What are the top master's degree programs for game design in the U.S. for 2023?

Top 25 Game Design Masters (MS/MA) Degree Programs in the U.S. – 2023 College Rankings
1University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
2University of UtahUtah
3Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
4University of California, Santa CruzCalifornia
5University of Central Florida Florida
6Full Sail UniversityFlorida
7Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
8DePaul UniversityIllinois
9Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts
10Michigan State UniversityMichigan
11Southern Methodist UniversityTexas
12Georgia Institute of TechnologyGeorgia
13Drexel UniversityPennsylvania
14Texas A&M University, College StationTexas
15University of Texas at DallasTexas
16Worcester Polytechnic InstituteMassachusetts
17Northeastern UniversityMassachusetts
18University of FloridaFlorida
19Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
20University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
21Clemson UniversitySouth Carolina
22American UniversityDC
23George Mason UniversityVirginia
24University of Advancing TechnologyArizona
25Louisiana State UniversityLouisiana

For our graduate degree rankings, we have evaluated animation schools and programs with the best Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and Master of Science (MS) options. To determine which degree matches your career goals, it is important to understand how each qualification differs.

The Master of Arts (MA) is an advanced degree that focuses on areas such as the humanities. MA degrees are typically available in the areas of communications, English, teaching, literature, linguistics, art, and languages. Seminars are the main method of learning for MA programs and most programs do not require a thesis.

The Master of Science (MS) degree option typically focuses on science, technology, engineering,  and math. This advanced degree often includes immersive lab work, scientific research, analysis, and evaluation. Unlike MA programs, most MS programs require a thesis.

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is academically recognized as a terminal degree and it is typically awarded in the visual, fine and performing arts. The MFA degree demands the highest level of professional competency in these areas and practicing artists must exhibit the highest level of accomplishment through the generation of a body of work.

Below are the Top 25 Game Design Schools and Colleges with MS-MA Programs for 2023.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
University of Southern California

University of Southern California (USC) houses USC Games—a collection of minors and programs leading to degrees at all levels. Programs are part of the School of Cinematic Arts’ (SCA) Interactive Media and Games Division and the Department of Computer Science at Viterbi School of Engineering. At the graduate level, USC Games has a Game Design and Development MS and a Computer Science MS with a Game Development Specialization. A Cinematic Art MA (Media Arts, Games and Health) is offered in conjunction with SCA, the Graduate School, and the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center.

The USC Games Program combines the study of art, design, engineering, and production. Classes are collaborative, immersive, and hands on, allowing students to develop team-building skills and expertise in every area of game design and development. Courses are taught by working professionals in the field and include titles such as Pipelines for Games and Interactives, Mobile Games, 3D Character Rigging for Games, Maya Cinematics, and Advanced Game Project.

Graduates of USC Games have developed and sold their own games, launched their own studios, or landed positions at major studios such as Riot Games, Disney, Epic Games, Apple, ESPN, and CBS interactive.

2. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
University of Utah

The Colleges of Engineering and Fine Arts at University of Utah (The U) house the Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) Program. Formed more than a decade ago by faculty from the School of Computing and the Division of Film Studies, the EAE Program has two graduate programs: a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE) and a dual MBA/MEAE.

The EAE Programs at The U are interdisciplinary and immersive with a focus on computational research, art, and social science. Course examples across EAE Programs include Alternative Game Development, Ethics in Games, Game Engineering and Production, Assets Pipeline, Survey of Games, Traditional Game Development, Serious Game Development, Digital Content Creation, Programming, Scientific Computing, Machinima, Algorithms, and Competitive Strategies.

Students in all EAE Programs at University of Utah will work through every level of game creation. Graduates will enter the job market with one or more completed games. Depending on the program, EAE graduates will be prepared to pursue positions in Game Art, Game Design and Development, Game Engineering, Simulation, Business (Games), Visualization, Simulation, Education, and Research, among others.

3. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has two graduate paths for game designers. Within RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) is the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM), which has a Game Design and Development MS and an Accelerated BS/MS. Both programs explore game design and development, animation, math and science, interactive media, modeling, and user interaction.

