What are the top game design schools in the Midwest for 2021?
|2||Michigan State University||Michigan|
|3||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois|
|4||The Ohio State University||Ohio|
|7||University of Wisconsin – Stout||Wisconsin|
|9||College for Creative Studies||Michigan|
|10||Ferris State University||Michigan|
|11||Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis||Indiana|
|12||Cleveland Institute of Art||Ohio|
|13||University of Wisconsin – Whitewater||Wisconsin|
|16||Kent State University||Ohio|
|17||Columbus College of Art and Design||Ohio|
|18||Eastern Michigan University||Michigan|
|19||Lawrence Technological University||Michigan|
|20||Case Western Reserve University||Ohio|
Our 2021 rankings of the Top 20 game design schools and colleges in the Midwest. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (of Vincentian) religious community. Serving nearly 22,500 students, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States, the 13th-largest private, not-for-profit university in the nation, and the largest private, not-for-profit college in the Midwest.
The school offers more than 300 programs of study in 10 colleges and schools and across two campuses in Chicago. One of the first universities to offer a game development course for smartphones, DePaul offers game design programs at all levels through the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM).
The CDM is organized into three schools including the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), the School of Computing (SoC), and the School of Design (SoD). Degree options include BS degrees in Game Design and Game Programming, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Systems Concentration, an MFA in Game Design and MS in Game Programming that covers real time computing, computer graphics, and professional retooling for the game industry. Students in this program will learn about software engineering, computer graphics, artificial intelligence, animation, software architecture, and networking. Minors in Game Design and Programming are also available and jointly offered by the CDM’s SoC and SoD.
DePaul University also offers a Game, Cinema, and Animation Summer Academy and the DePaul Game Experience (DGE). The Summer Academy is a weeklong program that features “hands-on instruction using the latest equipment and technology.” Participants may focus on Computer Game Development, 3D Computer Modeling and Animation for Games and Cinema or Digital Cinema Production.
The DePaul Game Experience (DGE) allows a select group of students to work on a game to submit to the Student IGF Competition. Past DGE teams have made entries that were finalists in the IGDA student competition.
Students in all Game Design programs have access to the Deep Games Laboratory and all CDM labs, including several that intersect with the program specifically, including game development and research, gameplay, virtual reality, and playtest and usability labs. The Deep Games Laboratory is a cross-disciplinary design, research, development, and assessment game lab housed in CDM that focuses on games exploring the human experience.
Recent DePaul Game Program graduates have gone on to work at Carbine Studios, Disney Interactive Studios, Firaxis, NeatherRealm Studios, Owlchemy Labs, Phosphor Games, Scientific Games, Wargaming, and many others. Several graduates have gone on to form their own gaming companies, including Young Horses, whose indie hit Octodad was developed at DePaul.
2. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves around 47,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department, home of the Game Design and Development Program.
Founded in 2005, the Program offers BA and BS degrees in Media and Information with a Games and Interactive Design Specialization and a BA or BFA in Studio Art with a Game Design and Development Specialization. The Specialization is also available to other majors “on a case-by-case basis, particularly those in the Honors College,” says the school. An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available.
The Minor “brings together students in Media and Information, Computer Science, and Studio Art. For most majors outside of MI, the Minor often nearly fulfills the student's cognate requirements.” The College of Engineering, College of Arts & Letters, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences administer the Minor jointly. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences is the lead administrative unit.
Graduate game offerings include an MA in Media and Information with a Focus in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) + Serious Game Design & Research Certificate and a PhD in Information and Media. The PhD program offers a range of research areas including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Games and Meaningful Play, Game Design and Development, Human-Centered Technology Design, Computational Communication, Media Innovation, and Design and Entrepreneurship, to name a few.
MSU offers another program option for students interested in majoring in computer science. The BS in Computer Science, offered in the College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, provides the option to add the Game Design and Development Minor. Students in the program “will learn the foundations, and develop core competencies in their primary area of study and broaden their horizons as interdisciplinary team members, learning game design theories and principles, collaborating on the design and development of game projects, and engaging in active learning and authentic, situated creative problem-solving.”
Course highlights for the Game Design Programs at MSU include Advanced 3D Modeling, Building Virtual Worlds, Collaborative Game Design, Compositing and Special Effects, Computer Graphics, Experiments in Digital Video, Figure Modeling, Game Design and Development, Game Design Studio, Interaction Design, Interactive Environments and Digital Fabrication, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Sound Design for Cinema, Television, and Games, and Spatial Design.
Besides offering a variety of courses and programs for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. The mission of the GEL Lab is to “design innovative prototypes, techniques, and complete games for entertainment and learning and to advance state of the art knowledge about social and individual effects of digital games.”
3. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The school serves nearly 7,000 students enrolled in 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs in the Schools of Media Arts, Fine and Performing Arts, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Media Arts houses the Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department, which offers a number of programs for aspiring game designers.
Options include BA degrees in Game Art and Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development and Game Sound Design, BA/BS degrees in Programming with a Concentration in Game Programming, and Minors in Game Art and Game Design Minor.
Game Design students will have the opportunity to create games right away in their first semester and create many more throughout their time at Columbia. The software tools used in class are the same tools students will use as professional game artists. “The curriculum mirrors the collaborative environment of the game industry,” says the school. Students will work in collaborative teams formed from seniors in Game Art, Game Design, Game Programming, and Game Sound.
The Senior Game Studio Capstone provides the opportunity to work in small (Indie Game Studio) or large (Large Team Game Studio) groups to develop a game. Students will also have the opportunity to show their work at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, South by Southwest (SXSW), and Industry Night at Columbia College.
Students in all programs have access to The Game Lab. This “center for student-led game research includes PC- and console-gaming hardware, including both current generation consoles as well as an archived collection, a high-definition AV system, and a library of several hundred video game titles,” says the school.
Graduates of the Game Programs at Columbia College have landed positions at studios and companies such as Bungie, High Voltage Software, Incredible Technologies, Iron Galaxy, Jellyvision, NetherRealm Studios, Pixar, Raven Software, Raw Thrills, Robomondo, Skywalker Sound, Sony, and Weta Digital. Some alumni even build simulations for major companies such as John Deere and Walmart.
4. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University (OSU) is a land-, sea- and space-grant university established in 1870. The school houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation, and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines.
Serving more than 68,000 students, OSU offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools. The school’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) in the College of Engineering offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a Specialization in Computer Graphics and Game Design. Ohio State also introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production in Autumn, 2017.
OSU's Department of Art in the College of Arts and Sciences offers a BFA in Art and Technology that allows students to “focus on the creative use, misuse, and investigation of technology in an art-making practice,” says the school. Students in the program will “engage the meaning and material of science and technology through the production of interactive installations, electronic objects and interfaces, moving images, 3D modeling and animation, art games, tactical media, bio-art, performance, digital imaging, rapid prototyping, holography, Internet art, sound, and emerging forms.”
Also in the College of Arts and Sciences is Department of Design, which offers an MFA with a Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM) Track. The program requires 60 credit hours of study including core design courses (18 credits), thesis project and writing development (15 credits), and open electives in the themes of studio/lab (12 credits), history/theory/criticism (9 credits), and collaborative/interdisciplinary studio (6 credits). “Students work closely with a three-person thesis committee to develop their thesis topics and the vehicles best used for their development.”
Most students complete the program within a period of six semesters. Course highlights include Digital Image Manipulation, Podcasting, Internet Art, 3D Modeling, Holography I and Holography II, Moving Image Art, New Media Art, Computer Animation, and Video Art I and Video Art II.
Students in all programs utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in the school’s many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
5. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
Established in 1869, Purdue University is Indiana’s land-grant university. In existence since 1964, Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue. The Institute, which began as the university’s School of Technology, enrolls around 12% of Purdue’s students (nearly 5,000) at the West Lafayette campus. Seventy academic options are available in six subject areas in seven departments. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) houses the Computer Graphics Technology Program, which offers game design programs at all degree levels.
At the undergraduate level, a BS in CGT with a Game Development and Design Major is available. The CGT program provides STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and games. Studies include trigonometry, calculus, and physics, as well classes in video game design and development, animation, visualization, rendering and programming. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a unique research project.
Projects open to undergraduate students have focused on the use of games for sustainable energy, therapy and medicine, entertainment, information visualization and more.
Graduate offerings include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology offered through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT). The MS offers several focus areas including Computational Art, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Studies, and Virtual and Augmented Reality. The PhD Program offers a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration, and Web Programming and Design.
Students may also earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six or more years if pursued separately. Graduates of the game design programs at Purdue Polytechnic Institute have gone on to work for EA Games, Riot Games, Volition, Zynga, and many others.
6. Indiana University, Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana
Founded in 1820 as The Seminary, Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington) became Indiana College in 1828 and Indiana University in 1838. Today, the school is the largest and oldest Indiana University campus, serving more than 40,000 students of the systems 90,090 students.
IU Bloomington has more than 200 undergraduate majors divided among 12 schools and 400+ graduate degrees in The University Graduate School. The College of Arts + Sciences is home to The Media School, which has several degree pathways for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Game Design with a Specialization in Game Art, Game Audio, or Game Production; a BA in Media with a Concentration in Interactive and Digital Media: Specialization Game Art, Game Audio, or Game Production, and an MS in Media with a Concentration in Design and Production. A Minor in Game Design and a Certificate in New Media and Interactive Storytelling are also available.
