What are the top Game Design BA programs for 2021?
|1||University of Southern California||California|
|2||University of Central Florida||Florida|
|3||DigiPen Institute of Technology||Washington|
|4||Savannah College of Art and Design||Georgia|
|5||University of California, Santa Cruz||California|
|6||University of California, Los Angeles||California|
|8||Michigan State University||Michigan|
|9||Columbia College Chicago||Illinois|
|10||University of Texas at Dallas||Texas|
|12||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Massachusetts|
|13||Otis College of Art and Design||California|
|14||University of Florida||Florida|
|16||Ferris State University||Michigan|
|17||University of Advancing Technology||Arizona|
|18||Cogswell Polytechnical College||California|
|19||University of Wisconsin – Whitewater||Wisconsin|
|20||University of Denver||Colorado|
For our undergraduate degree rankings, we have evaluated game design schools and programs with the best Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), and Bachelor of Science (BS) options. To determine which degree matches your career goals, it is important to understand how each qualification differs.
The Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree is the principal liberal arts degree. Most BA programs require 30-some or 40-some credits, which leaves plenty of flexibility in the form of free electives. BA students can use the free electives to sample widely from other course offerings or to earn an additional credential (a second major, a minor, or some combination of additional credentials).
The Bachelor of Science (BS) degree is offered in areas such as Computer Science, Mathematics, Psychology, Statistics, and each of the natural sciences. The BS is best suited to the student who wants to focus more on courses in the major and on 'collateral' courses (like chemistry or mathematics for a major in Geological Sciences) and is willing to give up some of the flexibility of the BA in return for the greater focus.
The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree is considered the most prestigious bachelor's degree that you can receive in the visual arts. This option is for students who wish to gain as much experience and skill in the arts as possible.
Below are the Top 20 Schools and Colleges with Game Design BA Programs for 2021.
University of Southern California (USC) houses Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, home to the Interactive Media & Games Division, which offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment. The Division’s extensive list of minors allows students to specialize in a number of areas. Options include 3D Computer Modeling and Graphics, Computer Science, Documentary, Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Design, Game Entrepreneurism, Game Studies, Game User Research, Immersive Media, Themed Entertainment, Video Game Design, and Management and Video Game Programming.
In addition to a variety of minors, USC offers salaried or paid internship opportunities and the school is home to the GamePipe Laboratory. Sponsored by Intel, Sony, and other technology companies, the Lab produces a "Demo Day," which allows students to showcase their work. The semiannual event attracts game industry reps, reporters, faculty, students, and hundreds of spectators from across the country.
Organizations that have recruited USC students for salaried or paid internships include 3Q Digital, Apple, Blackstone Gaming, CBS Interactive, Disney, Epic Games, ESPN, Heavy Iron Studios, NetEase Games, and Riot Games, to name a few.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) Nicholson School of Communication & Media, Games & Interactive Media Department offers a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design. The program “allows students to integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology," says the school. 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.
DigiPen Institute of Technology houses the Department of Game Software Design and Production, which offers a BA in Game Design. Six specialization tracks are available including Level Design, Narrative Design, Systems Design, Technical Design, User Experience (UX) Design, and User Research.
The BA program includes extensive design coursework coupled with a deep dive into communications, psychology, and user experience. Students in the program will design original games and applications, they will learn how to rapidly prototype ideas, and they sill study human behavior from a “variety of lenses,” says the school. Focused subjects include Foundational Math and Science, Game Design and Development, and Humanities and Arts.
DigiPen student games have won more than 50 Independent Games Festival awards (more than any other school) and DigiPen alumni have been credited on more than 1,000 commercial game titles. Additionally, more than 550 companies around the world have hired DigiPen graduates. Program alumni have gone on to land job titles such as Content Designer, Director, Game Designer, Game Scripter, Level Designer, Technical Artist, Technical Designer, UX Designer, and many others.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) offers a 180 credit hour BA in Digital Media with a Concentration in Game Development or Interactive Design. Offered at the Atlanta, Savannah, and eLearning campuses, the programs include 45 credit hours in the concentration. Game Development course highlights include Applied Principles: Game Art and Game Design, Core Principles: Programming, Digital Communication, Digital Design Aesthetics, and Introduction to Interactive Design and Game Development.