Course examples across programs include Games Balance, IGM Production Studio, Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Gameplay, Gameplay and Prototyping, Casual Game Development, Systems Concepts for Games and Media, Game Engine Design and Development, Console Development, Game Design and Development for Casual and Mobile Platforms, Game Development Processes, Level Design, and Physical Computing & Alternative Interfaces. Seminars, game development and research studios, and independent study are also part of the programs.

RIT IGM Game Design and Development students will also have the rare opportunity to complete two paid blocks of cooperative education, which will allow them to gain experience in the games industry through a full-time employment at a studio. Google, Cartoon Network, Electronic Arts (EA), Sony Interactive Entertainment, Epic Games, and Microsoft are just a few recent co-op companies. Students also have the opportunity to develop and commodify their own games at RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios.

Graduates of the Games Programs at Rochester Institute of Technology are prepared to pursue careers in all industries that require game design and development skills.

4. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
University of California, Santa Cruz

University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz or UCSC) was the first institution in the University of California System to launch an undergraduate game major. Housed in the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), and known as Games @ UC Santa Cruz, this intensive program has expanded to include several advanced degree programs. This includes MS degrees in Serious Games, Computational Media, and Games and Playable Media, among others.

Students in all programs have access to Games @ UC Santa Cruz facilities and centers such as The Center for Computational Experience, Advanced Visualization and Interactive Systems, Ludo Lab, Critical Realities Studio, Software Introspection Laboratory, Expressive Intelligence Studio, ADL (Augmented Design Laboratory), Social Emotional Technology Lab, and The Other Lab.

Other program benefits include game design internships, frequent studio tours, and participation in the Annual Games Showcase. Graduate students will complete a Thesis Project, Research Project, or both to graduate.  

Graduates of the UC Santa Cruz Game Design Programs are prepared to pursue positions such as Game Designer, Game Writer, Digital Artist, Board Game Designer, Producer, VR/AR Artist, and 2D/3D Artist. Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Tic Toc Games, Method Studios, Ubisoft, Tencent, Amazon, Universal, Google, TopGolf, and Hi-Rez Studios

5. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The College of Sciences at University of Central Florida (UCF) houses Nicholson School of Communication and Media (NSCM), which has an Interactive Entertainment MS and a Digital Media MA. Also part of UCF’s Florida Interactive Academy (FIEA), the MS has Specializations in Programming, Animation, Technical Art, Level Design, 3D Modeling, and Project Management. Specializations are sub-tracks within the FIEA Production/Design, Art, and Programming Tracks.

Students in all FIEA and NSCM Programs at University of Central Florida have access to state-of-the-art production facilities, such as the 3,300 square feet MOCAP studio, where they have the opportunity to develop games and interactive projects on their own and in teams, from start to finish. Internships and career development resources are also available, and many FIEA students publish their games through avenues such as Xbox or Steam, resulting in their first published title.

Graduates of the programs at UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media and Florida Interactive Academy have been hired by more than 300 companies. Examples include Epic Games, Walt Disney Imagineering, Zynga, Unity Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Marvel, Sony, Gameloft, Blizzard Entertainment, Nintendo, Cartoon Network, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Blur Studio.

6. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University

Full Sail University is home to The Gaming School which houses production studios and classrooms that look and feel like major production studios. At the graduate level, Full Sail has MS degrees in Game Art, Game Development, Simulation & Visualization, and Game Business & Esports.

In addition to gaining production experience in a real-world studio environment on the Full Sail University campus, all MS students have opportunities to work off campus at local and national studios through the internship program. Courses in The Gaming School are also immersive. Course examples across all programs include Motion Capture, Game Mechanics, Game Production Tools, Engine Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Data Visualization & Modeling. Students will master all roles in the production pipeline, video game development for computers, networks and consoles, test simulation, game effects, narrative design, and animation.

Full Sail University’s Career Development Department provides 24/7 access to job opportunities, along with workshops and presentations that cover branding, networking, research strategies, and interviewing techniques. The department also coordinates local hiring events and events in other major markets such as Los Angeles and New York.

