What are the top MFA programs for game design?

Top 10 Game Design Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree Programs – 2024 College Rankings
1University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
2New York UniversityNew York
3Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
4DigiPen Institute of TechnologyWashington
5DePaul UniversityIllinois
6Texas A&M UniversityTexas
7The New School’s Parsons School of DesignNew York
8The Ohio State UniversityOhio
9University of Texas at DallasTexas
10Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia

Below are the Top 10 schools and colleges offering Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree programs in game design for 2024. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.

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

University of Southern California (USC) Los Angeles has several MFA programs for game designers. Options include the Interactive Media MFA (customize specialization); the Interactive Media and Games MFA; and the Interactive Media MFA with an emphasis in Games and Health. Programs are part of USC Games--which is a multidisciplinary hub that provides a collection of minors and multiple 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 in Viterbi School of Engineering. Classes for the programs are collaborative, hands-on, and immersive, allowing students to develop team-building skills and expertise in every area of game design and development. All courses for USC Games are led by working professionals in the field. 

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

2. New York University, New York, New York
New York University

New York University (NYU) is home to Tisch School of the Arts (est. 1965), which houses the Department of Game Design. Founded in 2008 and known as NYU Game Center, the department hosts events and programs such as the No Quarter Exhibition (est. 2010); NYU Game Center Lecture Series; and the professional game conference PRACTICE: Game Design in Detail. The Center also hosts workshops, playtests, and tournaments, as well as immersive academic seminars, and hands-on experiences in the Center’s development studios and play labs. 

A major component of the NYU Game Center is the internship program. Students have completed coveted internships with Disney, Ubisoft, Arkadium, and TreSensa. 

The NYU Game Center MFA is a two-year program that consists of coursework in game history, game design, game studies, game production, studio, and play labs. Students will also take a number of electives that explore areas such as the psychology of game play and games journalism. Course examples for the program include American Computer Games of the 1980s; 3D Game Studio: Unity; Game Design I and II; Horror Games; Intermediate Programming for Games; Prototype Studio; UI/UX for Games; Mobile Game Studio; Shader Lab; Tech Art Studio; and Tackling Representation in Games. 

The Game Design MFA program culminates with a thesis, completed across two courses (12 credit hours). Thesis projects may consist of digital games, card games or a sport, smartphone games, or a series of small games, among others. Thesis programs may also be individually directed or completed in teams. Thesis projects are presented at the NYU Game Center Spring Show. 

NYU Game Center MFA graduates will enter the job market with a resume, several finished games or related works, and the assistance of NYU’s extensive Wasserman Career Center. As part of Tisch School of the Arts, NYU Game Center graduates also have access to school’s own Office of Career Development, which helps students launch their creative careers. 

The Game Center Incubator is yet another resource for graduating students. Launched in 2014, the incubator provides expertise, funding, and space for projects with commercial potential. Incubator leaders help select students see projects through to a public launch. 

Graduates of the NYU Game Center are Game Artists, Game Designers, Software Publishers, Game Developers, AI Engineers, Game Programmers, and Entrepreneurs. Program alumni have gone on to work for companies and studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Riot Games, Amazon, Tencent, Take-Two Interactive, ESPN, Nickelodeon, IGDA Japan, Arkadium, and Avalanche Studios.  

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

The School of Creative Technology at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) provides opportunities to gain hands-on experience through internships with local and national studios. Students also have opportunities to work individually and in teams to complete projects across state-of-the-art customized facilities within the SCAD Digital Media Center (est. 2009) and Mongomery Hall. More than 130,000 square feet of space includes studio classrooms; 800 computers+; stop-motion sets; a green-screen stage; motion-capture technology; and AR/VR labs. 

Housed in the former home of the Atlanta TV Station WXIA, the SCAD Digital Media Center provides an in-house theater, green screen lab, and a real-world studio environment. Savannah College of Art and Design also houses six galleries in Savannah, and two in Atlanta. 

Each quarter, SCAD School of Digital Media invites professionals in the industry to meet with students on campus. During these meetings, students have the opportunity to interview and present their portfolios. Past visitors have been affiliated with studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Zynga, and Activision Blizzard. 

For students seeking a terminal degree, the School of Creative Technology at SCAD has an Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD) MFA program. All students will complete Evidence-Based Design Interactivity and Gaming, and three Thesis courses including Thesis Studio I: Research and Ideation; Thesis Studio II: Production and Prototyping; and Thesis Studio III: Validation and Documentation. This is the culminating experience for the program. At the graduate level, students can earn an MA or MFA in IDGD. The MFA is provided at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, and online via SCADnow. 

Graduates of the Game Design and Development programs at Savannah College of Art and Design are routinely hired by EA, Epic Games, Zynga, Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Gearbox Software, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Bethesda, Firaxis Games, and Sucker Punch Productions.

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

DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) was the first college in the world to offers a bachelor’s degree in Video Game Technology and Development. Since then, this Houdini Certified School has accumulated 57 IGF awards—more than any other school in the world, and students have won close to 315 awards for game projects and academic papers. In addition, DigiPen graduates are credited on more than 2,000 commercial video games. 

