What are the best game design schools in the Southwest for 2023?
|University of Utah
|Southern Methodist University
|University of Texas at Austin
|Texas A&M University, College Station
|University of Texas at Dallas
|University of Denver
|University of Arizona
|University of Advancing Technology
|University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Our 2023 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 Colleges of Engineering and Fine Arts at University of Utah (The U) houses the Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) Program. Formed more than a decade ago by faculty from the School of Computing and the Division of Film Studies, the EAE Program has several pathways to study game design. Options include BS degrees in Games (BSG) and Computer Science (CS) with an EAE Emphasis, a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE), a dual MBA/MEAE and a 24 credit hour Game Minor.
The EAE Programs at The U are interdisciplinary and immersive with a focus on computational research, art, and social science. Course examples across EAE Programs include Alternative Game Development, Ethics in Games, Game Engineering and Production, Assets Pipeline, Survey of Games, Traditional Game Development, Serious Game Development, Digital Content Creation, Programming, Scientific Computing, Machinima, Algorithms, and Competitive Strategies.
Students in all EAE Programs at University of Utah will work through every level of game creation. Graduates will enter the job market with one or more completed games. Depending on the program, EAE graduates will be prepared to pursue positions in Game Art, Game Design and Development, Game Engineering, Simulation, 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 approximately 34,425 students, enrolled in more than 200 programs across 18 colleges and school, and nearly 100 departments.
2. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
SMU Guildhall at Southern Methodist University (SMU) 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, SMU Guildhall is the only video game education program with specializations in the four key areas of game development.
SMU Guildhall has partnerships with hundreds of studios and companies across the globe. Some 860+ SMU Guildhall alumni have worked at more than 270 studios worldwide. Examples of Guildhall industry partners include Epic Games, Microsoft Game Studios, Disney Interactive, Riot Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Gameloft, Insomniac Games, Bungie, Samsung, Gearbox Software, Unity, Bethesda, and Softworks.
Other Guildhall highlights include workshops, lectures, professional development coursework, career fairs, guest speakers, mentorship programs, team game projects, and portfolio reviews.
SMU Guildhall at Southern Methodist University has two pathways to study game design—the 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 Production, Software Development, Level Design, and Art Creation. Students will develop a minimum of three industry-ready 2D and 3D games to graduate.
Southern Methodist University has several additional program options for game designers. Meadows School of Art houses the Division of Art, home to the Art BFA Program. 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, home to the Computer Science BS Program. Core requirements for the program include Programming Languages, Graphical User Interface Design and Implementation, Digital Computer Design, Software Engineering Principles, and Assembly Language Programming and Machine Organization.
SMU CS 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 culminating Gaming Design Project.
Graduates of the Game Design Programs at Southern Methodist University have worked at more than 270 game studios and tech companies around the world. They have worked on games such as Game of Thrones, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Assassins Creed, Grant Theft Auto, League of Legends, Atlas, Batman, Days Gone, Doom, God of War, Diablo, Marvel Avengers, Disney Infinity, Elite Force, and Guitar Hero.
Examples of companies of companies and studios that have hired SMU graduates include Epic Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Oculus VR, Insomniac Games, Microsoft, Disney Interactive, Bioware, Samsung, Zenimax Online Studios, Bungie, Sony, Gearbox, Ubisoft, Bethesda Softworks, and Obsidian Entertainment.
Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University enrolls more than 12,000 students from all 50 states, DC, and 90 foreign countries. SMU offers 250 programs at all degree levels across seven colleges and schools. 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).
3. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
The College of Natural Sciences at University of Texas Austin (UT Austin) houses the Computer Science (CS) Department, which has several pathways to study game design. The Computer Science BS (BS CS) has an optional Concentration in Game Development. Course examples for the program include Game Technology, Object-Oriented Programming, Computer Graphics, Software Engineering, and Generic Programming & STL.
Also within the BS CS Program is 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. A project-based capstone is also part of the programs, as well as opportunities to complete an internship with both local and national companies. Many internships lead to job offers.
UT Austin launched a Game Design and Development Program in 2020 that is jointly provided 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’s Department of Radio-Television-Film (RTF). AET offers courses focused solely on gaming, the CS Department covers visualization and coding for games, and the RTF Department provides coursework that explores cinematic arts, emergent media, and narrative design. Students may also focus in games through minor programs and concentrations offered across all three departments.
Graduates of the Game Design and Development Programs at UT Austin enjoy a 93% employment rate within six months of graduation, regardless of concentration area. UT Austin Games and Computer Science alumni have been hired at Zynga, EA Games, Google, Scientific Games, GameStop, Apple, HP, Amazon, IBM, Diamond Entertainment, Cloud Imperium, Aspyr Media, Inc., and Everi Digital.