Full Sail University graduates have worked on many popular games, films, and ad campaigns. Games include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Overwatch 2, Horizon Forbidden West, Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Fortnite. More than 200 graduates from Games, Art & Design, Music & Recording, Business, and Media & Communications areas were credited on over 25 projects nominated in 21 categories at The 2022 Game Awards.

Graduates from Game Design, Film, and Entertainment Business also contributed to winners in categories including Best Adaptation (Arcane: League of Legends), Best Esports Game (Valorant), Best VR/AR (Moss: Book II), Best Fighting (MultiVersus), and Games for Impact (As Dusk Falls).

Companies and studios that have hired Full Sail University graduates include Disney, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon, Bunim Murray, Pixar, MTV, ESPN, Universal Studios, Miramax, DreamWorks, and HBO.

7. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design

The School of Digital Media at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has an Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD) MA that can be completed at the Atlanta and Savannah campuses, and 100% online via SCADnow.

The School of Digital Media at SCAD provides opportunities for IDGD students to gain hands-on experience through internships with local and national studios. Students will also work individually and in teams to complete projects at state-of-the-art customized facilities at Mongomery Hall—a 130,000 square feet space consisting of studio classrooms, more than 800 computers, stop-motion sets, a green-screen stage, motion-capture technology, and AR/VR resources. The SCAD Digital Media Center in Atlanta provides an in-house theater, green screen lab, and a real-world studio environment.

Each quarter, students have the opportunity to interview and present their portfolios to professionals in the industry. Past visitors have been affiliated with studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Zynga, and Activision Blizzard.

Graduates of the IDGD Programs at Savannah College of Art and Design are routinely hired by these and other studios such as Epic Games, Firaxis Games, and Sucker Punch Productions.

8. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

The Game Design Program at DePaul University (DePaul) is housed in Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM). The Program has a Game Programming MS designed for students interested in advanced study in game development programming, including computer graphics, professional retooling for the game industry, and real time computing.

The program also explores animation, software engineering, artificial intelligence (AI), software architecture, and networking. Course examples for the program include Physics for Game Developers, Real-Time Software Development, Rendering and Graphics Programming, Computer Graphics Development, Artificial Intelligence for Computer Games, Mobile Application Development for iOS, Tools Programming for Game Development, Agile Software Development, and Game Programming for Mobil Devices.

The Game Programming MS at DePaul University emphasizes collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. This means that in addition to game programming students, MS students will have opportunities to work with fine art, audio, and writing students.

Graduate students have access to the Virtual and Augmented Design Lab, the game studio known as DePaul Originals, and CDM facilities such as the gameplay, playtest and usability, XR, and game development and research labs. Other program benefits include participation in a variety of exhibitions, internship opportunities at local and national studios, and the biennial Japan Study Abroad Program.

Students will graduate from the Game Design Program at DePaul University with a portfolio of their best work. Some of the top careers for DePaul Game Design graduates include Game Design and Development, Animation, Computer Graphics, Software Engineering, Commercial Production, and Project Management. Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as Epic Games, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Fast Radius, iiRcade, and Speegs Media.

9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) houses the MIT Game Lab, which helps students customize a plan of study to match their goals. The Lab is also a research and development hub that designs games for research. Besides opportunities to customize their curriculum, students at MIT may study game design through several programs that allow students to choose a built-in “cluster” or electives from any department. Examples of programs that allow this much flexibility include Comparative Media Studies (CMS) and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE).

Housed in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), the Department of Comparative Media Studies (CMS) provides graduate programs leading to MS in CMS. The CMS Games and Interactive Media Cluster consists of more than 20 game design course options.

The Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing (MIT EECS) is the largest department at MIT. EECS provides an MS degree in CSE. This program is highly interdisciplinary and emphasizes on-campus team and independent projects, lab work, research, and off-campus internships with MIT partner companies. The program explores human-computer interaction (HCI) and graphics, artificial intelligence (AI), software engineering, programming languages, machine learning, algorithms and theory, and computer systems.

