11. Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California
The Art Center College of Design was established in 1930. The school opened to the public “in a courtyard of buildings on West Seventh Street in Los Angeles.” When it opened, Art Center had just eight students and 12 teachers. Today, the 175-acre the Art Center College of Design campus is home to more than 1,600 students. The campus, which sits on a wooded hillside in Pasadena, is one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S.
The Art Center College of Design is also considered one of the “World’s Best Design Schools” by Bloomberg Businessweek. The school has 11 undergraduate programs and six graduate degree programs, which includes several top-rated programs for aspiring game designers. Art Center offers BS degrees in Interaction Design and Entertainment Design. The Entertainment Design program is the number one choice for aspiring game designers and animators. In addition to preparing students to work in the game design and animation industries, the Entertainment Design program offers the Transdisciplinary Studios and Designmatters projects. These projects give students the opportunity to collaborate with peers in other departments and enroll in Illustration and Industrial Design classes.
During the final years of study, students become eligible to participate in the Art Center paid internship program. Students have completed internships at major companies and studios such as Sony Pictures Animation, Walt Disney Imagineering, Warner Bros., Aptos Technology, Anti-Aging Games, DC Comics Design Division, Dolce Films, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and more.
12. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design is Southern California’s first independent school of art. Founded in 1918 by General Harrison Gray Otis—the founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the school is a non-profit 501(c)3 institution with a mission to prepare “diverse students of art and design to enrich our world through their creativity, their skill, and their vision.” The school, which consists of four central locations (Lincoln Blvd.-Los Angeles, Downtown LA, Santa Monica, CA., and Culver City, CA.), is home to more than 1,200 students across three campuses, and it offers more than a dozen academic programs.
Otis College of Art and Design offers one of the nation’s top programs for aspiring game designers and animators. The Digital Media program prepares students to work in the areas Animation, Video Game Design, Motion Graphics, and Animation. The program, which leads to a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), has produced talent for Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Cartoon Network, Digital Domain, thatgamecompany, Nickelodeon, Blue Sky Studios, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Mattel, Rhythm & Hues Studios, Sony Imageworks, Apple, Industrial Light & Magic, and more.
Students may also be interested in the Otis College Fine Arts graduate program. Ranked 27th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, the program allows students to choose a variety of electives from other departments with department approval, in addition to required studio and practice coursework. The graduate department also offers a MFA in Graphic Design.
13. University of California-Irvine, Irvine, California
The University of California-Irvine (UCI or UC Irvine) was established in 1965. It is part of the University of California system, which consists of 234,000 students and 207,000 faculty and staff, across 10 campuses. The Irvine campus sits on 1,500 acres and it is home to more than 22,000 students, enrolled in nearly 250 majors, minors, and advanced programs.
UC Irvine is houses more than a dozen schools and departments as well. The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, Department of Computer Science is home to the nationally ranked Computer Game Science (CGS) program. Ranked 28th nationally by U.S. News & World Report, the Computer Game Science program prepares students to work with games that run on game consoles, Macs, mobile devices, websites, and more. Courses such as computer programming and network design are on the menu as well as graphics, artificial intelligence, and database management.
Upon completion of the Computer Game Science program, students will receive a BS in CGS. Many CGS graduates currently work at top studios such as Sony Computer Entertainment, Gameloft, Insomniac Games, Blizzard Entertainment, and more. The program also works with students of Laguna College of Art and Design’s top-rated Game Art program to “develop innovative, visually engaging games.”
14. Ex'pression College for Digital Arts, Emeryville, California
Ex’pression College for Digital Arts (ECDA) was established in 1998 with an enrollment of just 48 students. Today, the school is home to more than 500 students across two campuses in Emeryville and San Jose, CA. Ex’pression College is also one of the nation’s most well respected schools for digital arts. In fact, companies such as DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures, Sony Computer Google, Zynga, Pixar, Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Pixomondo, and many others routinely hire Ex’Pression graduates.
Ex’pression College for Digital Arts offers programs for aspiring game designers and animators. The school offers Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degrees in Game Art & Design and Animation & Visual Effects. Related degrees include a BAS in Motion Graphic Design and a BAS in Digital Filmmaking. The Game Art & Design program prepares students for careers in the Interactive Entertainment industry through “immersive training in core-competency areas.” Students may choose a focus area such as Level Design, Character Art, Texture Art, Environmental Art, or Modeling.