Interactive Design course highlights include Anatomy, Form, and Space, Digital Design Aesthetics, Interactive Design and Game Development, Interactive Web Design, Programming, and Social Media Applications. Students may choose additional game design courses thanks to 20 hours of free electives.
Both concentrations offer internship opportunities and the chance to meet with professionals every quarter to interview for positions and present portfolios.
Recent visitors include representatives from Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Crystal Dynamics, Electronic Arts, and Zynga. Graduates have been recruited by Epic Games, Firaxis Games, Sucker Punch Productions, and many others.
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz or UCSC) has an Art Department that offers an interdisciplinary BA in Art & Design: Games & Playable Media (AGPM). The program is “closely affiliated with the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science: Computer Game Design in the School of Engineering,” says the school. “Students in both programs work together throughout their studies at UCSC, from foundation courses to a year-long capstone sequence that results in team creation of a releasable game.”
In addition to game making, students in the program will learn about the history of games, the interpretation of games and game culture, expression of ideas and creating experiences through games, and approaches to design, communication, teamwork, and artistic innovation.
Students also have access to The Center for Games and Playable Media (CGPM). Established in 2010, CGPM houses the schools five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world. CGPM partners include EA, eBay, Google, Microsoft Studios, Sony, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the MacArthur Foundation, and many others.
Graduates of the BA in AGPM go on to become 2D/3D Artists, Game Designers, Game Programmers, Game Writers, Producers, Sound Designers, User Experience (UX) Designers, and User Interface (UI) Designers. Outside of games, graduates work in academia, fine art, games research, graphic design, illustration, marketing, science, and other types of media and entertainment.
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) houses the School of Arts and Architecture, home to the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers a BA in DMA.
Program courses are taught as studios of no more than 22 students. The program highlights game design study, interactivity and games, video and animation, visual communication, and more. Sample courses include 3D Modeling and Motion, Game Design, Tangible Media, Word + Image, and Video.
With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab. The primary function of the Lab is as “a research and production space for collaborative teams to pursue focused work on gaming projects,” says the school. It supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres, while emphasizing the “conceptual risk-taking and development of new modes of expression and form through gaming.”
In addition to producing games and research, the lab functions as a center that develops public programming around critical issues in gaming. Programming includes an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum, a visiting artist program, exhibitions, public lectures, and workshops.
Drexel University houses the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI), which offers a BA in Computer Science (BACS) with a Concentration in Game Programming and Development (GMPD).
The program “provides conceptual understanding of game design and practical experience in the design and the development of games,” says the school. Students can further customize the degree through a variety of available minors at CCI, including Data Science, Human–Centered Computing, Information Systems, Security Technology and Software Engineering, or choose from the hundreds of available minors at Drexel.
Other BACS highlights include the opportunity to enroll in Drexel’s accelerated degree program, which enables students to graduate with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years, and the Cooperative Education Program. Founded in 1919, the program was one of the first of its kind, and it continues to be among the largest and most renowned. Drexel Co-op allows students to test drive careers, network, and gain experience before graduation. Students choose from more than 1,700 employers in 35 states and 45 international locations, or conduct an independent search.
Students also have access to Drexel Game Design and the RePlay Lab. DGD and RePlay are collaborative efforts between the Digital Media program (in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design) and the Computer Science department (in the College of Computing and Informatics).
Graduates of Drexel's BACS program hold positions such as Software Developer, Web Developer, Systems Software Systems Engineer, Network Engineer and Application Analyst.
Michigan State University (MSU) houses the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, home to the Media and Information (MI) Department’s Game Design and Development Program.
Founded in 2005, the program offers a BA in Media and Information with a Game and Interactive Media Design Specialization and a BA 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.” An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available for BA students.
“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.
Besides offering a variety of programs for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. According to the College, 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.”
Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) houses the School of Media Arts’ Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department, which offers BAs in Game Art and Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development or Sound Design, and a BA Programming with a Concentration in Game Programming.
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.
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) houses the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), which offers BA in ATEC.
