Our 2014 rankings of the top programs on the East Coast for game design and development.
We define the East Coast as Virginia, Rhode Island, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
The School of IGM-MAGIC features state-of-the-art production facilities, an annual Global Game Jam, on-campus game development weekends, and a large collection of outstanding programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include a BS in Game Design and Development, a BS in New Media Interactive Development, and a BS in New Media Design (formerly New Media Design and Imaging).
1. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was established in 1885 as the Mechanics Institute. It is home to 9 colleges, 18,292 students, 3,781 faculty and staff, and more than 200 programs. The school, which sits on a 1,300-acre main campus in suburban Rochester—the 3rd largest city in NY State, also has campuses in Dubai and Eastern Europe. The Rochester campus houses the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences—home of the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM) - Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC).
Graduate offerings include an MS in Game Design and Development. Academic Minors include Game Design and Development (GAMEDD-MN) and Game Design (GAMED-MN). Related program offerings include a BFA in 3D Digital Design, a BFA and MFA in Film & Animation, and BFAs in Illustration and New Media Design. All programs offer notable internship opportunities—both paid and unpaid.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is home to the legendary MIT Game Lab. This unique program allows students to design their own program of study. Students may focus in Game Design and Game Studies through the Comparative Media Studies Department -or- Computer Science through the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Department -or- Psychological Games and Behavioral Change via the Department of Psychology.
MIT Sloan School of Management offers several other game options. Students may focus in Business Practices if the plan is to create their own game company. Students may opt for the Minor in Media Studies, the MS in Comparative Media Studies, or the MS in Computer Science. According to MIT, “Comparative Media Studies offers students an opportunity for interdisciplinary study of film, television, game design, virtual worlds, digital artworks, civic media, interactive writing, and other communications media.” In addition, “other graduate programs at MIT allow students to work with the MIT Game Lab to supplement their educational and research goals, including the MIT Media Lab and the Sloan MBA program.”
Incorporated into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1861, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sits on a 168-acre campus in beautiful Cambridge—less than 4 miles from bustling Downtown Boston, and roughly 52 miles from Manchester, New Hampshire. This prestigious Institute is home to more than 11,000 students enrolled in more than 100 programs, across 6 schools.
3. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University is home to a one-of-a-kind game design program. Sponsored by the School of Computer Science (SCS) and the College of Fine Arts (CFA), the Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) prepares students to enter the popular fields of Game Design, Computer Animation, and even Robotic Art. Other offerings include a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Electronic & Time-Based Media (BFA ETB) with a Focus in Game Arts; Computational and Interactive Art; Video and Performance; Animation, and a BCSA with an Entertainment Technology 5th-Year option. This option leads to a Master of Entertainment Technology.
The Master of Entertainment Technology program at the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center (ETC-Global) is a "rare" 2-year advanced program that combines Fine Art, Technology, and Entrepreneurship. MET students connect with the Donald. H. Jones Entrepreneurial Center within the Tepper School of Business where they may take classes that will help them establish their own entertainment technology company.
Students may also opt for the “regular” BFA where all students study Interactive Media, Video, and more. A Minor in Computer Science and a double major and double degree options are also on the menu. Please note that the Entertainment Technology Center has locations around the world, so students have ample opportunities to study overseas.
Founded in 1900 as “Carnegie Technical Schools,” Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is considered the birthplace of innovation and a world leader in robotics. Located just 5 miles from Downtown Pittsburgh, the school sits on a 143-acre campus and it is home to more than 12,400 students enrolled in 7 schools and colleges.
4. New York University Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York
Founded in 1831, New York University (NYU) is home to more than 50,000 students. It houses 14 schools, colleges, and divisions, and employs more than 16,000 staff members. The school occupies 5 major centers in Manhattan. The largest is the Washington Square Center (Greenwich Village)—home of the Tisch School of the Arts.
Tisch School of the Arts was established in 1965. The school, which consists of 3 buildings, is home to more than 4,000 students enrolled in 5 divisions including the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television, the Institute of Performing Arts, the Department of Art and Public Policy, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and Skirball Center for New Media—home of the NYU Game Center.
Established in 2008, the NYU Game Center offers an intensive 2-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) that "explores the design and development of games as a creative practice," says NYU. The program encompasses focused study in Programming, Visual Design, and of course, Game Design. NYU Games also highlights a Minor in Game Design and the School offers opportunities for all students to Study Abroad in Florence, Italy, Paris, France, London, England, and Prague, Czech Republic.
NYU also has a campus in Asia—The School of the Arts Asia, which is NYU’s first degree-granting campus outside of NYC. Tisch Asia offers Animation and Digital Arts, International Media Producing, Dramatic Writing, and a Graduate Film Program.
5. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Not only does the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) offer more upper level programs for promising game designers, the school offers an uncommon PhD program that can prepare students for a number of high level positions at the nation’s top firms. Offerings include a Master of Science (MS) in Engineering-Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT), a Human Modeling and Simulation PhD (HMS PhD), a BS in Engineering-Digital Media Design (DMD), and a Certificate in Time-Based and Interactive Media. The BS in Engineering-Digital Media Design (DMD) is offered in collaboration with UPenn's Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Design.
In addition to offering a number of advanced programs for game designers, UPenn has a number of famous alums to its credit such as Nick Foster of PDI/DreamWorks (Shrek) and Cary Philips of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)—both winners of Academy Awards for Technical Achievement. UPenn’s CGGT and DMD programs have also helped graduates land jobs at Activision, Blue Sky Entertainment, DreamWorks, Disney, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Pixar, Sony, and more.
