What are the top game design MS/MA programs in the U.S. for 2021?

Top 25 Game Design MS/MA Programs in the U.S. – 2021 College Rankings
1University of Southern CaliforniaCalifornia
2University of UtahUtah
3University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive AcademyFlorida
4Rochester Institute of TechnologyNew York
5Savannah College of Art and DesignGeorgia
6University of California, Santa CruzCalifornia
7Full Sail UniversityFlorida
8Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts
9Georgia Institute of TechnologyGeorgia
10DePaul UniversityIllinois
11Southern Methodist UniversityTexas
12Drexel UniversityPennsylvania
13Michigan State UniversityMichigan
14Texas A&M University, College StationTexas
15University of Texas at DallasTexas
16Northeastern UniversityMassachusetts
17Worcester Polytechnic InstituteMassachusetts
18Academy of Art UniversityCalifornia
19University of FloridaFlorida
20University of PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
21Clemson UniversitySouth Carolina
22George Mason UniversityVirginia
23University of Advancing TechnologyArizona
24American UniversityDistrict of Columbia
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 2021.

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

University of Southern California (USC) houses the Viterbi School of Engineering, home to the Department of Computer Science, which offers an MS in Computer Science (Game Development). The Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences houses the School of Cinematic Arts-Interactive Media & Games Division, which offers an MA in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts, Games and Health).

Students in both programs have access to salaried or paid internship opportunities and 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.

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

University of Utah (The U) houses the College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts—home to the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS).

The Studio offers a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE) with Game Arts, Game Engineering, Game Production, and Technical Art Tracks. “All students in each of the tracks have a series of common classes including Game Design, Rapid Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Final Project,” says the school. In addition, students will “develop and enhance a professional game portfolio” and they will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the game industry.

The David Eccles School of Business and the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Program offer an additional degree program “designed to take advantage of the complementary elements in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and the Masters of Entertainment Arts & Engineering.” The MBA/MEAE, which aims to bridge the ‘suits’ vs. the ‘dev’ divide, takes three years to complete.

Other offerings include five-year BS/MS in Computer Science.

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

University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) offers an MS in Interactive Entertainment. This graduate video game design school opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA serves dozens of students enrolled in a 16-month MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks including Art, Production, and Programming.

Each Track requires nine credit hours of study. Students in all specializations will complete a three credit hour capstone that will allow them to complete a large-scale project. A six credit hour practicum allows students to engage in supervised training with a research team, through an on-site internship, by developing a start-up, or with a faculty member on research in an area of interest.

The base curriculum teaches specific skills in the areas of 3D artistry, game design, and programming as well as essential skills such as problem solving, project management, and teamwork.

“Student production teams are mentored by industry trained faculty who provide instruction in” 3D animation and modeling, game design, level design, motion capture, postmortems, preproduction, rapid prototyping, software engineering, and technical design. The program also covers creative collaboration and legal and technical issues.

Graduates of all programs have access to internship and venture opportunities as well as job interviews with media and game companies from across the country.

UCF also offers an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media through the Nicholson School of Communication & Media, Games & Interactive Media Department. Students in this program may pursue a non-thesis option and portfolios might include works of art, software or games. Active areas of work at UCF include Digital Media and Instructional Applications, Interactive Performance, and Serious Games for Training and Education, to name a few. Digital Media faculty have extensive professional and academic experience in animation, digital storytelling, game development, immersive design environments, motion graphics, multimedia, and more.

4. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) houses the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) home to the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM), which offers an MS degree in Game Design and Development and an accelerated BA/MS that takes five years to complete.

The MS and BS/MS offer unique advanced electives such as Board and Card Game Design and Development, Game Balance, Game Design and Development for Casual and Mobile Platforms, IGM Production Studio, Innovation & Invention, Interactive Game & Audio, Table Top Role-Playing Game Design and Development, and Theory and Design of Role Play and Interactive Narrative.

