Our 2016 rankings of the top programs on the East Coast for game design.
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.
1. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) is home nearly 13,650 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across seven colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts-Integrative Design, Arts and Technology Network (IDeATe), in collaboration with the School of Computer Science-Computer Science Department, offers a Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) with a Concentration in Game Design. IDeATe Collaborative Studios include Game Engine Programming offered by the Robotics Institute, Research Issues in Game Development offered by the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at CMU, and Programming for Game Designers—also offered by the ETC.
A Minor in IDeATe and a Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) degree are also available. The MET is “jointly conferred by the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.”
2. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Founded in 1885 as Mechanics Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) opened with just 400 students enrolled in the school’s first class—mechanical drawing. Today, RIT is home to 18,606 students majoring in everything from 3D Digital Design to Web and Mobile Computing. The B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) offers several programs for aspiring game designers including BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development.
The Game Design and Development program emphasizes game programming and cooperative education (co-op). These full-time paid work experiences provide students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. Students also have the opportunity to minor in either Game Design or Game Design and Development.
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Founded 1861, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is home to 11,331 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across five schools. The School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences (HASS), MIT Sloan School of Management, and the School of Science. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also home to the MIT Game Lab, the MIT Education Arcade, and the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.
Together, the labs offer the opportunity to study, design, and develop games as a supplement to several degree programs. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster,” an MS with a Specialization in Games, and a Minor in CMS. These programs are available through the HASS Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.
4. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is a collection of five schools offering more than 145 programs to a population of 7,113 students. The School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) offers a BS in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS). Students may choose a concentration or dual BS degree from the following options: Arts (Electronic Arts), Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Science, Management/Entrepreneurship, Cognitive Science, or Writing for Games.
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute also offers several advanced degree programs for aspiring game designers. Graduate offerings include MFA and PhD degrees in Electronic Arts (EART). Offered through the Department of Arts, both degree programs allow students to explore areas of interest ranging from Gaming and Animation to Communication Technologies.
5. New York University Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of New York University (NYU) and home to the NYU Game Center – Department of Game Design. According to Tisch, the Game Center is "a nexus for the New York City game community." It offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BFA, MFA, and a Minor in Game Design. Classes and events take place at the Media and Games Network (MAGNET) at the NYU Brooklyn campus. MAGNET also houses the Game Center Open Library, which is "the largest collection of games held by any university in the world."
6. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York
Founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase, Parsons is home to nearly 5,000 students enrolled in 27 undergraduate, graduate, and associate degree programs. Parsons houses five schools, including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, the School of Art, Media, and Technology, the School of Constructed Environments, the School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion. The School of Art, Media, and Technology, offers several degree programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology.
According to the school, “the program focuses on time-based media, interaction, and experiential design. Through courses, collaborative projects, internships, and sponsored projects, the program immerses you in emerging design and art practices such as computational art, game design, physical computing, computer graphics, and experimental interfaces.”
7. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University is home to 26,359 students making it the 14th largest private university in the U.S. Established in 1891, the school offers 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The College of Computing & Informatics offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BS in Computer Science (BSCS) and a BA in Computer Science (BACS). Both programs offer a Concentration in Game Programming and Development (GMPD).
The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design also offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BS in Game Art and Production and an MS in Digital Media. The two-year MS program features comprehensive studies in Gaming and Digital Media History, Theory and Methods, 3D Modeling, Interactivity, and Animation.
8. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was founded in 1740. It is home to nearly 25,000 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. The School of Engineering and Applied Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a BS in Engineering (BSE) with a Digital Media Design (DMD) Major, an MS in Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT), and a PhD in Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS). A DMD Minor is also on the menu.
9. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is home to more than 20,000 students enrolled in 150-plus majors, dozens of combined majors in new and emerging fields, and 24 programs that allow students to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years. Programs are offered through seven colleges and schools. Among them are two schools that offer several programs for aspiring game designers—the College of Arts, Media and Design and the College of Computer and Information Science.