At the graduate level, DigiPen has a Digital Art MFA that allows students to customize a specialization from courses across any area. Students have access to courses such as Game Design, Development and Production; Scripting for Games; Lighting and Rendering; Character Rigging; Organic and Hard Surface Modeling; Storyboarding; Advanced Character Creation; and Hair and Clothing Simulation. 

The Digital Art MFA requires a Final Thesis Project completed across three courses: Thesis Pre-Production, and Thesis I and II. MFA students will leave the program with a Professional Portfolio. Graduates are prepared to pursue careers in both Games and Animation. 

DigiPen Institute of Technology graduates enjoy a high job placement rate. To date, more than 1,500 companies have hired DigiPen graduates. Examples include Epic Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Sony Interactive Entertainment, Nintendo, DreamWorks Interactive, Google, Amazon, Walt Disney Imagineering, SpaceX, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Activision, Insomniac Games, Zynga, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel Corporation, Ubisoft Shanghai, Bungie, Take-Two Interactive, and ArenaNet.

5. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) at DePaul University (DePaul) Game Design MFA that emphasizes collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. As such, students have opportunities to work with peers across the audio, programming, fine art, and writing disciplines. The curriculum includes coursework that helps students navigate the game production process from inception to the testing phase.

Course examples across CDM include Game Development; Game Engine Programming; Playtesting; Unity Workshop; 3D Animation; Advanced Game Design; Practical Scripting for Games; Physics for Game Developers; Game Sound Design; Rendering and Graphics Programming; Real-Time Software Development; 3D Design and Modeling; Tool Programming for Game Development; Game Modification Workshop; and Game Development Studio. Electives allow students to explore areas such as AI, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), and animation. 

All CDM students have access to the game development studio DePaul Originals; the Deep Games Laboratory; and facilities such as the gameplay, playtest and usability, virtual reality, and game development and research labs. Other program features include participation in a variety of exhibitions; internships with local and national studios; and the biennial Japan Study Abroad Program. 

This two-week trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagoya consists of visits to game and animation companies; galleries and museums; restaurants; and temples, cultural centers, and historic sites. In Nagoya, students will collaborate with Japanese game and animation students at Trident College of Computing. This two-day game/animation jam is the culminating experience for the trip. 

Graduates of the Game Design programs at DePaul University will enter the job market with a portfolio of their best work. Some of the top careers for program alumni include Game Design and Development, Software Engineering, Animation, Project Management, Computer Graphics, and Commercial Production. Graduates have been hired at companies and studios such as Epic Games, iiRcade, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Fast Radius, and Speegs Media.

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

The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts (PVFA) at Texas A&M University (TAMU) has a Visualization MFA that's one of the few programs of its kind in the state of Texas. With a focus on technological innovations and applications, this interdisciplinary program provides the opportunity to select an area of emphasis from eight options. This includes Gaming; Computer Animation; Visual Storytelling; Virtual/Augmented Reality; Interactive Art; Visual Effects; User Experience Design; and Data Visualization. 

All students in this 60-credit hour program will work on projects in a studio-like environment. Course examples include Form/Installation/Environment; Design Communication; The Digital Image; Contemporary Art Studio/Seminar; and Professional Practice. Free and prescribed electives allow students to enhance the degree. Examples include 3D Modeling and Animation; Rendering and Shading; Advanced Animation; Physical Computing for Art and Design; Digital Compositing; Computer Animation; Computer Aided Sculpting; and Time-Based Media. 

The Visualization MFA at TAMU culminates with a Final Presentation and Written Document. Graduates are prepared for careers in fields such as Game Design, Game Level Design, Game Asset Development, Production Management, Technical Art, Production Management, UI/UX Development, and Visual Development. 

TAMU alumni are often hired at local studios, as well as major companies and studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts (EA), Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Microsoft, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, LucasFilm Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Reel FX, Aspyr Media, Bouncing Pixel, and Presagis.

7. The New School’s Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School’s Parsons School of Design

The New School’s Parsons School of Design (Parsons) is home to the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT). Within the AMT is a STEM-designated, interdisciplinary Design and Technology (DT) program that features include collaborations between artists and designers across The New School; studios and lab courses led by experts in the field; networking opportunities and sponsored projects with external partners; industry internships; and study abroad experiences in places such as Florence, Paris, and London. 

The AMT also has a studio-based Design and Technology MFA program consisting 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, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), NASA, Intel, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Ralph Lauren, Mozilla, One Plus, and Red Bull. Projects explore areas such as game design, web and mobile apps, film and video, and audiovisual performance.  

Other program features include access to state-of-the-art facilities and labs; elective options across Parsons and The New School; and the Cloud Salon Series—a webinar series consisting of designers, artists, technologists, and industry professionals. Past speakers have included New Red Order, Zach Lieberman, Yuri Suzuki, Audrey Bennett, and Lauren Lee McCarthy. 