Elective requirements allow students to take additional courses that focus on games. Courses may be offered within and outside the department. Examples from the CMS Department include Game Design Methods, Videogame Theory, Interactive Narrative, Imagination, Computation & Expression Studio, Game Design, Advanced Game Design Studio, Designing Interactions, Design and Development for Games and Learning, Games and Culture, Games for Social Change, and Fun and Games: Cross-Cultural Perspectives.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates have been hired at major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Harmonix Music Systems, Bungie Studios, Muzzy Lane (educational game studio), Learning Games Network (LGN), Moonshot Games, and Fire Hose Games (founded by MIT alumni in 2008).

10. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University

Serving more than 3,500 students, the College of College of Communication Arts and Sciences (ComArtSci) at Michigan State University (MSU) houses the Department of Media and Information (MI)—home to the Game Design and Development Program. Established in 2005, the program has a MI MA with a Games Studies and Design Focus that includes courses such as Foundations of Serious Games, Game and Film Design Studio I-II, Theories of Games and Interaction Design, Interaction Design, and Interactive Usability and Accessibility: Design and Evaluation.

To graduate, students MA/Games Studies students must complete two final courses: Master’s Thesis Research (4-6 credits) and the Master’s Project (4-6 credits). Graduates of the MI MA Program are prepared for careers in 3D Game Design, UI/UX, and 3D Technology, among others.

Michigan State University Games and MI alumni work for major studios such as Insomniac Games, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts (EA), Ubisoft, and Bungie.

The College of Engineering at Michigan State University houses the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, home to the Computer Science Program. The Computer Science MS here has a Specialization in Media and Information Studies with the option to take games-related courses offered in other departments. Students in all programs will also take courses in Systems Design and Analysis, Theory and Algorithms, and Data Analysis and Applications.

11. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Southern Methodist University

SMU Guildhall at Southern Methodist University (SMU) launched in 2003 with 32 full-time students. When it opened, the Guildhall became the first graduate-level digital game development program of its kind. Today, SMU Guildhall is the only video game education program with specializations in the four key areas of game development.

SMU Guildhall has partnerships with hundreds of studios and companies across the globe. Some 860+ SMU Guildhall alumni have worked at more than 270 studios worldwide. Examples of Guildhall industry partners include Epic Games, Microsoft Game Studios, Disney Interactive, Riot Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Gameloft, Insomniac Games, Bungie, Samsung, Gearbox Software, Unity, Bethesda, and Softworks. 

Other Guildhall highlights include workshops, lectures, professional development coursework, career fairs, guest speakers, mentorship programs, team game projects, portfolio reviews, and the Master of Interactive Technology (MIT) in Digital Game Development. Guildhall specialization options include Production, Software Development, Level Design, and Art Creation. The MIT Program requires a thesis, and students will develop a minimum of three industry-ready 2D and 3D games to graduate.

Graduates of the Game Design Programs at Southern Methodist University have worked at more than 270 game studios and tech companies around the world. They have worked on games such as Game of Thrones, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Assassins Creed, Grant Theft Auto, League of Legends, Atlas, Batman, Days Gone, Doom, God of War, Diablo, Marvel Avengers, Disney Infinity, Elite Force, and Guitar Hero.

Examples of companies of companies and studios that have hired SMU graduates include Epic Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Oculus VR, Insomniac Games, Microsoft, Disney Interactive, Bioware, Samsung, Zenimax Online Studios, Bungie, Sony, Gearbox, Ubisoft, Bethesda Softworks, and Obsidian Entertainment.

12. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology

The College of Computing and the School of Literature, Media, and Communication in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts at Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) provide two MS options for game designers: the Digital Media MS and a dual Computer Science BS/MS. Across all graduate level programs, courses may include Special Topics in Game Design, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Interactive Fiction, Experimental Media, Principles of Interactive Design, Pro-Seminar, and Project Studio. Graduate students will also complete an 8-10 week, full-time non-credit internship and a Thesis Project.

Students in the dual BS/MS can focus in areas (at the undergraduate level) such as Games, Interaction, and Narrative. Course examples include Game Studio, Game Design as a Cultural Practice, Game AI, Video Game Design and Programming, Digital Video Special Effects, Constructing the Moving Image, Computer Animation, and Principles and Applications of Computer Audio.