The Animation & Visual Effects program is designed to “launch students toward a successful career in visual effects for film and television, and emerging applications for 3D visualization and 3D animation.” Graduates of the program work in animation, visual effects for film and television, video game production, scientific visualization, and in other fields that require animation and 3D graphics.
Ex'pression College for Digital Arts has several additional options for students interested in sound design for games. ECDA offers BAS degrees in Interactive Audio and Sound Arts. The Interactive Audio program prepares students to work in the Interactive Audio industry for “video games, mobile phone and tablet technology, interactive installations, advanced electronic music production, audio programming, audio for toys, and more.” The Sound Arts program prepares students to work in computer music production, sound design, audio post-production, live sound, studio management and music production. In addition, “Ex’pression is an Apple Authorized Training Center for Pro Applications and an AVID certified Pro School.”
15. Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Established in 1884 as “Woodbury Business College,” Woodbury University began in a Los Angeles storefront in the city’s historic center. Today, the school sits on a 22.5-acre campus in Burbank, California and it is home to more than 1,500 students. With an additional satellite campus in San Diego, Woodbury University houses four schools, offering more than 20 academic programs.
The Woodbury University of School of Media, Culture & Design is home to school’s animation and game design programs. The School offers BFA programs in Game Art and Design, Animation, Graphic Design, and Filmmaking. The Game Art and Design BFA offers two emphases including Game Art and Game Design. The Game Art emphasis focuses on “character and environmental design and animation,” and the Game Design, emphasis focuses on “elements of design such as game conceptualization, play mechanic creation, and prototyping.”
Game Design and Animation students have access to an excellent internship program that matches students with some of the top studios and companies in the area. Past students have worked at Warner Brothers Animation, Walt Disney Feature Animation, DreamWorks, and Walt Disney Imagineering.
16. University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
The University of Idaho (U-Idaho) was established in 1889. The school opened on
Oct. 3, 1892 with just 40 students and one professor. Today, the school is home to 3,159 faculty and staff, and nearly 12,500 students enrolled in 130 Bachelor's, 88 Master's, and 32 Doctorial major programs. The school has also expanded to five locations in Moscow, Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, and Post Falls, ID. The main campus in Moscow sits on roughly 12,500 acres.
The University of Idaho has several interesting options for aspiring game designers and animators. The school’s College of Art and Architecture offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Virtual Technology and Design where students will study “3D modeling, animation, world building, storytelling, character design, spatial design and design in at least four dimensions (x, y, z, and time).” Graduates of the program hold titles such as Animator, Game Designer, Game Level Designer, Visualization Specialist, and Augmented Reality Designer, to name a few.
Another option is the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Studio Art and Design. Also offered the College of Art and Architecture, this program offers several concentration areas such as Interaction Design and Graphic Design. Besides taking courses such as painting, drawing, and digital imaging, students will take interactive design where they will learn how to design interactive experiences for a multitude of mediums.
As part of the College of Art and Architecture, the BFA in Studio Art and Design and the BS in Virtual Technology and Design hold accreditation by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD is the nation’s top accrediting agency for art and design schools.
17. Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, Washington
The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) is a non-profit school that was established in 1996 “to support and grow the game industry.” The school is home to five campuses in the U.S. and abroad, with a main campus in Seattle—one of the top five cities for game design. Overseas campuses include Canberra, Sydney, and Melbourne, Australia. The U.S. campuses include Lafayette, Louisiana, and Seattle, Washington.
The Seattle campus offers several top-rated programs for aspiring game designers, game developers, and animators. Programs for game designers include an Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development with a Game Programming path, and an Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development with a specialization in Art. This program offers a Game Art & Design path.
The Academy of Interactive Entertainment also offers a number of certificate and online options for game designers and animators including Advanced Diplomas of Professional Game Development specializing in Game Art & Animation (online), Game Design & Production (online), and Software Development (online). Certificate programs include Game Programming Foundations (Certificate II), Game Development Foundations (Certificate III), C++ Programming Foundations (Certificate III), Making Games with the Gamemaker (Certificate) and Game Design Foundations (Certificate III)
Options for aspiring animators include an Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media specializing in 3D Animation & VFX for Film or 3D Foundations (Certificate II). The Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media program is also offered online.