Students in the program have the opportunity to choose electives in more than one area. Elective highlights include Educational Games, Game Design, Game Pipeline Methodologies, Game Production Lab, Interaction Design, Interactive Narrative, Level Design, Modeling and Texturing, Serious Games, User Experience Design for Games, and Virtual Environments.
ATEC students also have access to a number of studios and labs housed in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. Spaces include the 3D Studio, CG Animation Lab, experimenta.l. Animation Lab, Game Lab, Games Research Lab, Mixed Media Lab, Motion Capture Studio, Narrative Systems Research Lab, Render Farm, Surround Studio, and The Studio for Mediating Play. The building also houses a Games and Media Library and the Lecture Hall.
Speakers such as “Father of the Internet” Dr. Vinton Cerf, and others from Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar, have been featured in the Lecture Hall.
Becker College houses the School of Design & Technology, home to the Design Division, which offers a BA in Interactive Media Design with Concentrations in Game Arts, Game Development and Programming, Game Production and Management, Game Design, and Game Audio.
Established in 2006, Becker’s Interactive Media Program began with just 12 students. Today, the program has around 600 students, which led to expanded academic offerings and resources, such as the MFA in Interactive Media and the $7.3 million Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides student’s access to Game Studio and an Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality lab.
Besides a variety of game programs and concentrations, Becker College houses the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI). Established in 2011, “MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, industry and government, aimed at fostering the growth of the game industry and innovation economy.” It is a statewide center, “designated by the Commonwealth, for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.”
Students work on real game properties, government simulation projects, and educational and serious games that the school says, “are making a difference in people’s lives.” Students participate in internships and externships, and are exposed to networking opportunities with industry professionals at conferences such as the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Boston’s PAX East, where they debut the games they created.
Becker students have produced digital technology applications for the Internal Revenue Service, John Hancock, Meditech, Oracle, UMass Medical School, and the U.S. Army, to name a few.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) houses the Division of Arts & Sciences, which offers a BA in Interactive Media & Game Development (BA IMGD and BS IMGD).
One of the earliest gaming programs in the U.S., WPI’s IMGD program “blends the artistic and technical aspects of game development and interactive media,” says the school. Students will explore diverse topics such as Writing for Games, Game Audio, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Virtual Reality, and 3D Modeling. As part of WPI’s project-based learning model, every student will complete a Major Qualifying Project (MQP). This culminating experience “enables students to synthesize their learning and tackle real-world problems in their fields of study.”
The MQP provides the opportunity for IMGD students to “showcase their talents and immerse themselves in creating something they are passionate about.” The project “also adds another impressive piece to student portfolios and, in some cases, give students their very first game credits.”
Some students build game prototypes, while others create game development tools, interactive art exhibits, and other forms of media.
Graduates of the IMGD program at WPI are prepared to work in the gaming industry, and apply their technical and creative skills in areas such as education, healthcare, art, and social sciences.
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) offers a BA in Digital Media with a Game and Entertainment Design Emphasis.
Offered through the Digital Media Department, the BA program consists of unique courses such as Basic 3D for Storytellers, CG for Digital Artists, Connections Through Color, Creative Action Studio, Game and Entertainment Basics, Games and Design, and The Visual Language of Film. Students will also take a number of studio electives, practicums, and seminars, and complete a senior project and capstone.
Through the curriculum, Game and Entertainment Design students “will learn to create visual elements for games, apps, films, and other platforms,” says the school. Students will also acquire the skills to “design the gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters of interactive games, apps, and websites. Using the most advanced CGI technologies, students acquire the techniques to create stunning visual effects for films, commercials, and videos.” Students have access to nine state-of-the-art labs and shops to complete their projects.
OTIS alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and many others.
The University of Florida (UF) houses the College of the Arts home to the fully accredited schools of Art and Art History, Music, Theatre and Dance along with the Center for Arts in Medicine and the Digital Worlds Institute. At the Institute, aspiring game designers can earn a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS).
Students in this program may choose elective courses from current offerings in Animation, Digital Production, and Game Design. Course highlights include 3D Digital Animation, Design Production Studio, Digital Storytelling, Entrepreneurship in New Media, Game Design Practices, Game Development, Wearable & Mobile Apps, and Writing for Interactive 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 such as the UF Reality Lab, and a 5-screen Polymodal Immersive Classroom Theater (PICT) and a Virtual Production Studio (VPS). In addition, a cohort 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.