Graduates of the Design and Technology program at The New School’s Parsons School of Design are prepared to pursue leadership roles and others in areas such as Game Design, 2D and 3D Animation, Digital Filmmaking, New Media Art, Motion Graphics, Graphic Arts, Wearable Technology, Mobile and Application Design, Software Design, UI/UX Design, and Virtual Reality and Immersion Experience Design, Hardware Engineering, Advertising, Physical Computing, Data Visualization, and Web Desigin.

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

The Ohio State University (OSU) is home to the College of Arts and Sciences, which houses the Department of Design. Within the department is a fully-funded, three-year MFA program with tracks in Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM); Design Research and Development (DRD); and Art and Technology. The DAIM track requires 12 studio elective credits and six credits of interdisciplinary electives, allowing for plenty of opportunities to focus in games. 

The DRD track is a collaborative, interdisciplinary program that encourages study across departments, research areas, and themes. Open electives provide many opportunities to explore games. 

Art and Technology is an interdisciplinary area that explores experimentation and new forms. Course examples include Special Topics in Art Games; Sound and Image: Aspects of Art and Technology; 3D Modeling; New Media Robotics; Computer Animation; and Digital Imaging. 

Across all tracks, possible elective options include Game Design I-II; Games Virtual Modeling; Computational Thinking in Context: Game Development or Image; Video Game Music; Philosophy and Videogames; Esports and Game Studies; Artificial Intelligence (AI); Computer Game Art and Design; Animation; Video Games and Society; Screenwriting, Art, and Technology; and Computer Vision for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The culminating experience for the MFA program is the Thesis Project. 

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

9. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the Harry W. Bass Jr. School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (AHT). The AHT was established in August 2022 after the consolidation of the School of Arts & Humanities (founded in 1975), and the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), founded in 2002 as Texas’s first Arts and Technology degree. 

The AHT still houses the ATEC BA, MA, MFA, and PhD programs, all of which provide opportunities to study game design and development. For example, the MFA has a Game Development concentration, and MA students may be admitted to the Emerging Media Studies pathway and/or create their own specialization through electives and other courses. 

Like all ATEC programs, courses for the MFA are led by industry professionals. Students in this program will take the following required courses: Aesthetics of Interactive Arts; Game Design and Development; Approaches to Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication; and ATEC Colloquium. Elective course examples include Game Production Methods; Anatomy of a Game; Virtual Worlds and Communities; Interactive Environments; Building Virtual Worlds; and Experimental Games Studio. 

All UT Dallas ATEC students have access to a variety of other state-of-the-art facilities and other resources such as the Game Lab; Public Interactives Research Lab (PIRL); CG Animation Lab; Motion Capture Studio; Games and Media Library; Emerging Gizmology Lab; Surround Studio; Animation Lab; Narrative Systems Research Lab; LabSynthE; The Studio for Mediating Play; ATEC Lecture Hall; experimenta.l.; SP&CE; Games Research Lab; Creative Automata Lab; ArtSciLab; Render Farm; 3D Studio; and Mixed Media Lab. The ATEC Lecture Hall has hosted speakers from Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks. 

Graduates of the ATEC programs at University of Texas at Dallas are prepared to pursue leadership roles across industries and at leading studios, companies, and other organizations. Program alumni have been hired at places such as Pixar, Apple, DreamWorks, Google, Disney, Toyota, and Capital One.

10. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) houses a STEM-certified School of Game Development that operates under the direction of professionals in the game design industry. For students seeking a terminal degree, the school an MFA degree in Game Development. The program is multidisciplinary, so students will explore game, systems, and tools programming; animation/animation VFX; augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR); level design and rigging; coding and artificial intelligence (AI); 3D modeling; concept and technical art; and user interface/user experience (UI/UX) design. 

Course examples across the School of Game Development include Programming for Games; 3D Modeling for Games; Game Engines; Prop & Weapon Design for Games; Programming for Game UI and Tools; Level Design for Video Games; Scripting for Games; Digital Environment Sketching; Action Adventure and RPG Level Design; Collaborative Game Development; 3D Modeling and Animation (Maya); AAA Game Engine Architecture; Rapid Game Development; 2D Tools for Game Development; Vector, Matrices, and Transformations; Combat Design; Mobile Game Development; Prototype Game Development; Indie Game Programming; Game Freemium & Monetization; Artificial Intelligence; and History of Gaming. 

Other program features include professional internships with partner studios such as Riot Games, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Zynga; hands-on learning in the Academy of Art Game Development Studio; and access to facilities and technology such as Xbox/PlayStation/Nintendo Game consoles; cross-departmental war rooms with students from the Schools of Animation, Illustration, and Music; AR/VR labs; 280+ Alienware High Performance Computers with Dual Monitors; a competitive esports lab; and the Game Lounge. 

Graduates of the School of Game Development at Academy of Art University are prepared to pursue leadership roles across the games and other industries. Alumni have been hired by major studios, independent studios, leading organizations, and networks NBCUniversal, Riot Games, Zynga, Norman Rockwell Museum, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Double Fine Productions (part of Xbox Game Studios), Naughty Dog, Sledgehammer Games, San Francisco Shock, and Crystal Dynamics.