The GCCIS IGM Game Design and Development Program (all levels) emphasizes game programming and cooperative education (co-op). The co-op is a required, full-time paid work experience that provides students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. Students must complete two semesters, full-time, which amounts to a minimum 35-hour workweek over the course of an academic semester. Past co-op companies include Microsoft, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Sapient-Razorfish, Google, EA, Epic Games, Cartoon Network, Seagate, Hi-Rez Studios, and many others.

In addition to the co-op experience, students in the BS in New Media Interactive Development program will explore casual games, physical computing, production, web, mobile, and more. All GCCIS IGM students have the opportunity to take any minor or enroll in a double major.

Graduates of the Game Design programs at RIT are prepared for careers within the professional games industry or a related field such as edutainment, simulation, or visualization. At present, the school has a 95.2% employment rate for undergraduates and a 97.4% employment rate for graduates.

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

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) houses the School of Digital Media, which offers an MA in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD).

Offered at the Savannah campus and via eLearning, the MA consists of 45 credit hours of study and the opportunity to select a concentration. Options include Game Development and Interactive Design. Sample Game Development courses include Game Art: Art Direction and Look Development, Game Art: Character Creation and Digital Sculpting, Game Art: Engine Pipeline and Practices, Game Design: Professional Production Pipeline, Game Tech: Real-time Materials and Shaders, and Game Art: Virtual World Building. Students in this program will also complete an Interactive Design and Game Development MA Final Project.

The Interactive Design Concentration includes courses such as Human Experience Prototyping, Human-centered Interactive Design, Physical Computing for Immersive Environments, Physical Computing for Tangible Interfaces, and Visual Hierarchies and Digital Affordances. Note that up to five additional graduate-level intensive courses may be assigned, bringing the student's required course of study to a total of 50 to 70 hours.

Every quarter, professionals visit with students at SCAD to interview for positions and review 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.

6. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
University of California, Santa Cruz

The University of California - Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz or UCSC) houses the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), home to the Department of Computer Science (CS) and Computational Media (CMPM), which offers MS degrees in Games & Playable Media and Computational Media or CS with a Games Focus.

The Computer Game Design Program focuses on the construction and design of interactive computer games. Per the school, “the degree features a freshman year introduction to game design, a sophomore year game programming experience, two upper-division digital media electives, and an intensive senior-year game design studio where students work in teams to develop a substantial video game.”

MS in Games and Playable Media students will learn game art pipeline and integration, game audio design, game mechanics, game programming, and more, while MS in Computational Media or CS student’s will immerse in computer game design, history of computational media, media research and methods, and theory of computational media. A thesis is required and graduate assistantships are available.

UC Santa Cruz is also home 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.

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

The Game School at Full Sail University offers an MS in Game Design or Mobile Gaming (online).

MS in Game Design coursework focuses on user experience research, production, and design. Course highlights include Methods and the User Experience, Prototyping and Content Creation, and Game Usability and Testing. The program, which allows students to choose a track that allows them to focus on a chosen area of expertise, culminates in a Game Capstone Experience.

The Mobile Gaming MS consists of graduate level mobile gaming research, emerging technologies, and the application of theoretical concepts to game design and development. Course highlights include Computer Science for Engineers, Game Development Frameworks, and Mobile Gaming Business.

The program culminates in a thesis, which allows students to complete a fully playable mobile game of their own design.

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

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is home to MIT Game Lab, MIT Education Arcade, and Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.

Together, the labs provide the opportunity to study, design, and develop games as a supplement to several degree programs, so anyone interested in games can create their own program of study. “By their nature,” says the school, “games require an interdisciplinary approach to their study.”

An MS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster” is available, as well as MS degrees in Computer Science and Engineering.

Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers an extensive graduate program in Computer Science, which allows students to “study and participate in active research of aspects in computer science that are vital in the creation of modern digital games, such as artificial intelligence, networking, and computer graphics.” The CMS programs are available through MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.

9. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology’s (GeorgiaTech) game design programs for graduate students are offered in the College of Computing in collaboration with the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts’ School of Literature, Media, and Communication.