Graduates of the BADAS program have gone on to form their own successful startups or work for companies such as DreamWorks and Microsoft.
Miami University houses the College of Creative Arts, home to 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) with a Minor in Digital Innovation, Games + Simulation or Interactive Media Studies.
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 that 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.
Ferris State University (FSU or Ferris) houses College of Business, School of Digital Media, which offers a BAS in Digital Animation and Game Design (DAGD).
The 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.
University of Advancing Technology (UAT) offers BA degrees in Game Art and Animation, Game Design, and Virtual Reality. Students also have the opportunity to start as a Game Design major and graduate with dual gaming degrees from the schools “prolific suite” of game degree programs, says the school.
All Games students are “exposed to all the tools of the trade, as well as programming and asset creation video game design skill sets.” Coursework for the programs emphasize “design skills such as strong initial concepts.” Design in the program will also take “a critical approach to the study of gameplay, player interaction, role-playing, and community dynamics as well as the unique features of the numerous game platforms available in the marketplace.”
Games students will work with video game design artists and programmers to create innovative projects through team-based assignments and they will “develop the leadership skills to see video game design projects through from an initial design concept to a publisher-ready final product.”
Other program highlights include access to the largest game incubator lab in Arizona, access to UAT Game Studios (a game production pipeline that fosters game development and connection to the game industry), access to UAT’s Gamer Group (supported by the Games Job Fair networking event), and access to UAT’s Greenlight Committee where game projects vie for UAT sponsorship at GDC. The committee awards winning teams the additional resources they need to ensure game readiness and celebrates students’ innovative work.
UAT alumni are currently employed at such leading technology organizations as Blizzard, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Intel, Microsoft, Nickelodeon, the Department of Defense, and many others.
Cogswell Polytechnical College - Cogswell University of Silicon Valley (USV) offers a BA in Game Design Art. The program is designed for “those primarily interested in the creative side of game development,” says the school. It focuses on environments, characters, story and more, and teaches students “how to create the elements that breathe life into the gameplay experience.” Two concentrations are available including Game Art and Game Writing.
The Game Art Concentration focuses on topics such as level design, storytelling, and team-oriented project creation for multiple platforms. Students in this area will “create visually striking 3D art and learn how to implement those art pieces into a game engine.” Course highlights include Environment Art, Introduction to 3D Modeling, and Level Design.
The Game Writing Concentration focuses on “providing students with the professional skills necessary to conceptualize, develop and implement powerful stories in video games.” Students will learn “game and level design while taking a deep dive into the narrative side of game development.” Course highlights for this area include Game Writing I, Introduction to Game Storytelling, and Narrative Design & Leadership.
Students in both concentrations will team-up and collaborate with students from other concentrations to “bring the creative side of game design and development to life.”
Graduates of the Game Programs at Cogswell Polytechnic – USV have been hired by 2K Games, Activision Blizzard, Atari, EA, Zynga, and many others.
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W) houses the College of Arts and Communication, home to the Department of Art and Design, which offers BA degrees in Gaming Technology and Communication/Gaming, and Media Arts and Game Design and Development (MAGD).
BA 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) MAGD “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.
University of Denver (DU) houses the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science, which offers a BA in Game Development.
The program is a joint effort between Art, Computer Science, and Emergent Digital Practices, each with specific requirements. For example, the BA requires a double major—one in Game Development and one in Digital Media Studies, Electronic Media Art Design or Studio Art—and it is “designed to allow students to bridge the gap between game programming and art, allowing the broadest range of opportunities throughout the field as developers, designers and artists,” says the school.
Students receive “intensive instruction in computer science, graphics and programming skills in order to develop the technical know-how to make [their] ideas real.”
Students in the program have access to study abroad and travel opportunities, as well as internships and cooperative education opportunities. A Game Capstone is also part of the program.
Graduates will be prepared to seek positions in game development and “effectively collaborate with artists and others throughout the development process.” Sample titles include Game Artist, Game Designer, and Game Developer.