All Georgia Tech students have access to the GVU Center Game Studio at Georgia Tech, the Institute for People and Technology (IPaT), and international campuses in the world’s largest games industry—China.

Graduates of the Digital Media and Computer Science Programs at Georgia Institute of Technology have established successful careers in fields such as Game Design and Development, Interactive Design and Game Simulation, Animation, Special Effects, AI and Robotics, Visual Effects (VFX) and 3D Modeling.

13. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design (The Westphal College) at Drexel University (Drexel) has two dual degree programs for students seeking an advanced degree in game design. Options include the Game Design and Production/Digital Media BS/MS and the Interactive Digital Media/Digital Media BS/MS.

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), Westphal College provides programs that are hands-on and studio-based, with small class sizes that allow for individual instruction. Mandatory participation in the Drexel University Cooperative (co-op) Education Program enables students to gain work and world experience prior to graduation. Co-op experiences take place at both local and national companies, and in places such as Ghana, Hong Kong, Greece, London, and Spain.

More than 80% of Drexel gaming graduates and nearly 90% of dual degree graduates are working in an area directly related to game development. Examples of companies that employ Drexel alumni include Xbox Game Studios, Microsoft Studios, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Zynga, Blizzard Entertainment, Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Disney Interactive, Digital Domain, BioWare, Disney Imagineering, Lockheed, Volition Inc., NCSoft Carbine Studios, Comcast Corporation, Razorfish, and Gameloft.

14. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University

The School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts at Texas A&M University (TAMU) houses the Visualization Department, home to the Visualization MS Program, which provides the opportunity to specialize in areas such as Gaming, Interactive Art, Computer Animation, Visual Effects (VFX), Computer Graphics, User Experience Design, and Virtual/Augmented Reality. 

The Visualization Program at Texas A&M University features project-based studios, supported by courses that cover production pipeline, programming, programming, art theory, and many other technical skills. Course and elective examples include Digital Compositing, Time-Based Media, 2D Visualization Techniques, Rendering and Shading, Digital Media, Advanced Animation, Physical Computing for Art and Design, 3D Modeling and Animation, and The Digital Image.

Other TAMU Visualization Program features include a paid internship, participation in the Visualization Industry Fair, and the opportunity to show creative works at local exhibitions and the Viz Fall Show.

Graduates of the Visualization Program at Texas A&M University are prepared for careers in Game Design, Game Level Design, Game Asset Development, Production Management, Technical Art, UI/UX Development, and Visual Development. TAMU alumni are often hired at major studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM).

15. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (AHT), which launched in August 2022 after the consolidation of the School of Arts & Humanities (est. 1975), and the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), established in 2002 as Texas’s first arts and technology degree. All ATEC Programs are still in force and all provide opportunities to study game design and development.

The ATEC MA has an Emerging Media Pathway or students may create their own area of specialization through electives and other courses. Examples include Game Design and Development, Critical Game Studies, Interactive Narrative, Socially Conscious Games, Experimental Interactive Media, Design Research, History and Culture of Games, Emerging Media Studio, Advanced Projects in Simulation and Game Design, Information Architecture and Design, Computer Processing for Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, Research in Sound Design, Pervasive Computing and Interaction Design, and Visualization Research.

Students in all ATEC Programs have access to a variety of state-of-the-art studios and facilities including the Game Lab, Motion Capture Studio, Games Research Lab, Surround Studio, The Studio for Mediating Play, Animation Lab, ATEC Lecture Hall, CG Animation Lab, 3D Studio, experimenta.l., Render Farm, Mixed Media Lab, Games and Media Library, Render Farm, Surround Studio, and the Narrative Systems Research Lab. The ATEC Lecture Hall has hosted speakers from Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks.

Graduates of the ATEC Programs at University of Texas at Dallas have been recruited by major studios and companies such as DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, Apple, Google, Capital One, and Toyota.

16. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The School of Arts and Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is home to the Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) Program. One of the earliest gaming programs in the U.S. IMGD houses two MS Programs for game designers: the IMGD BS/MS and the IMGD MS. The dual IMGD BS/MS allows students to complete both degrees at an accelerated pace. Students can complete the program in four to five years instead of six or more.