Options include MS degrees in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology) and Digital Media – HCI, and a BS/MS in Computational Media/Digital Media. An accelerated 5-Year Bachelor's/Master's is also available.

The games programs are part of an institute-wide initiative designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations. Course highlights include Computer Animation, Constructing the Moving Image, Experimental Media, Game Design as a Cultural Practice, Principles of Interaction Design, and Video Game Design.

All Games students have access to resources offered by the GVU Center at GeorgiaTech and the Institute for People and Technology, as well as international campuses in China (the world's biggest games industry in terms of users and revenue) and France.

Graduates of the Game Programs at GeorgiaTech are prepared to seek careers in 3D Modeling, Animation, Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Robotics, Robotics, Special Effects Creation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Web Design. Many have been hired at major video game studios and interactive media firms. Others are now pursuing graduate degrees in digital media, human-computer interaction, and even film studies.

10. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers an 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.

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 at DePaul 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.

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

Southern Methodist University (SMU) houses the Meadows School of the Arts and The Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003).

Meadows School of the Arts offers a BFA in Art/Masters of Interactive Technology (BFA/M.I.T) in Digital Game Development. Specializations include Art, Design, Production, or Programming for Games.

Supported by the Guildhall, the program “provides the breadth and rigor of a BFA degree, which will develop skills supportive of the in-depth investigation of digital game development fundamentals through the curriculum of the Master of Interactive Technology,” says the school.

Graduates of the games programs at SMU will be prepared to seek positions in the video game design industry, multimedia and design, visual effects, game-based learning, and more.

12. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design houses the Digital Media Department (DMD), which offers an MS in Digital Media. This two-year program features comprehensive studies in 3D Modeling, Animation, Gaming and Digital Media History, Interactivity, and Theory and Methods.

For MS students interested in teaching game design, the School of Education offers a Graduate Certificate in Learning in Game Based Environments. Students in all programs have access to Drexel Game Design (DGD) and the RePlay Lab.

DGD and RePlay are collaborative efforts between the Digital Media and Computer Science Departments.

13. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) houses the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, home of the Media and Information (MI) Department, which offers a Game Design and Development Program.

Founded in 2005, the Program offers an MA in Media and Information with a Focus in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) + Serious Game Design & Research Certificate.

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 a variety of courses, students in the program have access to the College of Communication Arts and Sciences’ 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.”

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

Texas A&M University’s (TAMU) College of Architecture houses the Visualization Program. Established in 1988, the program offers gaming-oriented study options at the graduate level. Among the school’s advanced programs is an MS in Visualization “designed to prepare students for a range of long-term careers in visualization,” says the school.  

The program “helps students develop the focused expertise and broad foundation knowledge needed in this rapidly developing field” and the core curriculum will give students a “basic grasp of the artistic, scientific, cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline.”

“Beyond this broad training, the program requires students to develop a strong focus area of advanced expertise, and to complete a research thesis in this focus area.”

All Visualization students have access to the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab. Established in 2014, the Lab “provides space for graduate and undergraduate students to create game prototypes while learning about game theory, the art and science of the visual image and game history. In the lab, through research and rigorous scientific process, students collaborate with specialists from visualization, educational psychology, computer science and engineering to create innovative, interactive software.”

Visualization program alumni can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios including Pixar, Blue Sky, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Rhythm & Hues Studios and Reel FX.

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

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) houses the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC). Created in 2015, ATEC merged two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. Serving more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA students, ATEC offers programs that blend Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Management (STEAM).

The MA in ATEC offers research area options such as Computer Animation, Game Development, Game Studies, and Interaction Design. The program is a good pathway whether students are interested in teaching arts- and technology-related courses in colleges and universities or working in a professional studio or design practice. Graduate students may choose to pursue additional research opportunities.

ATEC students 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.

16. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) and the College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) - Khoury College of Computer Sciences jointly offer an MS in Game Science.

This interdisciplinary program requires 34 credit hours of study and it offers three concentrations: Game Analytics, Game Design and Development, and Game User Research. The program highlights paid co-op work, research opportunities in the schools more than30 federally funded research centers, and in-class case studies and exercises.