Students in all programs will study all aspects of art, design, programming, project management, and sound. Courses are a mix of hands-on production and professional learning classes, practicums, internships, and seminars in theoretical foundations. Game theory and system strategies is highlighted as well as the production and publication of a finished game developed as part of a team. This original game will be produced through three workshops taken three semesters: Prototype, Demo, and Publish.
All students will have the opportunity to select up to 15 elective credits to enhance their major. Courses may come from the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, Jacobs School of Music, and Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. In addition, BS students may take Human Computer Interaction courses in the Luddy School along with study abroad courses such as Game Development Lab, Game Development: Programming and Practice, and Rhetoric of Gaming in Copenhagen, Denmark.
7. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) was established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School. One of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in Wisconsin, UW-Stout serves nearly 8,000 students enrolled in 49 undergraduate and 22 graduate degrees, many of which are unique to Stout or are not offered elsewhere in the Midwest.
Programs are offered in three colleges and six schools, including the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences (CACHSS), which houses the School of Art and Design. Serving more than 1,000 students, the School offers BFAs in Game Design and Development and Entertainment Design, and an MFA in Design.
The School of Art and Design says the undergraduate program is the “first and only BFA in Game Design in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.” Students in the program gain core skills in art and design such as 3D modeling, animation, and drawing. Program highlights include collaboration with computer science students, courses covering two- and three-dimensional models, animation and visual effects for video games, television, movies, and access to three labs with industry-standard hardware and software, AAA development kits, Intuos Cintiq Displays, HD and 3D projectors, and virtual reality headsets.
UW Stout’s cross-disciplinary MFA program consists of study in the areas of Entertainment Design, Game Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media, Studio Art, and more. Courses for the program are delivered through a variety of methods including on-site courses, online, evening, weekend and intensive summer courses. Graduates of the program will be prepared to pursue roles in the academic community and as design professionals and leaders.
The College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management (CSTEMM), Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science with Game Design and Development (GDD) and Mobile Applications (MA) Concentrations, and a Computer Science Minor with nine hours of electives.
A charter member of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, the Game Design and Development Concentration prepares students to design and develop software programs that use digital imagery and physics to create games, simulations or other applications. The school says, these programs can improve healthcare delivery, transform education, strengthen national security, shape public policy and continue to create social networks.
Graduates of the game programs at UW-Stout have landed positions at companies such as Big John Games, Design Ready Controls, Find-It-Faster Online, Pixel Spill Games, and many others.
8. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Founded in 1809, Miami University houses the oldest college newspaper west of the Alleghenies. Established in 1826, The Miami Student was named the "Best College Newspaper (Non-daily) in Ohio" by the Society of Professional Journalists.
Miami University serves around 24,600 students across one main campus (Oxford, Ohio), three regional campuses in Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, Ohio, and the European Center in Luxembourg. Miami offers bachelor's degrees in over 120 areas of study and graduate students choose from more than 70 master's and doctoral degree programs. Several associate's degrees and additional bachelor's degrees are offered through study at the regional locations.
The school consists of seven colleges, including the College of Creative Arts, which houses the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS). This cross-disciplinary institute “works with students and faculty from across Miami University,” says the school, and offers “undergraduate, graduate certificate and graduate programs exploring the intersection of technology, design business and how digital technology is transforming traditional areas of inquiry.” Program options for aspiring game designers here include a BA in Interactive Media Studies (IMS) and Minors in Digital Innovation, Games + Simulation, and Interactive Media Studies.
The College of Creative Arts also houses the Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design, which offers a BS in Games + Simulation.
The interdisciplinary BA in IMS “sits at the intersection of Design, Technology, and Business.” The 124 credit hour program “exposes students to each of these three foundational areas, which provide a foundation for students to customize an advanced concentration, to focus their experience on a particular area of interactive media.” Sixty-four credits are in the IMS major. Course highlights include Game Programming, Game Studies, Game Development, Game Usability & Human Factors, The Business of Games, Research Methods in Games, Game Engine Scripting, Indie Game Development, and Game Prototyping, Pipeline, & Production. Students will also complete a Senior Degree Project and an internship.
The BS in Games + Simulation offers three concentrations: Game Art, Game Development (contains a Computer Science Minor), and Game Studies (contains the Interdisciplinary Studies Minor). The program “provides students with an interdisciplinary plan of study covering all aspects of creating and interpreting games. With a focus on making and praxis, the BS in Games + Simulation prepares students for a career or graduate study in game design, development, 3D modeling, creative development, writing or designing, esports, and games in other industries, all while encouraging students to take creative risks, to build things, and to think critically about audiences, narratives, and aesthetics.” Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.
