What are the top ranked game design schools in the South?
|University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy
|Savannah College of Art and Design
|Georgia Institute of Technology
|Full Sail University
|Ringling College of Art and Design
|University of Florida
|North Carolina State University at Raleigh
|University of North Carolina at Charlotte
|Kennesaw State University
|University of South Carolina
|University of Louisiana at Lafayette
|Louisiana State University
|Southern Arkansas University
|Eastern Kentucky University
Our 2020 rankings of the top 15 game design schools in the South. We define the South as Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas. For an explanation of our ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy, Orlando, Florida
Established in 1963 and serving approximately 68,571 students across four campuses, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second-largest university and Florida’s largest by enrollment. Also one of the nation’s youngest universities, UCF offers more than 220 degree programs across 13 colleges. One of the school’s largest programs is game design.
UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities, Games & Interactive Media Department offers a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design that the school says, “allows students to integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology." In the Game Design Track, students "learn the history, design cultural impact and implementation of video games and video game technologies." Students will complete courses that will allow them to "build a series of prototype, casual and longer form games throughout the semester as individuals and in teams."
Other program highlights include the opportunity to participate in game jams and meet-ups, which offer networking opportunities and possible job placement.
UCF houses the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA). This graduate video game design school opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA serves dozens of students enrolled in a 16-month MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks including Tech Art, Programming, and Production.
The MS offers an “immersive, project-based video game curriculum that’s as active as it is interactive.” Students in the program will “become part of a team of fellow students” who will work together as “producers, programmers and artists on real-world projects with milestones and tight deadlines.” Projects are overseen “by some of the best video game faculty in the world.”
UCF also offers an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media. Students in this program may pursue a non-thesis option and portfolios might include works of art, software or games students have designed, written articles, and proposals or projects they have created.
2. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, the school serves more than 14,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Offering more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design university, SCAD houses the School of Digital Media, which offers a BA with a Concentration in Interactive Design and BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD). Minors in Concept Art for Games, Concept Design for Animation and Games, Games UX, Interactive Design and Game Development, and Mobile and Interactive Design are also available.
The 180 credit hour BA is available at the Savannah, Atlanta, eLearning campuses. This program requires 45 credit hours in the concentration including courses such as Digital Design Aesthetics, Core Principles: Programming, Introduction to Game Design, Core Principles: Interactive Design and Typography I: Anatomy, Form and Space.
The 180 credit hour BFA is offered in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong. The program requires 75 credits in the major including courses such as Interactive Design and Game Development Studio I & II, Interactive Design and Game Development Postproduction, and Programming. Students in the BFA program will choose between two concentrations: Game Development and Interactive Design and Physical Computing. Sample courses include Game Tech, Game Art, User-Centered Design, and Visual Design for Interactive Media.
Offered at the Savannah and Hong Kong campuses, the MA consists of 45 credit hours of study including courses such as Contemporary Art, Interactive Web Design, and Collaboration. Students in this program will complete an Interactive Design and Game Development MA Final Project.
The MFA program consists of 45 credit hours of study including courses such as Environment for Games, Character Development, Scripting for Interactivity, and Game Design Documentation. Students will also take Thesis Studio I & II, and they will complete a Graduate Internship. The MFA program is offered at the Hong Kong and Savannah campuses and through eLearning.
At SCAD, professionals visit with students every quarter, interviewing for positions and reviewing portfolios. Recent visitors include representatives from Zynga, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Crystal Dynamics and Activision. Graduates have been recruited by Epic Games, Sucker Punch Productions, Firaxis Games, and many others.
3. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) was founded in 1885. The school opened for classes October 8, 1888, with just 129 students enrolled in a BS in Mechanical Engineering program. Today, GeorgiaTech serves more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in over 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors in six colleges and 28 schools.
Degrees are offered through the colleges of Design, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Programs for aspiring game designers are available through GeorgiaTech’s College of Computing.
Degree options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Games Studies or Interaction Focus, an MS degree in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology), an MS in Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. A BS/MS in Computational Media/Digital Media and an Accelerated 5-Year Bachelor's/Master's are also available. In addition to the College of Computing, the BSCM - Game Studies Focus is supported by the School of Literature Communication and Culture within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
The programs, known as Games@GT, are part of an institute-wide initiative designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.