The BS allows students to begin working on everything from games and virtual environments to interactive fiction from the very first day of the program. The interdisciplinary IMGD MS is a two-year program designed for students interested in careers in interactive media or game design and development. Students may specialize in one of three focus areas: Serious Games, Production and Management, or Technical. The IMGD MS culminates with a Thesis or Group Project.

All IMGD programs provide access to state-of-the-art facilities such a dedicated IMGD Lab equipped with industry-standard software and hardware tools, a Digital Art Studio, an Artificial Intelligence & Intelligent Tutoring Lab, and a Sound Recording Studio. In addition, all programs blend art, technology, and real-world experience through a co-op or professional internship.

As part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, IMGD graduates enjoy frequent on-campus recruiting events and a 92.7% success rate. Examples of companies that have hired WPI IMGD graduates include Kaon Interactive, NextGen Interactions, Zudy, and Centre Technology.

17. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

The College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) and Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University (Northeasters) has a Game Science and Design MS that allows students to study all areas of games. This interdisciplinary program includes courses such as Game Design and Analysis, Mixed Research Methods for Games, Advanced Topics in Game Design, Generative Game Design, Level Design and Game Architecture, Player Experience, Business Models in the Game Industry, Building of Game Engines, Psychology of Play, Game Artificial Intelligence, Generative Game Design, Games and Society, Game Studio, Data-Driven Player Modeling, Advanced Topics in Game Science, and Game Concept Development.

In addition to a variety of courses, the Game Science and Design MS at Northeastern University provides the opportunity to participate in the school’s distinctive co-op program. This paid experiential learning program is available for full-time graduate students. Northeastern University partners with more than 20,000 co-op employers nationwide and in 65+ countries around the world. Examples include Hasbro, Mass DiGi, Greenbrier Games, Splash Damage Games, Harmonix, Jamspot, Live Nation, and Demiurge Studios.

In addition to gaining work experience through the co-op program, all Northeastern students enjoy hands-on learning in collaborative classrooms and studios, access to state-ot-the-art production facilities, courses taught by industry professionals, and access to 3,350+ employer partners, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and global companies. 

Graduates of the Game Design Programs at Northeastern University work in Game Art, Game Design and Development, Game Programming, Sound for Games, Animation, and many other areas. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as Google, Zynga, Xbox Game Studios (a division of Microsoft), and Cognizant. 

18. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida

Established in 1925, the College of the Arts at University of Florida (UF) houses the Digital Worlds Institute, home to the Digital Arts & Sciences (DAS) Program. At the graduate level, the program has a DAS Masters (MiDAS) that explores game engines and development, software and hardware integration, design and interactivity, emerging technologies such as AR/VR, and proposals, project management, and production pipelines. The MiDAS program is offered in an accelerated format, so it takes just one year to complete.

Digital Worlds Institute highlights include the DAS Mentorship Program, guest lecturers, access to LUMA at Digital World Studios, Portfolio Open House events, and participation in the internship program. In addition, all UF Digital Worlds Programs are interdisciplinary and combine arts, engineering, communications, and science. Course examples across pathways include Creating Mobile Games, 3D Animation Techniques, Game Content Creation, Game Systems Development, Game Design and Production, Digital Storytelling, Game Development, and Interaction & Usability. An optional internship is also part of the program.


Graduates of the MiDAS Program at University of Florida are Game Designers, Level Designers, Game Artists, Character Modelers, Visual Effects (VFX) Artists, Software Engineers, Technical Animators, Digital Storytellers, Motion Graphics Animators, UI/UX Designers, Production Coordinators, Entrepreneurs, and Freelance Designers. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as Microsoft and DreamWorks.

19. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University (Academy of Art) is home to a STEM-certified School of Game Development that operates under the direction of professionals who are active in the game design industry. Like all programs at Academy of Art, programs in the School of Game Development are hands-on and multidisciplinary, so student designers will explore games, systems, and tools programming; coding; augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR); rigging; animation/animation VFX; artificial intelligence (AI); concept art; user interface/user experience (UI/UX) design; 3D modeling; technical art; and level design.