The internship component of both the BA and BS programs allows students to gain hands-on experience at a local game design studio or other company. Miami University’s location offers access to a number of studios such as Green Door Games, Max Gaming Technologies, SGM Games, Wraith Games, and many others.
9. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) was founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts by a group of local civic leaders inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement. The Society members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing and woodcarving and in 1911, they opened a gallery where student and prominent modern artists could display and sell their work.
In 1926, as the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, the Society became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art, with an enrollment of 280 students. Today, CCS is a private, fully accredited college that offers BFA and MFA degrees to more than 1,400 students. Among the schools largest programs is Entertainment Arts.
Serving 329 students, The Entertainment Arts Department offers a BFA in Entertainment Arts with a Focus in Animation, Concept Design, Digital Film or Games.
The Games Concentration teaches students how to produce 2D and 3D images and concepts for video games. As a complement to the program, students may choose coursework from other areas or a Minor in Animation & Digital Media, Fine Arts, Illustration, or Visual Culture. All BFA students will take 126 credit hours including 84 in studio areas and 42 in general studies.
The school says that in addition to coursework in their chosen major, first-year students will take courses in the Foundation Department where they will study basic design, color theory and drawing. Students in all majors will also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department, which the school says is designed to provide them with an understanding of the larger social and cultural context in which they live.
In addition to Game Artists or Designer, graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions such as 3D Modeler, 3D Visualization Artist, AR/VR Developer, Character Artist, Compositor, Creative Director, Environment and Vehicle Designer, Level Designer, Rigger, Look Development Artist, Technical and VFX Artist, Video Game Specialist, and many others.
CCS Entertainment arts alumni have landed positions at places such as Bento Box Entertainment, Blur Studios, Disney ABC Television Group, DreamWorks, Lerner Film, Palace Sports & Entertainment, Pandemic Studios, Pixomondo, PopCap Games, Red 5 Studios, Smiley Face Productions, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Stardock Entertainment, Stargate Digital, and Tippett Studio.
10. Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan
Ferris State University (FSU or Ferris) dates back to 1884. On September 1, 1884, the Big Rapids Industrial School opened, and a year later, the institution became Ferris Industrial School. Around 1898, the name changed to Ferris Institute, and in 1963, it became Ferris State College. In 1987, FSU changed its name yet again to Ferris State University.
The school offers 180 undergraduate and graduate majors including 2-year degrees that "ladder" into 4-year, BA and BS degrees, eight master's degrees, and Doctorates of Education, Optometry, and Pharmacy. Some FSU majors are offered at no other university in Michigan or the United States.
Programs are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, and Health Professions, and Pharmacy, as well as Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and Michigan College of Optometry.
Established in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) opened its doors in 1931 with just 35 art students. Today, the school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. Aspiring game designers will find education pathways at Kendall College of Art and Design and in the College of Business’ School of Digital Media.
KCAD offers a BFA in Digital Art and Design. The program allows students to work in one of two focus areas including Entertainment Art (animation, digital 3D, visual development for games and animation, and sequential arts like comics and storyboards) or Multimedia Design (interaction design for the web, apps, virtual reality, the internet of things, and video and motion design animation).
Students in the program will gain knowledge and hands-on experience via high-end equipment and on-campus facilities such as Cintiq Studios and a wide range of cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment, and via access to The Dow Center FlexLab, and KCAD Library. Graduates will leave the program with the skills and experience needed to pursue career paths in areas such as 2D animation, 3D game art, visual development, interaction design, and motion design.
School of Digital Media programs include a BS in Digital Media Software Engineering (DMSE), a BAS in Digital Animation and Game Design (DAGD), and a Digital Media AS. The BS in DMSE is designed as an engineering degree focused on the methodologies, procedures, and technologies involved in the software development process. The program offers students the opportunity “to actively compete” in many growing industries such as Video Game Development, Information Technology, and Entertainment.
The BAS in DAGD Program is “focused on educating students in the latest tools and technology used to create digital and interactive content,” says the school. Aspiring game designers will learn how to animate and render 3D characters and scenes, author interactive applications and games, build content in industry leading game engines, create and manipulate 2D textures and images, and design and create 3D game level mods. They will learn to edit, manipulate, and develop digital video, model, rig, and light 3D characters and scenes, and prepare a professional portfolio and demo reel.
In addition to game design and asset creation, the program prepares students to pursue careers in growing industries such as architectural flythroughs, educational software, film, independent game and animation development, legal simulation, medical visualization, product design, web development, and more.
The AS program combines existing courses within the DAGD, DMSE, and Television and Digital Media Production (TDMP) programs into an introductory and exploratory degree within the School. It allows students to complete their general education requirements while enrolling in courses from across the digital media curriculum. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level positions in a variety of industries or they will enjoy a “smooth transition” into any of the bachelor’s degree programs offered in the School of Digital Media.
11. Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, Indiana
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) was established in 1969. The school serves 29,390 students enrolled in 450 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in 19 distinct schools and colleges. The School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Media Arts and Science (MAS) with a Specialization in Game Design and Development and a five-year BS+MS in MAS with a Specialization in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). A Game Design and Development Minor is also available.
IUPUI SoIC students “design and develop projects that focus on entertainment, serious game design, mobile applications, video and audio production, animation, and innovative web design and technologies,” says the school. All students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including the Media Arts and Science Research and Learning Arcade (MARLA), the Advanced Visualization Lab, and a virtual reality theater.
Graduates of the IUPUI game design programs work in fields such as animation, game design, interactive video, and wed design. Sample job titles include Augmented Reality Designer or Developer, Game Designer, Game Developer, Game Producer, Game Production Artist, Technical Designer, Unity Developer, Unreal Developer, and Virtual Reality Designer or Developer.
IUPUI SoIC graduates have been hired at local, national or global companies such as Blizzard, Bottom Line Performance, Digital Domain, Gearbox, Half Full Nelson, HTC, Motion Picture Company (MPC), Owlchemy Labs (now part of Google), Pixar, Plow Digital, Sony Imageworks, Treyarch (parent organization Activision), and Vision3 Interactive, to name a few.
12. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Established in 1882, Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) is an independent college of art and design that serves 600 students from 32 states and nine countries around the world. The school offers 15 majors in the crafts, design, fine arts, and interactive media. The school offers a BFA in Game Design that focuses on collaboration within the studio experience.
The school says Game Design students work with “innovative production processes,” including animation, audio, augmented reality (AR), game production, interactive storytelling, modeling, programming, and virtual reality (VR). Course highlights for the program include 3D Texture, Mapping and Digital Lighting, Advanced Digital Sculpting & Modeling, Game Media Production I-IV, Game Testing + Level Design, Serious Game Design: Theory + Applications, Sound Design Fundamentals, and Special VFX/Simulation + Virtual Reality. Students will also complete BFA Research + Preparation, BFA Thesis + Exhibition, and a Game Design Internship.
Graduates of the CIA Game Design Program ware prepared to seek positions such as Animator, Game Designer, Layout Artist, Storyboard Artist, Visual Effects Supervisor, VR Artist, and many others.
13. University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W) was founded in 1868. The school serves nearly 12,000 students enrolled in more than 50 undergraduate majors and 119 minors, numerous areas of emphasis, and dozens of graduate programs in five colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Communication houses the Department of Art and Design, which offers BA and BS degrees in Gaming Technology and Communication/Gaming, a BA in Media Arts, Game Design and Development (MAGD), and Minors, Communication/Gaming, Gaming Technology, and Media Arts.
BA/BS Gaming Technology students “will develop the programming skills and software development expertise required for cross-platform real-time interactive graphics and game development,” says the school. “Students focus on building a solid base of programming skills necessary to take on real-world challenges related to developing games, mobile apps, websites and more.”
Course highlights for the programs include Artificial Intelligence, C++ Sequence, Game Engine/Modding, and Graphics Programming. An internship, Special Topics and Independent Study are also part of the program as well as the required Team Project.
Communication/Gaming course highlights include Advanced Audio Techniques, Game Development, Social Media Optimization, Sound and Image, and Video Production. Students in the program will “focus on the role of games in developing culture and communicating messages, intersections and interactions between audio and video, and approaches for the optimization of social media.” Practicum courses provide “real-world opportunities for students to hone their skills in a variety of areas, including web video production, motion graphics, composition/scoring, advanced web development and marketing.”
Media Arts (formerly Visual Media Design), Game Design and Development “develops aesthetic sensibility and artistic design skills important in the production of original, creative, digital media content for interactive and time-based computer games, animation, websites, video, special effects, the 3D and motion graphic industry, and artistic productions.”
Course highlights for the program include Digital Video/Motion Graphics, Graphics and Animation, Graphic Media Imaging as a Web/Interactive Media, and Raster/Vector & 3D Modeling. Students in the Media Arts program may also choose additional elective courses from the Gaming Technology or Communication/Gaming programs.
Two team-based projects courses provide a capstone for the degree programs. In addition, all students may participate in the MAGD Expo—a juried show of interactive entertainment, 2D, 3D, aural, animated and virtual creative work held annually at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.
The Minors consist of 24 credit hours of study “mirroring the options in the major.” Both the Communication/Gaming and Media Art and Minors “feature the same general core and electives as the majors, while the Gaming Technology Minor was specifically made to pair with a major in Computer Science.”