Graduates of the Game Programs at GeorgiaTech are prepared to seek careers in Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Special Effects Creation, Animation, 3-D Modeling, Robotics, Virtual and Augmented Reality and Web Design.
4. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Established in 1979, Full Sail University serves 15,000 students enrolled in 78 Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Associate degrees in the areas of Entertainment, Media and the Arts. Graduate Certificates are also available. The Game School at Full Sail offers several programs for aspiring game designers.
Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development, Simulation & Visualization, and Mobile Development. Graduate degrees include an MS in Game Design or Mobile Gaming (online). In the Game Art BS students will create 3D content and “take traditional art and animation principles and apply them to models that look, move and articulate artistically,” says the school. Course highlights for the program include Game Animation, Motion Capture, and Level Assembly & Lighting.
The Game Design BS is designed to enhance the students “ability to work in a game studio environment.” The program “is comprised of high-level game design and production courses that will take” students “deep into the game development pipeline.” The program covers key industry concepts influencing both systems and level designs that will prepare students to prototype and evaluate their game projects. Course highlights include Game Mechanics, Game Balancing, and Prototyping.
The BS in Game Development guides students through the entire game development cycle, from pre-production to finished product. Course highlights include Artificial Intelligence, Engine Development, and Data Structure and Algorithms. Graduates will have the ability to create program code for 3D graphic display, multiplayer gaming, artificially intelligent opponents, and real-time virtual environments.
The BS in Simulation & Visualization equips students with the programming and critical-thinking skills needed to study and design virtual systems. Course highlights include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Computer Graphics. Through hands-on experience, students will develop their “tech savvy in order to keep pace with an ever-evolving industry.”
MS in Game Design coursework focuses on user experience research, production, and design. Course highlights include Methods and the User Experience, Prototyping and Content Creation, and Game Usability and Testing. The program, which allows students to choose a track that allows them to focus on a chosen area of expertise, culminates in a Game Capstone Experience.
The Mobile Gaming MS consists of graduate level mobile gaming research, emerging technologies, and the application of theoretical concepts to game design and development. Course highlights include Computer Science for Engineers, Game Development Frameworks, and Mobile Gaming Business. The program culminates in a thesis, which allows students to complete a fully playable mobile game of their own design.
The Game Art and Game Design BS degrees are available on campus and online, while the MS in Mobile Gaming is available entirely online.
5. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. A member of the only global association to serve art and design education research (Cumulus), RCAD opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, the school serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in 13 BA and BFA degree programs and nine minors. Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Illustration, and Virtual Reality Development are just a few degree options.
RCAD programs offer a rigorous curriculum, which combines studio and liberal arts, with client projects, substantive internships, and national competitions. The program option for aspiring game designers is part of the Computer Animation Department, which serves around 20% of the student population. The Department also houses eight state-of-the-art computer labs in addition to three open labs. Students in the Department are also experimenting with VR technology using the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
The BFA with a Game Art Major is one of the few programs available that focuses on visual art for computer games. Students in the program will study “the basics of game design mechanics, meaningful play, interactivity, and options for creating and refining game content,” says the school. The technical aspects of 3D animation software and game engines will also be explored.
Other program highlights include visiting artists from major game studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, and Riot Games, and internships at these studios and others such as Electronic Arts, Insomniac Games, and Sony Online Entertainment. Graduates of RCAD enjoy a high professional placement rate at Activision, Blizzard, Cartoon Network Game Studios, Disney Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Gameloft, Hasbro, Intel corporation, LucasArts, Microsoft Game Studios, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Riot Games, Sony Imageworks Interactive, Zynga and many others.
6. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Founded in 1858 as Gainesville Academy, University of Florida (UF) serves more than 56,000 students enrolled in 30 certificate programs, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs across more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Arts houses the Digital Worlds Institute, which offers a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS) and a Masters in Digital Arts & Sciences (MiDAS). The BADAS program crosses traditional college boundaries between arts, communications, and technology,” says the school. “Students will immerse themselves in every aspect of the new and developing digital landscape — from digital illustration to 3D animation, from programming to video-game design.”
Sample courses for the program include Game Design Practices, Game Development, Digital Storytelling, Writing for Interactive Media, Wearable & Mobile Apps, Design Production Studio, and 3D Digital Animation. Entrepreneurship in New Media, Undergraduate Research Forum, and a Senior Project are also part of the program.
