What are the top MFA programs for game design?

Top 10 Game Design Schools with Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree Programs – 2023 College Rankings
1University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
2New York University New York
3Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
4DigiPen Institute of TechnologyWashington
5DePaul UniversityIllinois
6Texas A&M University, College StationTexas
7University of Texas at DallasTexas
8The Ohio State UniversityOhio
9The New School's Parsons School of DesignNew York
10Clemson UniversitySouth Carolina

Below are the Top 10 schools and colleges offering Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree programs in game design for 2023. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California

University of Southern California (USC) houses USC Games—a collection of minors and degree programs leading to a BA, BFA, BS, MFA or MS. Programs are part of SCA’s Interactive Media and Games Division and the  Department of Computer Science at Viterbi School of Engineering.

The USC Games Program combines the study of art, design, engineering, and production. Classes are collaborative, immersive, and hands on, allowing students to develop team-building skills and expertise in every area of game design and development. Courses are taught by working professionals in the field.

For students seeking an MFA, USC Games has MFAs in Interactive Media (Games and Interactive Entertainment) and Interactive Media (Games and Health). Minors within the USC Games Program can be taken at any level are designed for students who would like to develop additional game design and development skills that can be utilized in interactive media, animation, games, film/television, and other areas. Course examples include Game Design, Game Animation, Game Studies, Video Game Design and Management, Game Audio, Game Entrepreneurism, Video Game Programming, Game User Research, Video Game Production, 3D Computer Modeling and Graphics, Computer Science, and Themed Entertainment.

Graduates of USC Games have developed and sold their own games, launched their own studios, or landed positions at major companies and studios such as Riot Games, Disney, Epic Games, Apple, ESPN, and CBS interactive.

2. New York University (NYU), New York, New York
New York University

The Game Center is the Department of Game Design at New York University’s (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts. Founded in 2008, The NYU Game Center hosts events and programs such as the NYU Game Center Lecture Series, No Quarter Exhibition (est. 2010), and the professional game conference known as PRACTICE: Game Design in Detail. The Center, which also hosts workshops, playtests, and tournaments, has a Game Design MFA that features a thesis project that will be presented at the NYU Game Center Spring Show.

All programs at the NYU Game Center consist of immersive academic seminars and hands-on experiences in the Center’s development studios and play labs. Students may focus on programming, design, or visual design for games, game criticism, game art, or other areas.

Another major component of the NYU Game Center is the internship program. Students have completed internships with Disney, Ubisoft, Arkadium, and TreSensa.  NYU Game Center graduates will leave the program with a resume and several finished games.

New York University Game Center alumni are Game Artists, Game Designers and Developers, Software Publishers, AI Engineers, and Entrepreneurs. They work at companies and studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, Amazon, Tencent, Take-Two Interactive, ESPN, Nickelodeon, and IGDA Japan. 

3. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

The School of Digital Media at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has an Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD) MFA Program that can be completed at the school’s Atlanta and Savannah campuses, and online via SCADnow. As part of the School of Digital Media, MFA students have opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships with local and national studios.

Students will also have opportunities to work individually and in teams to complete projects at state-of-the-art customized facilities at Mongomery Hall—a 130,000 square feet space consisting of studio classrooms, more than 800 computers, stop-motion sets, a green-screen stage, motion-capture technology, and AR/VR resources. The SCAD Digital Media Center in Atlanta provides an in-house theater, green screen lab, and a real-world studio environment.

Each quarter, students have the opportunity to interview and present their portfolios to professionals in the industry. Past visitors have been affiliated with studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Zynga, and Activision Blizzard. Graduates of the IGD Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design are routinely hired by these and other studios such as Epic Games, Firaxis Games, and Sucker Punch Productions.

4. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology

DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) has a Digital Art MFA that allows students to customize their own specialization. The program begins with required courses in digital arts. Once these required courses are complete, students may choose courses from a wide selection of production, animation, digital arts, fine art, and project-based courses. Examples include Game Design, Development and Production, Organic and Hard Surface Modeling, 3D Concepts and Production, Facial Rigging and Animation, Character Design, Lighting and Rendering, Scripting for Games, Texturing for 3D, Gesture Drawing, Physics for Animation and Modeling, and Team Project.

The DigiPen Digital Art MFA requires a Final Thesis Project, consisting of a Professional Portfolio. MFA graduates are prepared to pursue careers in both Games and Animation.

Graduates of all programs at DigiPen Institute of Technology enjoy a high job placement rate. To date, more than 600 companies have hired DigiPen graduates. Examples include Epic Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Sony Interactive Entertainment, DreamWorks Interactive, Google, Amazon, Walt Disney Imagineering, SpaceX, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Activision, Insomniac Games, Zynga, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel Corporation, Ubisoft Shanghai, Take-Two Interactive, ArenaNet, and Bungie, Inc.

5. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

The Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) houses the Game Design Program, which has a Game Design MFA that requires that a minimum of 64 graduate credit hours. Game Design at DePaul University emphasizes collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. Design students will have opportunities to work with fine art, audio, programming, and writing students. The curriculum includes coursework that helps students navigate the game production process from inception to the testing phase. Course examples include Creative Computation, Art Games Bootcamp, Incubation Studio, Game Design Workshop, Games with a Purpose Bootcamp, Game Design Proseminar, and Game Development Practicum.

MFA students have access to the Virtual and Augmented Design Lab, the game studio known as DePaul Originals, and CDM facilities such as the gameplay, playtest and usability, XR, and game development and research labs. Other program benefits include participation in a variety of exhibitions, internship opportunities at local and national studios, and the biennial Japan Study Abroad Program. MFA students will participate in the MFA Thesis Showcase and Defense and they will graduate with a portfolio of their best work.