The Computer Science program, which leads to a BA or BS, is offered in the College of Arts and Letters, Department of Mathematical & Computer Science. Artificial Intelligence, Programming Languages, Software Engineering, and Software Testing are a few course highlights. The Department also offers an MS in Computer Science (MSCS) and a CS Minor.
14. Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Ohio University (OU) was established in 1804 as Ohio’s first university. The school serves nearly 35,000 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 11 colleges. The E.W. Scripps College of Communications houses the School of Media Arts & Studies (MDIA). Serving nearly 700 undergraduates, MDIA offers a BS in Communication with an Emphasis in Games and Animation.
In partnership with the School of Visual Communication and the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies in the Scripps College, MDIA also offers an MFA in Communication Media Arts.
Games and Animation (G&A) is a flexible major that allows students to choose courses to match their career goals. The school says students in the program “start with a game design or animation pathway, with many options to enhance either area – including a full set of new courses in virtual and augmented reality offered by the McClure School.”
All students will complete an overview of media history, production techniques and storytelling before continuing into focus areas such as animation, game design and development, and/or virtual reality.
Course highlights for the G&A Program include Animation I-III, Digital Game Design, Electronic Media, Game Development I-II, History of Computer Graphics, Media and the Creative Process, Motion Graphics, Special topics in Games and Animation, and Visual Storytelling.
Students will have the option to complete a local or international internship and the Digital Games Capstone or Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme Parks. The Capstone is three credit hours and it allows Junior and Senior level advanced G&A students to produce portfolio projects while working on collaborative teams. Storytelling, Technology and Digital Media in Theme Parks is a four credit hour course that “examines media design, technology, and storytelling principles that are employed in the development of theme parks.” The course emphasizes “the integration of different forms of media into one cohesive immersive environment.” An off campus field experience is part of this course.
Games and Animation alumni have found employment at companies such as Blizzard, Disney and Disney Imagineering, EA, Game-U, Google, Jim Henson Co., Max Gaming Studios, Riot Games, Sony Playstation, Unity, and many others.
The MFA in Communication Media Arts is a three-year program that provides the opportunity for students “hone new creative production skills, contextualized through hands-on, collaborative projects in order to graduate prepared for the leading edge of industry.” Candidates for the program must have at least three years of professional experience in the communication field and at least one high-level production skill.
While in the program, each graduate student will add to their current skill(s) by studying in at least two additional areas. A few options include include animation, data visualization and info graphics, digital games and animation, documentary, interactive media/web design, publication design, and virtual and augmented reality. Students must also declare a Cognate Area outside of their production skills. Examples include art history, educational technologies, education, public media or a wide variety of humanities areas.
Hands-on, experiential projects are a required part of the program. “Students must engage in collaborative projects such as grant-funded faculty initiatives, projects through WOUB Public Media, the Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID) Lab, or practicum projects through the Scripps College of Communication or the College of Fine Arts.” International experiences and professional externships are also encouraged in this area. Successful completion of at least eight credit hours of Experiential Learning Courses serves as confirmation that the student is prepared for the thesis project.
15. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
Bradley University was founded in 1897 as Bradley Polytechnic Institute by Lydia Moss Bradley—a business pioneer and wealthy philanthropist. The school opened with just 14 faculty and 150 students. Today, Bradley University has a student population of 5,900 served by 340 full-time faculty members.
Students are enrolled in more than 200 programs in eight colleges and schools. Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts houses the Department of Interactive Media (IM), which offers a Game Art and Game Design Major leading to a BS or BA. Game Design and Game Production Minors are also available.
The Game Design Minor requires 18-21 credit hours of studies and Game Production requires 18 credit hours. Courses for the Game Design Minor “focus on the game development process, from concept development to story narrative and production of game audio and video,” says the school. Courses include Fundamentals of Interactive Design, Game Design I-II, Game Production II, and Introduction to Interactive Media. The program also includes Computer Game Capstone Project (three credits) and Advanced Game Capstone, which requires six credit hours to complete.
The Game Production Minor is open to Computer Science and Computer Information Systems Majors. The programs shows students how technical skills apply to game development, with courses focusing on “processes and tools used in the industry, as well as user-centered design principles.” Students will take Game Production I-II and Introduction to Interactive Media as well as Computer Game Capstone Project and Advanced Game Capstone.
The Game Art Major “covers a wide spectrum of visual aspects, including concept art, asset creation, environment art, character art and animation.” Game Design covers idea creation, scripting, game prototyping, and the game development process. Students in both programs will experience hands-on learning with industry-standard software packages, personal and professional growth through game jams and other competitions, and opportunities to show their digital artwork to the public at the annual FUSE exhibit. Students will also complete an internship “at a distinguished company working in game art or real-time visualization.”
Other program highlights include guest speakers and access to the Interactive Media, Animation Research, and Game Design Research Labs, and the InterMedia Center.