Founded in 1883, University of Texas at Austin serves approximately 52,385 students, making it one of the largest universities in Texas. UT Austin provides more than 155 undergraduate degree programs with 170+ fields of study, 139 graduate degree programs, and nearly 100 doctoral programs across 18 colleges and schools. University of Texas at Austin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
4. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Visualization Department, which has several pathways to study game design including the Visualization BS, MA, and MFA. All options provide opportunities to complete a paid internship, participate in the Visualization Industry Fair, and show creative works at local exhibitions and the Viz Fall Show. The Visualization Department also has a Game Design & Development Minor that can be completed alone or in combination with the BS Program.
The 16 credit hour Game Design & Development Minor explores video game production, design, programming, art and media literacy. Course examples for the program include Game Development, Computer Graphics, Game Design, Communication and Video Games, Computer-Human Interaction, Programming, Multimedia Design and Development, and Interactive Virtual Environments.
The Visualization BS Program at TAMU provides a number of emphasis areas such as Game Creation, Interactive Design, Visual Computing, Animation and Virtual Production. The MFA and MS provide emphasis areas such as Gaming, Interactive Art, Computer Animation, Visual Effects (VFX), Computer Graphics, User Experience Design, and Virtual/Augmented Reality.
The Visualization Programs at Texas A&M University feature project-based studios, supported by courses that cover production pipeline, programming, programming, art theory, and many other technical skills. Course and elective examples across programs include Digital Compositing, Time-Based Media, 2D Visualization Techniques, Rendering and Shading, Digital Media, Advanced Animation, Physical Computing for Art and Design, 3D Modeling and Animation, and The Digital Image.
BS students will complete a Capstone to graduate, while MFA students will conduct a Final Presentation and Written Document to complete the program. The MS has both Thesis and a Non-Thesis Options. Thesis students will complete a Thesis on a focused topic, while Non-Thesis students will develop a Professional Portfolio and complete a Capstone Project.
Graduates of the Visualization Programs and Game Design & Development Minor at Texas A&M University are prepared for careers in Game Design, Game Level Design, Game Asset Development, Production Management, Technical Art, UI/UX Development, and Visual Development.
TAMU alumni are often hired at major studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).
With more than 73,000 students, Texas A&M University the largest university in the state-and the nation. Established in 1876, TAMU is also Texas’s first public institution of higher learning. Texas A&M houses 17 colleges and schools that provide more than 400 degree programs. Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
5. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (AHT), which launched in August 2022 after the consolidation of the School of Arts & Humanities (est. 1975), and the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), established in 2002 as Texas’s first arts and technology degree.
The ATEC BA, MA, MFA, and PhD Programs are still in force and provide 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 their own area of specialization through electives and other courses.
Students in all ATEC Programs have access to a variety of state-of-the-art studios and facilities including the 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 Programs at University of Texas at Dallas have been recruited by major studios and companies such as DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, Apple, Google, Capital One, and Toyota.
University of Texas at Dallas opened in the 1960s as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. Established by the owners of Texas Instruments, UT Dallas is an official member of the University of Texas System. The school serves 31,570 students enrolled in more than 140 degree programs across eight schools. University of Texas at Dallas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
6. University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
The Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science at University of Denver (DU) houses the Computer Science Department, which allows students to 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.
In addition to custom specializations, DU’s Department of Computer Science provides several specific pathways top study game design including BA degrees in Applied Computing and Game Development, BS degrees in Computer Science and Game Development, and both MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science. Course examples across programs include Game Programming, Multimedia Systems, Game Design, Machine Learning, Programming Languages, 3D Modeling, and Operating Systems.
Undergraduate CS programs include a Game Capstone where students 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, University of Denver CS students will develop group collaboration and researching skills.
Both graduate and undergraduate CS students will have opportunities to participate in experiential learning opportunities, DU’s study abroad and internship programs, and cooperative education. Recent University of Denver internship employers include The Walt Disney Company, Oracle, NBC Universal, Charter Communications, and Ball Aerospace.
Graduates of the Computer Science and Games Programs at University of Denver work in all 50 states and across 145 countries. Program alumni are Game Designers, Game Developers, and Game Programmers, Software Engineers, Multimedia Artists, and Entrepreneurs.
University of Denver was established in 1864 as the Colorado Seminary. Today, the school serves approximately 12,000 graduates and undergraduates enrolled in more than 200 different degree programs across 10 colleges and schools. University of Denver is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
7. University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
The College of Social & Behavioral Sciences at University of Arizona (UA or UArizona) houses 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 here include the Game Design & Development BS and a 12 credit hour Games and Simulation Certificate. Course examples across both programs include Game Programming, Machine Learning, Algorithms for Games, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality, Computing and the Arts, and Advanced Game Development.