Other BADAS highlights include the opportunity to gain experience working on team projects, access to high-tech facilities including a 5-screen Polymodal Immersive Classroom Theater (PICT) and a Virtual Production Studio (VPS), and the cohort experience. The experience allows a select group of students to “join a community of learners in taking a set sequence of courses together.” Students will network and build relationships with their classmates, work one-on-one with faculty, and participate in discussions.
The MiDAS program “provides students with the technical, design, and professional skills needed to enter and thrive in contemporary interactive media industries.” This one-year accelerated program “focuses in the area of emerging technologies including Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR / VR).” Students will work in a collaborative environment and receive personal attention from faculty and content area experts. Areas covered include Technical Skills, Game Engines and Development (i.e. Unity 3D), Software and Hardware Integration, Design and Interactivity, Visual Design Tools/Tech, 3D for VR/AR, UI-UX, Audio, Digital Compositing, Digital Storytelling, Professional Skills, Project Proposals, Production Pipelines, Project Management, and Critical Thinking and Analysis.
The MiDAS program is “designed for individuals from diverse backgrounds seeking to further their professional career goals at the intersection of interactive media, innovation, and emerging technologies.” Students will create “industry-standard projects that provide the basis for their professional portfolios to be career-ready upon graduation.”
Graduates of the Digital Arts & Sciences programs at UF have gone on to work for companies such as DreamWorks and Microsoft, as well as to form their own successful startups.
7. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University (NC State) was established in 1887. The school serves 34,340 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science houses the game program. Degree options include a BS in Computer Science (CSC) with a Game Development Concentration and an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) degree.
Per the school, the BS program “allows the student to develop an understanding of the scientific and technological principles associated with the design and development of computer and console games for both entertainment and serious applications.” Students will take all of the courses required for the CSC as well as Game Design and Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Building Game AI, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Human-Computer Interaction, and Computer Graphics.
Students are also required to take Advanced Graphics Projects and Advanced Game Development Projects. Internships and study abroad opportunities are also available, and electives run the gamut from Game Studies and Fiction Writing to Fantasy, Film and Science Fiction.
The ABM program allows students to complete the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree and a non-thesis Master’s in the same field within 18 months of completing the Bachelor’s degree.
Students in all programs will benefit from The Digital Games Research center (DGRc). Created in May of 2007, the center was designed to “undertake an ambitious agenda of research, education and outreach activities in the area of games and games technologies.”
“Housed in the Department of Computer Science, the center’s faculty include colleagues from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Design, Management and Humanities and Social Sciences that collaborate on a wide range of research and educational initiatives which focus on new modes of entertainment and interaction in digital worlds.”
8. University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) opened as an evening college center for returning veterans on September 23, 1946. When it opened, the school had just 278 students. Today, UNC Charlotte serves 29,615 students enrolled in 139 majors in 75 programs leading to bachelor's degrees, 65 master's degrees, and 24 doctoral degrees in seven professional colleges. The College of Computing and Informatics houses the Department of Computer Science, which has a number of programs for aspiring game designers.
Options include BA and BS degrees in Computer Science with a Concentration in AI, Robotics, and Gaming, an MS in Computer Science with an optional AI, Robotics and Gaming Concentration, and a PhD in Computing and Information Systems with a Computer Science Track. Course highlights for the undergraduate programs include AI for Computer Games, Game Design and Development, Advanced 3D Computer Graphics, Interactive Computer Graphics, Intelligent Robotics, Machine Learning, and Visualization and Visual Communication.
The Capstone requirement for the program highlights Game Design and Development Studio or Intelligent and Interactive System Studio.
Students in the MS program must take the gaming core, which consists of Computer Vision, Computer Graphics, and Intelligent Systems. The concentration consists of at nine credit hours with course options such as Game Engine Construction, Game Design and Development Studio, Real-Time Rendering Engines, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Natural Language Processing. The program requires 30 credit hours to graduate.
The Department also offers certificates and a minor for game designers. Options include undergraduate and graduate Game Design (GDD) Certificates and a Minor in Software and Information Systems. Sample courses for these non-degree programs include Game Engine Construction, Audio Processing for Entertainment Computing, and AI for Computer Games.
9. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia
Founded in 1963, Kennesaw State University (KSU) serves more than 35,000 students enrolled in more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia, the third-largest university in the state, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the College of Computing and Software Engineering, Department of Software Engineering and Game Development.