Bradley University IM graduates have landed positions at Blizzard, Double Negative MGM, NetherRealms, Oculus VR, Scientific Games, Sony Pictures Imageworks, United Renderworks, Warner Brothers Games, and more.
16. Kent State University, Kent, Ohio
Kent State University was founded in 1910 as a teacher-training school. Today Kent State offers more than 340 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to 38,000 students in the schools eight-campus system. Programs are offered in more than 40 colleges, departments and schools. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Science, and Applied and Technical Studies.
Program options include AAS degrees in Computer Design, Animation and Game (as of 2019-2020), and Technical Modeling Design, BS degrees in Animation Game Design and Computer Science with a Game Programming Concentration, and a Minor in Game Design. With the exception of Game Programming (offered in the College of Arts and Sciences) all programs are offered in the College of Applied and Technical Studies.
The Minor in Game Design is for “students who want to learn and enhance their ability to create 2D and 3D games and who want to focus on the modeling and game environment design perspective,” says the school. Students in the program will “create 2D and 3D games by learning the essentials of modeling, texturing, lighting, sculpting environments and communicating ideas with other designers.”
The AAS degrees provide students with coursework in animation, design, game design, mixed and virtual reality, modeling, and more. Graduates of the programs are prepared to seek entry-level positions in the computer animation and game design industries, as well as in the field of multimedia development.
The BS in Animation Game Design “provides the environment and content creation in two- and three-dimension models.” The focus of the program is “on the design part of game environments to be used on platforms such as personal computers, smart phones and game consoles.” Students in the program “learn the importance of two- and three-dimension model creation for specific games used for simulation, training, entertainment and measuring educational outcomes.”
Graduates will leave the program with a professional-quality portfolio that can be used to secure a position in 2D and 3D modeling, animation, artistic production, exhibition, game design, technical illustration, and many others.
The Computer Science BS with a Game Programming Concentration is part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Computer Science Department. The program provides “students with a solid understanding of the algorithms, techniques and software used to construct interactive virtual environments.” Students in the program will work in teams with “content specialists and artists to develop the teamwork skills required in this multidisciplinary field.”
Graduates of the program have careers in building, developing, and managing software in a variety of industries including education, entertainment, finance, game design, health care, manufacturing, telecommunications, training design, and many others.
17. Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, Ohio
Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) was established in 1879 as Columbus Art School. One of the oldest private art and design colleges in the United States, CCAD welcomed many famous visitors during the school’s earliest years. Just a few include First Lady Lucy Hayes, Georgia O’Keefe, and Oscar Wilde.
CCAD serves more than 1,300 students enrolled in dozens of degree programs, concentrations, and minors. For aspiring game designers, the school offers a BFA in Game Art and Design.
In this 120 credit hour program, students will learn everything from introductory coding to playable prototypes, and “how to build environments intended for player exploration, storytelling, and immersive gameplay,” says the school. The program also covers new and emerging trends in augmented and virtual technologies.
Other program highlights include engagement with community game forums, the opportunity to participate in hackathons, regional game festivals, and expos, and chances to “collaborate, connect, create, and play” with “peers and those in the game industry.”
Graduates of the CCAD Game Art and Design Program are prepared to seek titles such as 2D or 3D Asset Creator, Colorist, Concept Artist, Game Designer, Interactive Media Artist, Play Tester, Production Artist, Virtual and Augmented Reality Artist, and many others. Some graduates go on to start their own studios or work as Independent Production Artists.
CCAD alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as 360 Alley, Artana, BioWare, Google, Insomniac Games, Maxgaming Studios, McGraw-Hill Education, Mindstream Interactive, Ohio Film Group, Pixel Park, and RIOT Games.
18. Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Founded in 1849, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) offers more than 350 programs to nearly 16,300 students. EMU houses the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health & Human Services, and Technology, along with seven centers and institutes. The School of Visual & Built Environments is part of the College of Engineering & Technology. Serving 1,939 students, the College offers a BS with a Focus in Simulation, Animation, and Gaming (SAG) or a 21 credit hour Minor in SAG.
The school says the SAG degree is a “multidisciplinary area of study, combining traditional art mediums, programming, creative writing and story development with coursework focusing on modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, and camera work in 3D.” Course highlights include Advanced Modeling, Environment Design, Game Design, Game Development and Planning, SAG Rigging, Simulation and Animation Dynamics, and Texturing and Mapping, and Unity I-III, to name a few.
Graduates of the program go on to become Character Designers, Computer Animators, Concept Artists, Effects Artists, Game Designers, Modeler and Storyboard Assistants and many others.
