall has hosted speakers from Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks.

Graduates of the ATEC Program at University of Texas at Dallas have been recruited by major studios and companies such as Pixar, Google, Capital One, DreamWorks, Apple, Toyota, and Disney.

University of Texas at Dallas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Established in the 1960s by the creators of Texas Instruments, UT Dallas opened in the 1960s as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. University of Texas at Dallas is a member of the University of Texas System, serving nearly 29,700 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs across eight schools.

6. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Baylor University

The School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) at Baylor University offers several ABET-accredited programs for designers looking to develop skills in game design, software engineering and computer science. Options are housed in the ECS Department of Computer Science and include a BS in Computer Science (BSCS), a BA with a Major in Computer Science, a BS in CS with a Software Engineering Concentration, and an MS and PhD in CS.

Students in all programs may focus in games through electives. The curriculum for the undergraduate programs includes a semester-long Gaming Capstone, where students will create a full-blown gaming system. Course options may include Introduction to Game Development, Gaming Platform Frameworks, Interactive Media, 2D and 3D Design, Introduction to Video Game Design, Advanced Digital Production, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Audio Production, Computer Graphics, Topics in Media Genres (film, television, gaming, and other media), and Topics in Media Storytelling (film, television, radio/audio, games, or other form of digital media storytelling).

Graduates of the School of ECS CS Programs at Baylor University Baylor work at some of the world’s largest companies and research institutes.

Baylor University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Established in 1845 and serving more than 20,000 students, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas and the largest Baptist educational institution in the world. The school offers 260 degree programs across 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

7. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
University of Denver

Game Design at the University of Denver (DU) takes place in the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. Specific degree programs are part of the Ritchie School’s Computer Science (CS) Department. CS students may specialize in just about any area. Other department highlights include small class sizes, coursework in modern software engineering with classes taught by faculty members who are active in research, and access to student-run, synergetic clubs such as the DU Game Developers Society, DU Esports, Women in Technology, and DU Computer Science.

Available undergraduate programs include BA degrees in Applied Computing and Game Development, and BS degrees in Computer Science and Game Development. Graduate options include the MS and PhD in Computer Science. Course examples across programs include 3D Modeling, Game Programming, Game Design, Machine Learning, Programming Languages, Multimedia Systems, and Operating Systems.

Undergraduate Ritchie School CS programs include a Game Capstone where students will work in teams to conceptualize, design, test, and debug an industry-ready game. In addition to learning about the game design process from start to finish, DU CS students will develop group collaboration and researching skills.

Both graduate and undergraduate CS students will have opportunities to participate in experiential learning opportunities, the study abroad and internship programs, and cooperative education. Recent University of Denver internship employers include The Walt Disney Company, NBC Universal, Oracle, Ball Aerospace, and Charter Communications.

University of Denver CS alumni work in all 50 states and across 145 countries. They are game designers and developers, software engineers, multimedia artists, game programmers, and entrepreneurs.

University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Founded in 1864 as the Colorado Seminary, DU serves around 12,000 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs in 10 colleges and schools.

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

University of Advancing Technology (UAT) established UAT Game Design in 1995. At the graduate level, the program offers an MS that allows students to combine four skills-based learning modules to complete their degree. Modules can also be taken independently or as a certificate. Students may create a specialization from electives as well. Sample modules include Game Development, Game Production, Digital Maker, App Development, Technology Startup, and Technology Leadership.

Like all UAT programs, the MS consists of live simulation, mentors, the opportunity to work on tech and community projects solo or with a team, and a mandatory industry internship. Graduate programs are offered on campus or online.

Undergraduate game design programs at University of Advancing Technology include BAs in Game Art and Animation, Game Design, and Virtual Reality, and a BS in Game Programming.