Some of the top careers for DePaul University Game Design graduates include Game Design and Development, Animation, Computer Graphics, Software Engineering, Commercial Production, and Project Management. Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as Epic Games, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Fast Radius, iiRcade, and Speegs Media.

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

The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Visualization Department, which has a Visualization MFA that is one of only a handful of programs of its kind in the United States. The TAMU Visualization MFA provides opportunities to complete a paid internship, participate in the Visualization Industry Fair, and show creative works at local exhibitions and the Viz Fall Show.

Consisting of 60 credit hours, the Visualization MFA has eight areas of emphasis including Gaming, Interactive Art, Computer Animation, Visual Storytelling, Visual Effects (VFX), Virtual/Augmented Reality (VR/AR), User Experience Design (UX Design), and Data Visualization. Included in the 60 credit hours required for the program 17 credit hours are electives, 11 credit hours are free electives, and 20 credit hours are in Professional Study. Emphasis areas are 12 credit hours, with electives allowing students to focus in additional areas.

Course examples for the program include 3D Modeling and Animation, Computer Animation, Digital Compositing, Rendering and Shading, Image Synthesis, Physical Computing for Art & Design, Design Communication, Form/Installation/Environment, The Digital Image, and Computer Aided Sculpting. Students will complete, exhibit, and defend a body of work typically produced over a three year period.

Graduates of the Visualization Department 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).

7. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

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. ATEC Programs are still in force and provide opportunities to study game design and development. For example, the MFA has a Game Development Concentration and students also have the opportunity to 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.

8. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University

The College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University (OSU) houses the Department of Design, which has an MFA Program with Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM), and Design Research and Development (DRD) Tracks. The DAIM Track requires 12 studio elective credits and six credits of interdisciplinary electives, allowing plenty of opportunities to create a focus in games. The DRD Track is a collaborative, interdisciplinary program that encourages study across departments, research areas, and themes. Open electives provide additional opportunities to explore games.

Examples of possible elective courses across all programs and departments include Games Virtual Modeling, Game Design I-II, Video Game Music, Esports and Game Studies, Computer Game Art and Design, Video Games and Society, Computational Thinking in Context: Game Development or Images, Animation, Screenwriting, Art and Technology, Philosophy and Videogames, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Computer Vision for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

Graduates of the Design Programs at The Ohio State University are prepared to pursue positions careers in entertainment, technology, art, and engineering, among others. Potential job titles include Game Designer, CG Specialist, Motion Graphic Designer, Interaction Designer, Software Programmer, Virtual Reality Designer, Design Strategist, User Interface/User Experience Designer (UI/UX), and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Designer.

9. The New School's Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School Parsons

The School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT) at The New School's Parsons School of Design (Parsons) houses a Design and Technology (DT) Program that provides a STEM-designated MFA. All DT degree options provide networking opportunities and collaborations with external partners; studios and lab courses led by experts in the field; industry-oriented internships; and study abroad experiences in places such as London, Paris, and Florence.

The DT MFA at The New School Parsons is studio-based and consists of Collaboration Studio and Thesis Studio courses. In Collaboration Studio courses, students will work with partner companies on real-world projects. Examples of past partners include Apple, Samsung, NASA, Intel, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Mozilla, and Red Bull. Projects explore areas such as game design, web and mobile apps, visualization, new media art, interaction design, digital fabrication, and critical design. 

Graduates of the DT Programs at The New School Parsons are prepared for careers in Game Design, 2D and 3D Animation, Digital Filmmaking, New Media Art, Motion Graphics, Wearable Technology, Mobile and Application Design, Software Design, Advertising, Virtual Reality and Immersion Experience Design, Hardware Engineering, Physical Computing, Graphic Arts, WEB/UI/UX Design, and Data Visualization.

10. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University

The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University is home to the School of Computing, which houses the Division of Visual Computing. Within the Division is the Digital Production Arts (DPA) Program. This interdisciplinary program collaborates with the Departments of Art and Performing Art, with a significant focus on advanced studios and visualization as a problem-solving tool.

For students seeking an MFA, the Division has a Professional DPA MFA that provides the option to study at the main campus in Clemson or at the Zucker Family Graduate Education Center (ZFGEC) in Charleston, South Carolina. MFA students can attend traditional face-to-face classes or via “real-time” streaming to and from the main campus. DPA MFA students are not required to travel between campuses.

The 60 credit hour DPA MFA blends computer science, art, computer engineering, graphic communications, and performing arts instruction with newly designed courses that explore production techniques related to the electronic games, visual effects (VFX), and animation industries. Required courses include Special Topics in Digital Production Arts, 3D Modeling and Animation, Special Studio Topics in Digital Production Arts, Digital Production Studio, and Graduate Research Studio. The remaining courses will come from specified core courses and approved electives or foundation courses.

Other DPA highlights include visits from representatives of major studios such as DreamWorks, internship opportunities, high-tech classrooms, state-of-the-art production studios and facilities, study abroad experiences, collaboration spaces and participation in the SIGGRAPH Conference.

Graduates of the DPA Programs at Clemson University are Game Designers, Animators, Game Programmers, Technical Directors, Software Engineers, 3D Graphics Programmers, Art Directors, and AR/VR designers, among others. Clemson DPA alumni have secured positions with companies and studios such as Google, Disney Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Blur Studio, Sledgehammer Games, IBM, and CrowdStrike.