EMU’s College of Arts and Sciences' School of Communication, Media & Theater Arts offers another option for aspiring game designers—the BA in Entertainment Design and Technology. This multidisciplinary program allows students to choose a Minor in SAG or other area and up to nine cognate elective credit hours. Elective highlights include Environment Design, Graphics for Simulation I-II, Introduction to Simulation, Animation and Gaming, Story Development, Texturing and Mapping, and Unity I.
Other program highlights include a hands-on work environment and collaboration with faculty and other students, an internship, and connections with corporate affiliates who regularly provide support for productions and offer employment opportunities for students.
19. Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan
Lawrence Technological University (LTU) was founded in 1932, thanks to Henry and Edsel Ford who provided “guidance and space in their sprawling former Model T assembly plant.” Today, LTU sits on a 107 acre campus, which has doubled in size since 1981. The campus houses the Detroit Center for Design + Technology (est. 2016) and the school has centers in southeastern and northern Michigan, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, and Taiwan.
LTU serves 2,915 students enrolled in 100 programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design (CoAD), Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, and CoAD’s Department of Art + Design. Options include a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Software Development, a BFA in Game Design, and a Minor in Game Art. A unique Minor in Game Design with a Dual Major in Computer Science and Other Major is also available.
“In hands-on interactive studios,” students in the 129 credit hour BS program “explore animation, interactive computer graphics, two- and three-dimensional representation and transformation, modeling, game genres, and graphics programming.” Students will also create their own completely envisioned computer games. The Minor in Game Design highlights courses such as Intro to Games & Animation and Game Genre Development.
Delivered through the College of Architecture and Design, the BFA in Game Design is a project-focused, multidisciplinary program that focuses on art asset creation, game design, game mechanics, game scripting, and programming. Course highlights for the program include 2D Animation, Game Art Methodology, Game Art: Senior Project, Game Design, Integrated Game Studio, Motion Graphics, New Media, Professional Practice, Senior Seminar, and Sophomore Portfolio. An internship is also part of the program.
The CoAD Minor in Game Art allows current students to pursue expertise secondary to their major and receive recognition for completing the study. Students in the program will take courses such as 2D and 3D Animation, Concept Art for Games, Digital Drawing and Painting, History of Game Design, and Visual Communication. The program requires 12 credit hours in Game Art Studio, which dives into the creation of 2D and 3D game assets, before students develop a game prototype at the end of the Minor.
Graduates of LTU’s Game Design Programs are prepared to seek positions in 3D modeling, animation, app development, art direction, concept art, game design, game development, game writing, illustration, motion graphics, project management, storyboarding, user experience/user interface design (UX/UI), and more.
Current students and graduates work for local and national companies, including 3DExcite, Chimera Labs, Dead Art Games, Dreaming Door Studios, FanLabel, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Flyover Games, Ford, Jackbox Games, Mackevision, Quicken Loans, Pixo, Pluto, Seventy 7, and many others.
20. Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
Established in 1826, Case Western Reserve University (Case) is a research institution that serves around 11,465 students. The university consists of nine colleges and schools that offer nearly 95 undergraduate degree choices, about 135 graduate and professional options, and almost 140 dual-degree programs. In addition, Case has more than 100 interdisciplinary academic and research centers and institutes that provide just about any program of study.
The school houses the Case School of Engineering, which has a number of degree options for aspiring game designers. Offerings are part of the Computer Science Program and include BA, BS, BA/MS, BS/MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science. A Computer Gaming Minor is also available to students from any major.
Students in the Computer Game Minor will learn basic game design and Unity3D game engine development through programming assignments. A four-week group project is part of the program and consists of teams of four students that create and publish a game prototype on itch.io.
Advanced coursework is co-taught with Cleveland Institute of Art’s Game Design Department. “Students from both schools join together into teams of 10 students to create and publish an original game for the entire semester on itch.io,” says the school. The Program also “holds an Arcade Day at the end and invites guest judges from industry to evaluate the projects.” Professionals from major studios can evaluate remotely. However, the program often invites “local independent and local studios to show up in person for greater interaction.”
The BA is granted by the College of Arts and Sciences and administered by the Department of Computer and Data Sciences. The Computer Science programs require five technical electives, so students have opportunities to take a variety of game courses, in addition to adding the Computer Gaming Minor. Course highlights include Introduction to Computer Game Design and Implementation, Introduction to Video Game Design, Programming in Java, and Software Engineering. An Advanced Game Development project is part of the program and students can add a Minor in Computer Gaming or Artificial Intelligence.
Students in all programs are able to access the Kevin Kranzusch Gaming, Simulation and Visualization Lab, which has 20 Alienware PCs with Nvidia 1080GTX GPUs, an Oculus Rift and HoloLens development room, an iOS and Android mobile App development room, and a conference room.
Graduates of the Computer Science and Computer Gaming Minor Programs work at places such as Amazon, Boeing, Epic Games, Google, Microsoft, and many others.