For students interested in an MA degree, Academy of Art has a Game Development MA that consists of 36 units of study. Course example for the program include Scripting for Video Games, Rapid Game Development, 3D Modeling & Animation (Maya), Prototype Game Development, Action Adventure & RPG Level Design, Drawing Bootcamp for Games: The Human Figure, User Experience Design, and Professional Practices & Portfolio for Game Developers.

Partnerships with studios such as Zynga, Sony Interactive Entertainment, and Riot Games allow all School of Game Development students to gain real-world experience through professional internships. In addition to working at a top studio prior to graduation, students will engage in hands-on learning in the Academy of Art Game Development Studio. Examples of facilities and technology include cross-departmental war rooms with students from the Schools of Animation, Illustration, and Music, among others, Xbox/PlayStation/Nintendo Game consoles, competitive esports lab, 280+ Alienware High Performance Computers with Dual Monitors, AR/VR labs, and the Game Lounge.

Graduates of the School of Game Development at Academy of Art University have been recruited by major studios such as Riot Games, Zynga, and Sony Interactive Entertainment. Students have also been hired at Sledgehammer Games, Naughty Dog, and Crystal Dynamics.

20. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) has several paths to study game design. At the graduate level, UPenn has an interdisciplinary option that’s one of the few programs of its kind offered at a four-year research university. Launched in 2004 by the UPenn Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), the unique Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT) Program leads to the Master of Engineering (MSE) in CGGT.

The Center for HMS is housed in the Computer and Information Science Department (CIS) within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. CGGT MSE students here will take at least four computer science and engineering courses along with technical, graphics, and free electives. Course examples for the program include Game Design and Development, Computer Animation, Machine Perception, Engineering Entrepreneurship, Applied Machine Learning, and GPU Programming and Architecture.

UPenn CGGT MSE students may specialize in areas such as Creative Design, Animation and Simulation Technology, Human/Computer Interfaces and Production Management, and Art and Animation. Other program highlights include collaboration with students from other departments such as Digital Media Design (DMD), and access the SIG Center for Computer Graphics, which features a state-of-the-art motion capture studio, ViDi Center for Digital Visualization Center, AR/VR systems (Vive, Oculus, and HoloLens), and high-performance NVidia GPU processors. 

Graduates of the University of Pennsylvania CGGT MSE Program are prepared for a variety of roles in game design and animation. Program alumni have established careers at major studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), DreamWorks Animation, and Disney Animation Studios.

21. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University

The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences at Clemson University is home to the School of Computing, which houses the Division of Visual Computing. Within the Division is the Digital Production Arts (DPA) Program. This interdisciplinary program collaborates with the Departments of Art and Performing Art, with a significant focus on advanced studios and visualization as a problem-solving tool.

For game designers seeking an MS degree, the Division has a Digital Production Arts MS and a fast-track Computer Science Bachelor’s/Master’s (BS/MS). Both programs have offer thesis and non-thesis tracks. Course examples across programs include Game Theory, Studio Methods for Digital Production 2D Game Engine Construction, Algorithms and Techniques, Visual Foundations of Digital Production, 3D Game Programming: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Physical Modeling and Animation, Advanced 3D Modeling, and Audio Practicum.

Other Computer Science and DPA highlights include visits from representatives of major studios such as DreamWorks, internship opportunities, high-tech classrooms, state-of-the-art production studios and facilities, study abroad experiences, collaboration spaces and participation in the SIGGRAPH Conference.

Graduates of the DPA and Computer Science Programs at Clemson University are Game Designers, Animators, Game Programmers, Technical Directors, Software Engineers, 3D Graphics Programmers, Art Directors, and AR/VR designers, among others. Clemson DPA and CS alumni have secured positions with companies such as Google, Disney Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Blur Studio, Sledgehammer Games, IBM, and CrowdStrike.

22. American University, Washington, DC
American University

American University (AU) provides more than 20 online master’s degree and graduate certificate programs. This includes a Game Design MA and a Computer Science MS. The Game Design MA is provided jointly by the School of Communication and the Department of Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Students in the Game Design MA program have the opportunity to select courses across schools and departments. Examples include Political Communication, Web and Mobile Development, Dynamic Content, and Business. The MA requires 21 credits in game design and six in the Master’s Portfolio Capstone. Game Prototyping, Making Meaningful Games, and Game Development are just a few required courses.