UPenn was established in 1740 and opened in 1751. The school sits on a 302-acre campus and it is home to 24,630 students. UPenn houses 4 undergraduate and 12 graduate and professional schools and it is just 10 minutes from Downtown Philadelphia—the city’s cultural center.
6. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s (RPI) School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (HASS) is home to 26 distinct programs and 5 Departments. The Electronic Media, Arts, and Communications (EMAC) program at RPI is housed within HASS and it offers a number of excellent programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a BS in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences, a BS in Electronic Arts, a BS in Electronic Media, Arts, & Communication, an MFA and a PhD in Electronic Arts, and Certificates in Graphics and Communication Design.
HASS EMAC also offers a variety of Concentrations for game designers including Digital Storytelling, Interaction Design, Marketing Communication & Design (includes Interactive Media Study), and Sound Design. The Sound Design Concentration features training in Sound Design for Computer Games, Films, and Animation. A competitive Minor in Game Design Studies is also on the menu.
Established in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is home to nearly 7,000 students enrolled in more than 145 graduate and undergraduate programs across 5 schools. The 275-acre main campus overlooks the City of Troy and the Hudson River. The school, which also operates the celebrated 1,250-acre Rensselaer Technology Park, has a mission to “educate leaders of tomorrow for technologically based careers.”
7. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
The College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern University (NU) is home to an impressive collection of undergraduate and graduate game design programs. Options include an MS in Game Science and Design, a BS in Computer Science and Game Design, a BFA in Digital Arts and Game Design, and Minor in Game Design. Students may also be interested in NU’s combined program offerings such as the BFA in Digital Art and Game Design, BFA in Graphic Design and Interactive Media, BFA in Graphic Design and Game Design, and the BFA in Cinema Studies and Digital Art.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Science and Interactive Media is also on the menu as well as BS degrees in Computer Science and Digital Art, and Interactive Media and Music-Music Technology.
Northeastern University sits on a 73-acre campus in the heart of Boston near art museums, entertainment, and design studios such as Seven45, Subaltern Games, Owlchemy Labs, and Zapdot. The school, which has been around since 1898, is home to more than 21,000 students enrolled in dozens of programs across 8 undergraduate colleges and schools + a graduate school. Programs of study range from Art and Design to Urban and Regional Policy.
8. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Cornell University is home to the elite Computing and Information Science Department which houses the outstanding Game Design Initiative at Cornell University (GDIAC). Formed in 2001, the Game Design Initiative is "an interdisciplinary collaboration of students and faculty dedicated to the academic study of game design." GDIAC is the first game design program established at an Ivy League institution and it offers a Minor in Game Design sponsored by Cornell’s College of Engineering. Students in the program typically major in Computer Science, Information Science, Art, Film & Media Production, Music, New Media Studies, and Performing & Media Arts.
The Cornell University Department of Performing Arts, Schwartz Center of Performing Arts, offers many of the programs listed above including a BA in Performing & Media Arts with a Film & Media Production Course Sequence or a Design Sequence. The Game Design Initiative at Cornell University, combined with the school's competitive degree programs, has produced dozens of entrepreneurs that have gone on to develop their own games and start-ups, as well as hundreds of graduates that now work at prominent companies such Nintendo, Electronic Arts, and Zynga.
Established in 1865, Cornell University is home to 14,000 undergraduate students and 7,000+ graduate students from across the U.S. and 120 countries. The University houses 14 colleges and schools offering more than 80 formal major fields, 70 minors, and dozens of graduate and professional degrees. The school, which sits on a staggering 2300-acre campus, has graduate and professional units in New York City and Doha, Qatar and the recently opened Cornell NYC Tech Campus in New York City. Cornel University is less than 200 miles from New York.
9. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Established in 1891 Drexel University is home to around 21,912 students from 50 states and 100 foreign countries. One of the nation’s largest universities, Drexel consists of a 75-acre main campus (University City) located just minutes from Downtown Philadelphia (Center City). The school offers more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs across more than dozen colleges and schools.
The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and the Department of Computer Science offer several exceptional programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Game Art & Production, a BS in Interactive Digital Media, and an Accelerated BS/MS in Interactive Digital Media. The Department of Computer Science offers a BA/BS in Computer Science with a Game Art Concentration. This program also offers additional Tracks in Game Design and Development, Computer Graphics, Human-Computer Interaction, and more. Students may choose 2.
Other related offerings include a BS in Animation and Visual Effects, a BS in Film and Video, and a BS in Screenwriting. All art students have the opportunity to participate in Drexel’s internship program, which offers both local and nationwide opportunities, as well Study Abroad experiences in Asia, Europe, or Latin America.
10. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is home to the edgy Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) program which focuses on “learning by doing.” The 4-year program, which leads to a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Interactive Media & Game Development, highlights Content Creation, Design, Programming, Project Management, and Testing. Other offerings include a Master of Science (MS) in Interactive Media & Game Development and a Minor in IMGD. The MS focuses on “designing immersive interactive environments,” says WPI.
Students might also want to take note of the offerings at WPI’s Department of Computer Science. Options include a BS in Computer Science, a BS/MS in Computer Science, and a Minor in Computer Science. The BS in Computer Science offers study in the area of Computer Games.
A leader in the world of science, technology and engineering, WPI is home to nearly 6,000 students enrolled in more than 50 programs. The school, which sits on an 80-acre campus on a private hilltop, is just 35 miles west of Boston and a short distance from renowned art museums and at least 13 other colleges.