Options include a BS and a Minor in Computer Game Development. The school says that the program “exposes students to the breadth of the field in the areas of digital media, human-computer interaction, the history and theory of gaming, game design, 2D and 3D graphics, simulation, modeling, software engineering, artificial intelligence, data structures, and algorithms.” Students in the program are required to select an upper-level concentration, “to ensure depth in their program of study.” Current options include Media-Production, Distributed-Mobile, Education-Serious, Planning-Management, and Simulation-Informatics.
KSU’s’ Department of Software Engineering and Game Development also supports student organizations and offers Game Jams throughout the year to encourage development of student knowledge and skills outside the classroom. Graduates will leave the program with the skills and knowledge needed to “apply computing and software engineering techniques to the design and production of digital media for entertainment, research, and education.”
10. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College, Clemson University serves just over 25,800 students. The school offers more than 190 undergraduate majors, minors and graduate programs through the Graduate School and the Colleges of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Architecture, Arts and Humanities; Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences; Business; Education; Science, and Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. Calhoun Honors College and Emeritus College are also part of Clemson.
The College of Engineering and Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA or BS in Computer Science, an MFA or MS in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA or MS DPA), and a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Plan (BS/MS) in Computer Science. Students in the Computer Science programs will take classes such as Algorithms and Data Structures, Software Engineering, Computer Security, Computer Graphics, Game Design and Network Programming.
Launched in 2017, the MS DPA is offered within the Division of Visual Computing in the School of Computing. The MFA DPA is offered through the Division as well. Both programs offer significant collaboration with the departments of Art and Performing Arts. The MFA requires 60 credit hours, including an MFA thesis, and the MS requires 30 credit. The MS has both thesis and non-thesis options. Students in either program can study at the main campus in Clemson or Charleston, South Carolina.
All students have the opportunity to Minor in DPA, which emphasizes Games, Visual Effects, and Computer Animation.
11. University of South Carolina, Columbia South Carolina
Founded in 1801, University of South Carolina (U of SC) serves 34,795 students representing nearly 100 countries. The school offers more than 324 unique degrees of study, including nearly 200 master’s and PhD programs, in more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the Art Department and the School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD). The Art Department offers a BA in Media Arts, and SVAD offers an MA in Media Arts.
The Art Department “boasts an 85,000-square-foot facility designed specifically for the study and creation of the visual arts,” says the school. It is the “largest and most comprehensive Art Department in the state.” Students in the BA in Media Arts will master motion capture video game work on the Department’s green screen, sound recording and art design, manga writing and design, camerawork and lighting design and more. Course highlights include New Media Advanced: Video game Design, Advanced Animation, Narrative Production, and The Art and Business of Manga and Anime.
Students may take elective courses such as Computer Game Development, Mathematical Game Theory, and Educational Games. In addition, during their senior year, students have the opportunity to intern “at national leaders in the media industries.” MA students will also complete an internship as well as a Thesis or Project. The final project may be taken all at once or split over two semesters.
Graduates of both programs go on to become “creative professionals, working in industry, government, freelance media production, and as entrepreneurs.” U of SC Media Arts alumni are “globally influential media makers at Netflix, Blizzard, Marvel, IBM, iD Software, Kodansha USA, Turner Studios, HBO Films, Nickelodeon, and CBS Television. Our alumni are self-starters, global creatives, film and television industry executives, and local media pioneers.”
12. University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana
University of Louisiana at Lafayette (UL Lafayette or UL) was founded in 1898 as Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute. The school opened in 1901 with 145 students enrolled in Agriculture, Mechanics, and Stenography degree programs. Today, UL is the state’s second-largest public institution serving nearly 19,400 students enrolled in more than 120 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs through more than a dozen colleges and a graduate school.
The Ray P. Authement College of Sciences, School of Computing and Informatics offers a BS in Computer Science (CS) with a Concentration in Video Game Design and Development. Students in the Computer Science program will choose their concentration in the first two years of the program. Per the school, “Each concentration area within the degree program has a collection of required courses and required electives. The electives are chosen from lists of eligible courses specific to each concentration.”