The MS in Game Science can be completed in two years.

17. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) houses the Division of Arts & Sciences, which offers an MA in Interactive Media & Game Development (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 3D Modeling, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Game Audio, Virtual Reality, and Writing for Games.

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.

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

Academy of Art University houses the School of Game Development, which offers an MA in Game Development. This multidisciplinary program provides a “well-rounded education in the arts with an emphasis on understanding and applying techniques including 3D modeling, animation and lighting in video game production,” says the school.

Courses for the Game Development programs are production-based and collaborative, and cover techniques in 3D modeling, animation, concept art, game design, and game programming, among others. Course highlights include 3D Character Artist, 3D Environment Modeling, Environment Concept, Game/Level Design, History of Comics: International and Alternative Comics, The Power of Signs: Semiotics & The Visual Arts, and UX/UI. The programs include collaborative projects, Games Portfolio Preparation, and internship opportunities. The MFA program requires a thesis, as well as Directed Study.

Graduates will have a solid grasp of the fundamental game art principles, including knowledge of game engine technology and pre-production and production environments.

The Game Development programs at Academy of Art prepare students for positions such as 3D Modeler, Concept Artist, Game Designer, UI/UX Designer, and many others.

19. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida

The University of Florida (UF) houses the College of the Arts, which offers a Masters in Digital Arts and Sciences (MiDAS).

This one-year accelerated program is designed for individuals “seeking to further their professional career goals at the intersection of interactive media, innovation, and emerging technologies,” says the school. MiDAS students will have the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment with “personal attention from faculty and content area experts.”

The program covers digital storytelling, game engines and development, software and hardware integration, UI/UX, Audio, and Digital Compositing, and Visual Design Tolls/Technology/3D for virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR). The program also covers project proposals, production pipelines, and project management.

Course highlights include Applied 3D Modeling, Digital Arts & Sciences Convergence, Digital Design and Visualization, Entertainment Technology, Interaction Design, Movement, Media and Machines, Project Methodologies, and Protocols for Multimedia Interfaces. Students will have access to the UF Reality Lab and a Capstone Project is part of the program.

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

University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) School of Engineering and Applied Science houses the Department of Computer and Information Science and the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS)—home of the Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT.)

The Center for HMS established the CGGT program in 2004 with a goal to expose recent graduates, as well as individuals returning from industry, to state-of-the-art graphics and animation technologies, as well as interactive media design principles, product development methodologies and engineering entrepreneurship.

Leading to the Master of Science in Engineering (MSE), the CGGT program prepares students for positions requiring multidisciplinary skills such as game programmers, designers, technical animators, and technical directors. Students in the CGGT program use the equipment and resources available through the SIG Center for Computer Graphics. Opportunities for specialization are provided in such core areas as human/computer interfaces and production management, creative design, animation and simulation technology, and art and animation.

Graduates of the MSE in CGGT program can be found in major game, film, and video companies such as Disney, DreamWorks Animation, and Electronic Arts.

21. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University

Clemson University’s College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences houses the School of Computing, which offers an MS in Digital Production Arts (MS DPA) and a fast-track Bachelor’s/Master’s (BS/MS) in Computer Science.

In addition to Game Design, students in the Computer Science Program will take courses such as Algorithms and Data Structures, Computer Graphics, Computer Security, Network Programming, and Software Engineering.

Launched in 2017, the 30 credit hour MS DPA is offered within the Division of Visual Computing in the School of Computing. The program offers significant collaboration with the departments of Art and Performing Arts and it has both thesis and non-thesis options. Students can study at the main campus in Clemson or Charleston, South Carolina.

Graduates of the Computer Science and DPA Programs at Clemson can pursue employment in 3D graphics programming, animation, commercial virtual reality, game design, software engineering, technical direction in the digital production entertainment industry, tool building, visualization, and more.

22. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
George Mason University

George Mason University’s (GMU) College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) houses the Computer Game Design Program, which offers a 36 credit hour MA in Computer Game Design.