The Computer Science MS is housed in the Department of Computer Science. The program provides the opportunity to add the Game and Computational Media Track, which explores games, simulation and modeling, media, software engineering, entertainment, artificial intelligence (AI), environments, programming languages, and computer architecture. Internship and research opportunities are also part of the program.

Students in both the MA and MS Programs at American University have access to the AU Game Center, which explores the use of games in recreation, the media, health, education, the community, politics, and policy. The Game Center also hosts workshops, and students will obtain real-world experience by working on projects with the AU Game Studio, and with clients such as local studios, non-profit organizations, and government agencies.

Game students at American University also have opportunities to network at DC-area events such as the Global Game Jam, Games+, Indie Arcade at SAAM, and MAGfest.

23. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
George Mason University

The College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) at George Mason University (GMU) was established in 2001. Today, the CVPA provides more than 1,400 majors across four disciplines including Computer Game Design, Film and Video Studies, Art and Visual Technology: Dance, Music, and Theater, and Arts Management. At the graduate level, the CVPA has a Computer Game Design MA designed for students who have earned an undergraduate degree in game design or a related area such as technology, arts, or humanities.

Students in the MA Program will take courses such as Research Methodologies in Game Design, Game Production, Game Business, Entrepreneurship and Practice, and the Game Design Graduate Seminar. An internship is part of this 36 credit hour program, as well as the opportunity to enhance the degree through electives. Elective examples include Game Studio Management, Advanced Music and Sound for Games, Advanced Game Animation, and Interactive Game Systems Design.

All Computer Game Design students at George Mason University have access to the Virginia Serious Game Institute (VSGI). Housed at GMU’s Science and Technology Campus, VSGI focuses on job creation, start-ups, and research. In collaboration with companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, VSGI develops research projects in areas such as Cyber-Game education, mobile and wearable game technologies, EdTech Game platform development, AR/VR diagnostic and training solutions, and MedSim.

Also part of GSU’s VSGI is the Mason Game and Technology Academy (MGTA). Founded in 2013, MGTA provides the opportunity to develop skills in game design and programming, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Graduates of the Computer Game Design Programs at George Mason University are prepared to pursue careers in the commercial, entertainment, serious games, education, and the nonprofit sectors, among others. Some Game Design alumni have launched their own studios or freelance businesses, while others have been hired at studios such as Bethesda Softworks, Citadel Studios, Big Huge Games, Ready at Dawn Studios, and Catlilli Games. Some alumni have launched their own studios.

24. University of Advancing Technology, Tempe, Arizona
University of Advancing Technology

University of Advancing Technology (UAT) launched its Game Design (GD) Program in 1995. Today, UAT GD is one of the few fully accredited Game Design Programs to provide a comprehensive collection of games studies degree programs at all degree levels. At the graduate level, UAT has a Game Production and Management (GPM) MS that consists of four, nine-credit modules.

In addition to the required Game Development and Game Production modules, students may select two additional module based on their interests and goals. Examples include App Development, Digital Maker, Technology Leadership, Robotics and Kinematics, Data Cloud A.I., and Technology Startup. The UAT MS may be completed on campus or online in 1-2 years.

Graduates of the Game Design Program at University of Advancing Technology have been hired by major organizations and studios such as Nickelodeon, U.S. Department of Defense, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Intel, and Microsoft.

25. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Louisiana State University

Louisiana State University (LSU) houses the Division of Computer Science & Engineering, home to the Master’s in Digital Media Arts & Engineering (MDMAE). Course examples for the program include Interactive Design, Rapid Prototyping & Innovation, Digital Media Production & Project Management, and Advanced Programming & Digital Art. Students in this program will use industry software tools such as Maya, Nuke, Unity, and Houdini, to create works.

Halfway through the LSU MDMAE program, students will complete a Digital Media Internship. During the final two semesters, students will work in teams to complete a Capstone Project. The MDMAE at LSU takes 22 months to complete, full-time.