The College of Arts, Media and Design offers five programs for game designers at all degree levels. Offerings include a BFA in Digital Art and Game Design, a BFA in Games, an MS in Game Science and Design, a Graduate Certificate in Game Analytics, and a Minor in Game Design. The College of Computer and Information Science offers a BS in Computer Science and Game Design. Students in the BS program may choose to concentrate in areas ranging from Game Design to Interactive Media and Video.
10. Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont
Champlain College was founded in 1878. The school is home to 2,100 students from 47 states and 18 countries and it offers more than 80 programs through several academic divisions and one school. The Robert P. Stiller School of Business, the Division of Communication & Creative Media, and the Division of Information Technology & Sciences offer several programs for aspiring game designers.
The School of Business offers a BS in Management of Creative Media with a Specialization in Game Production Management. The Division of Communication and Creative Media offers a BFA in Creative Media with Specializations in Game Media and Interactive Design, a BS in Game Design with an optional Specialization in Sonic Arts, and a BS in Game Art & Animation. The Division of Information Technology & Sciences offers a BS in Computer Science & Innovation with a Specialization in Mobile Application Development or Software Engineering.
The school also offers a BS in Game Programming. Considered one of the first bachelor’s degrees of its kind in the nation, the program features a collaborative Game Studio where Game Programming majors “work with their counterparts in Game Art & Animation and Game Design as well as Management of Creative Media majors specializing in Game Management to build games from start to finish. The Game Studio replicates a professional game development setting,” which gives students a “firsthand understanding of how creative teams collaborate to develop individual game assets and coordinate them into a functional product.”
Another major benefit of the program is the study abroad experience in Montreal, Canada, which is one of the world’s largest game development centers. Students have also had the opportunity to intern at Bigpoint Inc., Microsoft Game Studios, and Wired Magazine. With a 92 percent placement rate, Game Programming graduates have landed positions at Microsoft Entertainment Studios, Sledgehammer Games, Warner Bros./Turbine, Subatomic Games, Ubisoft, and Square Enix.
11. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute is home to more than 6,000 students enrolled in 50 degree programs through several divisions and schools. The Division of Arts & Sciences offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include a BS in Interactive Media & Game Development (BS IMGD) and a Minor in IMGD. Graduate offerings include an MS in IMGD.
12. Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Founded in 1965, Hampshire College is a member of the Five College Consortium. This means that in addition to more than 50 areas of study, the school’s 1,400 students have access to 5,300 courses offered through nearby University of Massachusetts (UMass) and at Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges. Hampshire Collee offers an undergraduate degree in Game Design and Development that gives students the opportunity to “grow and strengthen their skills in teamwork, communication, iterative development, playtesting and user testing, storytelling, game programming, 2D and 3D art and animation, game design, audio design, entrepreneurship, and project management.”
Just a few unique sample courses include Pixelbending, Designing Treasure Hunts, Women in Game Programming, Analog Game Design, and Radical Innovation in Digital Arts. Students will also become skilled in animation and complete a game development workshop. Other program highlights include access to the Game Lab and Library, the Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility, and The Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video and the Johnson Library Center, which house facilities for Computer Animation; Film and Video Editing; and Digital Design.
13. American University, Washington, DC
Chartered in 1893, American University (AU) is home to 12,371 students from 129 countries and all 50 states. The school also has more than 800 non-degree, certificate, Washington Semester, and AU Abroad students. AU offers 150 programs through seven colleges and schools, and more than 100 AU Abroad programs. The College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Communication are home to the Game Lab.
According to AU, the Lab “serves as a hub for experiential education, persuasive play research, and innovative production in the fields of games for change and rhetorical play.” Academic offerings include a MA in Game Design, which AU says is the only degree in persuasive play in the U.S. The 36 credit-hour program “provides an immersive curriculum that spans communication, computer science, and art.”