The program “has been modeled after the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) most recent ‘Curriculum Framework’ for the Study of Games and Game Development,” says the school, and it is “designed to reflect the games industry’s demand for an academically rigorous technical program coupled with an understanding of the artistic and creative elements of the evolving medium.”

Core courses for the program are “drawn from interactive design, creative writing for games, the business of games, game design and production, and electives from CVPA or other Mason graduate programs.” Course highlights include Advanced Game Art, Advanced Music and Sound for Games, Game Business, Entrepreneurship and Practice, Game Production, Interactive Game Systems Design, Research Methodologies in Game Design, and Special Topics in Games. Students will complete a graduate internship and teaching practicum as well as a game or written project OR the Game Thesis.

All Games students have access to the Virginia Serious Game Institute based at GMU’s Science and Technology Campus. The institute offers Virginia schools, businesses, and universities hands-on training, certification, and research and development assistance by merging game company incubation and rapid prototype development.

The Virginia Serious Game Institute is the only one of its kind on the East Coast and one of only four global affiliated facilities established primarily to support early-entry entrepreneurship into the simulation and game design industry.

Graduates of the Games Programs at GMU are prepared to seek employment in the computer game design and development fields, which include the commercial, entertainment, serious games, and even federal sectors.

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

University of Advancing Technology (UAT) established UAT Game Design in 1995. It is the “only fully accredited game design program that boasts a connection to a full continuum of game development degrees including: Game Design degree, Game Art and Animation degree, Game Programming degree and Serious Game Simulation degree,” says the school.

UAT Game Design offers an MS in Game Production and Management. Students in the program will be “exposed to all the tools of the trade, as well as programming and asset creation video game design skill sets,” says the school. Coursework for the program emphasizes, “design skills such as strong initial concepts.” The design components of 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.

Thanks to flexible, year-round schedules and no thesis requirement, students in the MS program can expect to graduate in as few as six semesters.

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.

24. American University, Washington, DC
American University

American University (AU) offers an MA in Game Design and an MS in Computer Science with a Game and Computational Media Track. The MA is offered jointly by the School of Communication (SOC) and the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). The MS in Computer Science is offered in the CAS – Department of Computer Science.

The school says that the MA in Game Design “is the only program of its kind in the U.S.” The 36 credit hour program focuses on “game design and game engagement mechanics intended to influence non-game contexts and challenges. Beyond traditional game design and development, students learn to tailor play design for distinct education purposes.”

Course highlights for the program include 3D Animation, 3D Modeling for Games, 3D Static Modeling, Advanced Game Development, Digital Art Tools and Techniques, Game Design & Art Pipeline Production, Game Research Methods, Making Meaningful Games, and Web and Mobile Development.

Students in all programs have access to the AU Game Lab, which serves as a hub for experiential education, persuasive play research, and innovative production in the fields of games for change and purposeful play. Students in all programs will also get real-world experience by working on projects with the Game Studio, and with clients such as Educational Testing Service (ETS), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), and WAMU 88.5. 

AU Game Design, Games and Interactive Media, and Games and Computational Media Track students will have opportunities to “connect through renowned DC-held events, such as Indie Arcade at the Smithsonian Museum, Global Game Jam, MAGfest, Games+, and more.”

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

Louisiana State University (LSU) is home to the College of Engineering, which houses the Digital Media Arts and Engineering (DMAE) Program, which offers a 22-month Master’s in Digital Media Arts & Engineering (MDMAE). Also part of the College of Engineering is Division of Computer Science and Engineering, which offers an MS in Computer Science.

Students in the MDMAE program will develop specialist skills in a focus area, work with teams in a studio environment on consequential projects, and refine and hone their technical and creative skills.

Computer Science students have the opportunity to take at least 15 credit hours of game-related electives. Available courses include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Digital Media Programming, Graphical and Geometric Modeling, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Interactive Computer Graphics, Interface Design and Technology, Scientific Information Visualization, and Video Game Design.