Students in all iSchool programs have the opportunity to participate in AU’s 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 Hydrant, Octavia Digital Media, and the Enterprise Technology Division of State Farm.
Graduates of the iSchool at University of Arizona go on to establish careers in game design and development, digital marketing, and UI/UX design, among others.
University of Arizona has two additional program option for students who would like to establish a career in the emerging field of Games and Behavior or those interested in a humanities-based degree. Programs include the Games and Behavior BA and the BA in Applied Humanities with a Game Studies Emphasis.
In addition to entertainment, the unique Games and Behavior BA program explores game design for health and wellness, education, job training, and social support. Housed in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, the Games and Behavior BA explores psychology of play, game design and development, storytelling, audio technologies, and multimedia. Two focus areas allow students to specialize in Art of Games or Game Futures.
Course examples for the Art of Games Focus include Digital Storytelling and Culture, Technology of Sound, and Simulation Design and Development for Complex Problem Solving. Course examples for the Game Futures Focus include Diversity and Bias in Games, Data Mining and Discovery, and Disruptive Technologies. Core courses across both areas include eSports Industries, Gamification in Society, Ethics in a Digital World, and Monetizing Independent Gaming.
Graduates of the University of Arizona Games and Behavior BA Program are prepared to pursue careers in wide variety of fields such as Educational Games, Recreational Games, Digital Marketing, Medical and Simulation Games, and Gamification Design Consulting.
Housed in the College of Humanities, the Applied Studies BA with a Game Studies Emphasis consists of courses such as Introduction to Game Design, Global Video Game Cultures and Their Origins, Video Game Studies: Critical/Cultural Approaches, Introduction to Game Development, Applied Humanities Practice: Techniques and Technologies for Public Enrichment, Video Games as Artifacts: Appreciating Interactive Multimedia Entertainment, and The Video Game Industry: An Introduction to the Business of Making Money with Play. Students will complete an internship, portfolio, and Senior Capstone.
Graduates of the Applied Studies BA with a Game Studies Emphasis are prepared to pursue positions in the Global Game Industry, as well as Game and Media Journalism, Digital Humanities, New Media Policy, Digital Culture Studies, Entrepreneurship, Finance, and Law.
Established in 1885, University of Arizona was the first university in the state. A land-grant institution, UA opened with just a few students. Today, University of Arizona serves approximately 51,135 students, making it one of the state’s largest post-secondary institutions. UArizona offers more than 300 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in 150+ areas of study. Programs are offered across 20 colleges and nearly two dozen specialized schools. University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology (UAT) launched its Game Design (GD) Program in 1995. Today, UAT GD is one of the few fully accredited Game Design Programs to provide a comprehensive collection of games studies degree programs including Game Design (BA), Game Programming (BS), Game Production and Management (MS), and Game Art and Animation (BA).
Undergraduate programs consist of 120 credit hours, with 36 credit hours in the major. All programs feature live simulation and mentors, as well as the opportunity to work on technology-based and community projects individually and with a team. A mandatory industry internship is also part of every program.
Coursework for the Game Design BA explores game programming, interactive storytelling, systems design, game balancing, user experience design, play-testing, and design documentation. Students will work through the game creation process with other artists and programmers to complete a number of projects.
The Game Programming BS, also known as the Game Coder Degree, immerses students in coding and programming techniques for all areas of video game programming. Examples include game engine architecture, C++ programming, scripting, game play interaction, artificial intelligence (AI), application programming interfaces (APIs), DirectX/Open GL development, data handling, Middleware, and networking.
The Game Art and Animation BA explores 2D/3D art and animation for mobile, PC, console, virtual reality platforms, and online. Students 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 Game Production and Management (GPM) MS consists of four, nine-credit modules. In addition to the required Game Development and Game Production modules, students may select two additional module based on their interests and goals. Examples include App Development, Digital Maker, Technology Leadership, Robotics and Kinematics, Data Cloud A.I., and Technology Startup. The UAT MS may be completed on campus or online in 1-2 years.
Graduates of the Games Programs at University of Advancing Technology have been hired by major organizations and studios such as Nickelodeon, U.S. Department of Defense, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Intel, and Microsoft.