Although AIE programs do not lead to a degree, the curriculum is considered one of the most comprehensive in the world of animation and game art and design education. In fact, thanks to a rigorous curriculum that allows students to fully immerse in their chosen specialization from day one, ninety-five percent of AIE graduates find industry employment within three months of graduation.
18. San Jose State University, San Jose, California
San Jose State University (SJSU) is one of 23 schools of the California State University system. Founded in 1857 as Minns' Evening Normal School, San Jose State is the oldest public school of higher education in the state of California. The school is home to more than 30,000 students enrolled in seven colleges and 134 Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs. The school is situated on 154 acres across 19 city blocks in downtown San Jose.
Known as Silicon Valley’s “City Center,” the downtown location is “an exceptionally rewarding learning environment for students. Silicon Valley firms and agencies seek SJSU students for internships, summer work programs and for assistance with research and development projects.” In fact, “Silicon Valley firms employ more graduates from SJSU than from any other university in the nation.”
Ranked among the top public universities in the West, San Jose State University offers several programs and related programs for aspiring animators. The College of Humanities and the Arts, Design Department offers a BFA in Art with a concentration in Animation/Illustration. The Department also offers a BFA and a Minor in Graphic Design, and BA in Art with a concentration in Design Studies. Related programs include a BFA and MFA in Art with a Digital Media concentration, and a BA and a Minor in Radio-TV-Film.
Aspiring game designers should consider exploring San Jose State University’s computer engineering or computer science offerings. SJSU’s College of Engineering offers a BS and MS in Computer Engineering and Software Engineering. The Computer Science Department offers a BS, MS, and Minor in Computer Science, and a BS in Software Engineering. Many of the required courses for these degree programs are also required courses for many game development programs. Just a few examples include physics, software development, programming, data structures, and artificial intelligence.
19. University of California-Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
Founded in 1965 with just 650 students, the University of Southern California-Santa Cruz is now home to nearly 18,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The school, also called “UC Santa Cruz” or “UCSC,” sits on a 2,000-acre campus in beautiful Santa Cruz, just 73 short miles from San Francisco.
UC Santa Cruz is known as one of the nation’s top schools for science, but the school’s 10 most popular undergraduate programs include Film and Digital Media, Psychology, Business Management Economics, Literature, Politics, History, Environmental Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, and Community Studies. The school, which offers 63 majors in 30 fields of study, also offers one of the region’s top game design programs.
The BS in Computer Science-Computer Game Design “provides students with a deep understanding of the technical aspects of computer game engineering and a broad background in the artistic, narrative, and dramatic elements of game design.” The interdisciplinary BS program offers hands-on work experience through internships, fieldwork and study abroad experiences. During the final year of study, students also have the opportunity to work at UCSC’s Game Design Studio, where they collaborate in teams (and with faculty) to develop games from concept to the finished product.
Aspiring animators might be interested in the Computer Science program as well. The Computer Science Department offers a BA, BS, MS, and PhD in Computer Science, which prepares students for a career in animation and graphics programming, software engineering, web development, and more. Related programs include Film and Digital Media with a Production concentration (BA, MA, PhD, Minor), and a BA in Art.
20. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Founded in 1929 “by artists for artists,” the Academy of Art University is located in the center of it all in the eclectic city of San Francisco. The school, which began with just 50 students, is now home to around 18,000 students, making it the largest private art and design school in the U.S. And with state-of-the art facilities such as a video lab, green screen studio, a game room, and more, the Academy of Art is a haven for aspiring digital artists of all kinds.
The 20+-acre campus houses an extensive collection of “Art Schools” offering majors from Advertising to Visual Development. The School of Game Design offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Game Design, and the School of Animation & Visual Effects offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Animation & Visual Effects. The School of Motion Pictures & Television offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Motion Pictures & Television and the School of Illustration offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Illustration.
The Academy of Art University's Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media School offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees as well and the School of Multimedia Communications offers BA and MA degrees in Multimedia Communications. The School of Graphic Design offers AA, BFA, and MFA degrees in Graphic Design. Many Academy of Art degree programs are offered online as well. The online programs also lead to an AA, BA, or MFA, or an Online Award of Completion (OAC). All OAC coursework may be applied towards a degree program, should the student decide to enroll in one.