Video Game Design and Development electives are related to video games, human-computer interaction, graphics, artificial intelligence, visual arts and visual design, and storytelling. Sample courses include Game Engine Algorithms and Architecture, Video Game Design and Development, Entertainment Computing, Interactive Narrative, Fundamentals of Video Game Design, Programming Languages, Programming in Java, System Simulation, Computer Graphics, and Artificial Intelligence.
Students in the BS in CS program will also complete a number of special projects, including the Senior Project. This final project provides the opportunity for students to showcase their skills and an original game.
13. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Baton, Rouge Louisiana
Louisiana State University was founded in Pineville, Louisiana in 1853 under the name Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy. Today, LSU serves approximately 31,760 students enrolled in more than 235 academic fields of study through more than a dozen colleges and schools.
Louisiana State University (LSU) is home to the College of Engineering, which houses the Digital Media Arts & Engineering (DMAE) Program and the Division of Computer Science in Engineering. DMAE program options include a 22-month Master’s in Digital Media Arts & Engineering (MDMAE) and Minors in DMAE Technology (DMAET) and Digital Media Arts & Engineering in Art (DMART). Students in the master’s program will develop specialist skills in a focus area, work with teams in a studio environment on consequential projects, and refine and hone their technical and creative skills.
The DMAET Minor is a collaborative endeavor with seven campus units at LSU including the School of Art, Department of Computer Science, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Department of English, Manship School of Mass Communication, and the School of Music. This interdisciplinary program helps students develop the skills needed to seek careers in the video game development, film, animation, web development and digital media industries.
The Division of Computer Science offers BS, MS, and PhD programs in Computer Science. A Computer Science Minor is also available. Computer Science students have the opportunity to take a number of game-related electives. Available courses include Video Game Design, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Interface Design and Technology, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Digital Media Programming, Interactive Computer Graphics, Graphical and Geometric Modeling, and Scientific Information Visualization.
14. Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Arkansas
Southern Arkansas University (SAU) was established in 1909 as the Third District Agricultural School (TDAS). The school serves more than 3,500 students enrolled in more than 80 degrees in four distinct colleges and the School of Graduate Studies. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered though the College of Liberal & Performing Arts, Department of Art & Design, and the College of Science & Engineering, Department of Mathematics & Computer Science.
A BS in Computer Science: Computer Gaming and Animation Design Option, is jointly offered by the Mathematics & Computer Science Department and the Department of Art & Design. Consisting to 120 credit hours, the program teaches students “how to create innovative artistic narratives and how to translate those narratives into animated productions as mobile and desktop apps,” says the school. “Project-based industry-like experience is the focus of this training.”
Sample courses for the program include Game Development, Graphic Software Applications, Game Design Management, Two-Dimensional Design, Computerized Simulations, Programming Languages & Compilers, Artificial Intelligence, and Fundamentals of game Programming. A Game Modification Workshop, Computer Science Internship, and Game Development Senior Project are also part of the program.
A Game, Animation, and Simulation BFA is offered through the Department of Art & Design. The 120 credit hour program covers 3D animation techniques as well as production and management of game environments. Students are “also trained for a broad variety of scenarios which require prototyping 3D designs for manufacturers of medical equipment, transportation and the military.”
Course highlights include Introduction to 3D Modeling Tools, Game Design Management, Two-Dimensional Design, Animation, Character Design and Sculpture, Graphic Software Applications, Simulation Development, Advanced Art Studio, Illustration, World Creation and Design, 3D Rigging, and World Creation. A Game Development Senior Project, Senior Capstone, and optional internship are also part of the program.
15. Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky
Founded in 1906, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) serves nearly 17,000 students from all 50 states and 36 countries. The school offers nearly 100 programs of study with dozens of concentrations, including the first bachelor’s degree focusing on games in the state. The program, offered through the EKU Gaming Institute and the Department of Computer Science, leads to a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Interactive Multimedia. A Minor in Game Design was introduced in Fall 2017.
Course highlights for the 120 credit hour program include 3D Modeling, 3D Game Engine Design, Console Game Design, Graphics Programming, Object-Oriented Programming, Drawing, Technical Graphics, Topics in Multimedia, Digital Electronics, Digital Photography, Film Scoring, System Environments & Networks, and Artificial Intelligence. Students will also complete several seminar courses, including the Senior Seminar, as well as Independent Work, and an internship.
Graduates of the BS Program at EKU have landed positions at Google, IBM, Lexmark, OpenText, and many other major companies.