University of Advancing Technology was established in 1983 at the CAD Institute. The school is a 100% STEM-based, private, family-owned university that serves more than 700 students enrolled in 20+ technology degree programs. University of Advancing Technology is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
9. Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Baylor University has a number of degree programs that allow the flexibility to create a focus in games. For example, the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) has an ABET-accredited Computer Science BS (BSCS) with three Tracks: Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Cybersecurity. While all Tracks share many of the same courses, the Computer Science Track explores a number of broad topics in computing. The program also provides a wide variety of advanced elective topics and a strong foundation for applying computing to many different areas, including games.
BCBS students have access to courses such as Introduction to Video Game Design, 2D and 3D Design, Gaming Platform Frameworks, Politics, Games, and Strategy, Design and Creative Technologies, Game Theory, Advanced Sound Design, Innovative Games and Adventure Activities, and the Gaming Capstone Design Project.
The Software Engineering Concentration is ideal for students seeking a career in quality assurance testing (QA) for games. In addition to access to the game design courses already listed, students will complete a significant number of courses (and research) in software quality assurance, model-driven analysis and testing, software project management, code analysis, and microservice-based enterprise application design. A Computer Science MS with a Software Engineering track is also available. This program focuses on software verification and validation.
Awarded through the College of Arts & Sciences, but housed in the School of ECS, the BA with a Major in Computer Science combines a traditional liberal arts education with core courses in computer science and access to a variety of electives. This includes game design courses. Students in this program may concentrate in CS or add a Minor from any approved field. The Baylor BA degree requires a minimum of 124 hours, with 39-52 hours in CS.
A final option for designers seeking a short-program is the Digital Game Artist Certificate. Housed in Baylor University’s Continuing Education Department, the self-paced Certificate Program requires 600 course hours that can be completed in 18 months. Students will explore digital art, character design, 3D art, environmental art design, and modeling. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be prepared to pursue positions related to 3D Art for Games and Environmental Art for Games.
Graduates of the Computer Science Programs at Baylor University enjoy a 92% job placement rate. Program alumni have been hired by some of the world’s top companies, studios, and research centers.
Established in 1845 Baylor University is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. The school serves approximately 20,710 students, making it the largest Baptist educational institution in the world. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), Baylor University offers more than 260 degree programs across 12 nationally recognized academic divisions
10. University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, Colorado
The College of Engineering and Applied Science at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) is home to the Department of Computer Science, which has several path to study game design. Options include a Computer Science BA (BACS) with a Game Design (GD) Track, a Bachelor of Innovation (BI) in Game Design and Development (GDD), and Minors in Game Programming + 3D and Game Design (GD). An interdisciplinary MS in Computer Science-Media Convergence, Games and Media Integration (MSCS-GMI) is available as well.
Both Minor Programs consist of 21 credit hours of study. Students in the BACS Program have the option to complete the Game Programming + 3D or Game Design Minor, one of the following Tracks: Game Design, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, or Cybersecurity, OR a second major such as GDD. In addition to Game Design, the BACS/GD Track covers game development, game testing and distribution, user interfaces, game theory, and graphics.
The BACS Program also focuses on computer applications, and software design and development. Course examples include Programming with C, Python Programming, Design & Analysis of Algorithms, Advanced Software Engineering, and Programming with UNIX.
The Bachelor of Innovation Program at UCCS prepares students for careers in traditional games for entertainment, casual games, and serious games. The curriculum focuses on game design and development, programming, and technical design. The program also explores other areas such as music and art. Course examples include Game Design for Diverse Populations, Team-Based Game Testing and Deployment, Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Games, and Commercial Game Design Practicum.
The UCCS MSCS-GMI Program allows students to pursue a specialization through electives and develop an industrial portfolio with an interdisciplinary focus. However, the program includes required courses such as Design and Analysis of Algorithms, Advanced 3D Games and Digital Content Creation, and Computer Graphics. The program has a substantial number of elective options, including titles such as Wearable Computing and Complex Systems, Virtual Reality and Computer-Human Interaction, Computer Communication, Computability, Automata, and Formal Languages, and Computer Graphics Animation & Scientific Visualization Techniques.
MSCS students will complete a final project to be submitted to virtual reality and HCI interaction conferences, the International Symposium on Wearable Computing (ISWC), the Game Developers Conference (GDC), SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival, and other related events worldwide.
Graduates of the Computer Science and Games Programs at University of Colorado Colorado Springs have been recruited for salaried positions by major game design studios. Program alumni have also launched their own studios and freelance businesses where they have created their own games and commercial games for clients.
Founded in 1965, University of Colorado Colorado Springs serves more than 12,000 students from across the U.S. and more than 80 nations. The school offers more than 50 undergraduate degree options, dozens of master’s degrees, and eight doctoral programs across six colleges and schools. University of Colorado Colorado Springs is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).