The Game Art and Animation BA trains students to create 2D and 3D art and animation for mobile, PC, console, and virtual reality platforms, and online.  Students in the 120 credit hour Game Design BA will work their way through the entire game production pipeline to create an original game. In addition, students will complete a professional portfolio and the Student Innovation Project. The curriculum for the BS in Programming, also known as the Game Coder Degree, immerses students in coding and programming techniques for all areas of video game programming. Examples include artificial intelligence (AI), C++ programming, game engine architecture, scripting, application programming interfaces (APIs), game play interaction, data handling, Middleware, networking, and DirectX/Open GL development.

BA and BS graduates are prepared to pursue positions such as game designer, game developer, game programmer, mechanical mesh animator, game artist, animator, designer, interface designer, modeler, rigger, or texture artist, character animator or texture artist, and environment artist.

Graduates of UAT Games work for major studios and organizations such as Nickelodeon, the Department of Defense, Intel, Electronic Arts (EA), Microsoft, Blizzard Entertainment, and Google, among others.

University of Advancing Technology is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Founded in 1983 as the CAD Institute, today UAT operates as one of the few 100% STEM-based universities in the U.S. With more than 1,000 students, the University of Advancing Technology offers over 20 technology degrees from cybersecurity and software engineering to digital arts and game studies.

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 124 credit hour BFA in Game Art. The curriculum includes 15 Art History credits, 30 in Liberal Arts, 24 in Foundations, 48 Core credits, and six Studio Elective credits.

Courses are taught by working professionals in the industry. Course examples for the program include Character Rigging and Animation, Level Design, Visual Storytelling, 3D Modeling, Lighting & Texture, and Business Ethics and Copyrights. Learning takes place in a collaborative environment that allows students to interact with artists from different programs.  

Game Art BFA alumni hold positions such as Game Designer, Concept Artist, Rigger, Interactive Media Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, and 3D Character Modeler, among others.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) and nationally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Established in 1963 as Rocky Mountain School of Art, RMCAD serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in 16 degree and certificate programs offered in campus/hybrid and online formats.

10. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
University of Arizona

University of Arizona (UA or UArizona) has a unique degree option for students who would like to establish a career in the emerging field of Games and Behavior. In addition to entertainment, the program explores game design for health and wellness, education and training, and social support. Offered in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, the BA in Games and Behavior explores storytelling, audio technologies, multimedia, psychology of play, and of course, game design and development. Two focus areas allow students to specialize in Game Futures or Art of Games.

Course examples for the Game Futures focus include Disruptive technologies, Diversity and Bias in Games, and Data Mining and Discovery. Art of Games course examples include Technology of Sound, Simulation Design and Development for Complex Problem Solving, and Digital Storytelling and Culture. Core courses across focus areas include Gamification in Society, Monetizing Independent Gaming, Ethics in a Digital World, and eSports Industries.

Graduates of the University of Arizona Games and Behavior BA Program are prepared to pursue careers in digital marketing, educational games, medical and simulation games, gamification design consulting, and recreational games, among others.

The College of Social & Behavioral Sciences at UArizona offers two additional programs for game designers in the School of Information (iSchool). Arizona’s only iSchool, the School of Information emphasizes multidisciplinary studies in a collaborative, hands-on learning environment. Program options include the BS in Game Design & Development and a 12 credit hour Games and Simulation Certificate. Course examples across both programs include Algorithms for Games, Computing and the Arts, Game Programming, Machine Learning, Advanced Game Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Virtual Reality. Students in all iSchool programs have the opportunity to participate in the internship program and/or study abroad in one of more than 60 countries. The internship program provides a connection to local and national companies such as Octavia Digital Media, Enterprise Technology, and Hydrant.

Graduates of the UA iSchool Games Programs go on to establish careers in game design and development, UI/UX design, digital marketing, and many others. 

University of Arizona is accredited by the by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Established in 1885, UA opened with just a few students. Today, University of Arizona serves more than 47,300 students making it one of the state’s largest post-secondary institutions. UArizona offers more than 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in more than 150 areas of study. Programs are offered in 20 colleges and close to two dozen specialized schools.