Top 25 Private Game Design Schools – 2017 Rankings
RankingSchool% of Schools Considered
1University of Southern California (USC)Top 1%
2Rochester Institute of TechnologyTop 2%
3Carnegie Mellon UniversityTop 3%
4New York UniversityTop 4%
5Digipen Institute of TechnologyTop 5%
6Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyTop 10%
7Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTop 10%
8DePaul UniversityTop 10%
9Drexel UniversityTop 10%
10Ringling College of Art and DesignTop 10%
11Northeastern UniversityTop 15%
12Savannah College of Art and DesignTop 15%
13Full Sail UniversityTop 15%
14Laguna College of Art and DesignTop 15%
15Parsons The New School for DesignTop 15%
16Columbia College ChicagoTop 20%
17Gnomon School of Visual EffectsTop 20%
18Otis College of Art and DesignTop 20%
19Worcester Polytechnic InstituteTop 20%
20University of PennsylvaniaTop 20%
21Champlain CollegeTop 25%
22Southern Methodist University,Top 25%
23Academy of Art UniversityTop 25%
24The Digital Animation & Visual Effects SchoolTop 25%
25Hampshire CollegeTop 25%

14. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (top 15% of schools considered) 

Established in 1961 as the “Laguna Beach School of Art,” Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) is home to an estimated 613 students enrolled in art and design programs leading to a BFA or MFA. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA with an Emphasis in Game Art, 3D Character, or 3D Environment. An MFA in Art of Game Design is also available.

The “project-based and highly collaborative” BFA program features graduate and undergraduate partnerships, such as with USC’s graduate program, GamePipe. 

The MFA program allows students to complete their first year by taking evening and weekend online classes, ending with a six-week intensive at the LCAD campus in Laguna Beach. The program takes two years to complete and graduates will have the skills needed to produce playable game prototypes, develop business planning and budgeting practices in keeping with current game industry practices, and create marketing and branding strategies specific to the gaming industry. 

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15. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York (top 15% of schools considered) 

Parsons School of Design was founded in 1896. Graduate and undergraduate programs are offered through Parsons’ 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. Home to nearly 5,000 students, Parsons offers game design programs that lead to a BFA or MFA. 

Programs are available through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT), an include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology. BFA pathways include Game Design and Creative Technology. A related program, the BFA in Art, Media, and Technology, is offered at the Parsons Paris campus. The MFA program consists of major studios, collaborative studios, and the thesis studios. Students have many elective options to choose from and may create their own “coherent” study plan. 

16. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 20% of schools considered) 

Founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory, Columbia College is home to 8,000 students enrolled in more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Options for aspiring game designers are offered through Columbia’s School of Media Arts, Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department. Programs include a BA in Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development or Game Sound Design, BA and BA degrees in Game Programming, a BA in Game Art, and a BA in Interaction Design. Minor options include Game Art, Game Design, and Programming.  

17. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California (top 20% of schools considered) 

Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. The school is home to more than 100 students enrolled in a number of programs in the digital arts. Offerings include a four-year Digital Production BFA, a three-year Entertainment and Digital Production Certificate, and a two-year Digital Production for Entertainment Certificate. Gnomon also offers single courses such as Game Creation, Game Design, Anatomy of Games, Animation for Games, Character Creation for Games, Creature Design, Texturing and Shading for Games, Visual Effects for Games, and Props and Weapons for Games. Students can mix and match courses to meet their career goals. 

18. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (top 20% of schools considered) 

Established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis, Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) is home to 1,070 full-time students from 38 states and 34 countries. The school offers more than a dozen interdisciplinary art and design programs from Animation and Motion Design to Sculpture and Toy Design. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game & Entertainment Design Major and a Minor in Digital Media. 

Per the school, students in the Game & Entertainment Design Major “develop their skills in concept art and visual development, learning the principles and processes involved in creating the first visual representations of characters, environments, and props for films and games.” Students will also acquire the skills to “design the gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters of interactive games, apps, and websites. Using the most advanced CGI technologies, students acquire the techniques to create stunning visual effects for films, commercials, and videos.” All OTIS students have access to nine labs and shops from audio/video to the model shop. 

19. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 20% of schools considered) 

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) was established in 1865. The school is home to around 6,383 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. 

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.” Students will explore diverse topics such as Writing for Games, Game Audio, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Virtual Reality, and 3D Modeling. As such, graduates of the IMGD are prepared to work in the gaming industry, and apply their technical and creative skills in areas such as education, health care, art, and social sciences. 

20. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 20% of schools considered) 

Founded in 1740, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) 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. 

Created in 1998, the DMD program “was designed for students who have an interest in the computer programming, mathematics, and design behind computer graphics, animation, games, virtual reality environments, and interactive technologies.” This interdisciplinary major combines major coursework in computer graphics within the Computer & Information Science Department and Fine Arts courses from Penn's School of Design. 

21.  Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont (top 25% of schools considered) 

Champlain College was founded in 1878. The school is home to 2,200 students enrolled in more than 90 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.” 

22. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas (top 25% of schools considered) 

Southern Methodist University (SMU) was founded in 1911. The school is home to 11,739 students enrolled in 246 degree programs through seven schools. The Meadows School of the Arts offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include a BFA in Digital Game Development and a BFA/Masters of Interactive Technology (M.I.T) in Digital Game Development that is also supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). 

In addition to the M.I.T in Digital Game Development, the Guildhall offers a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development with a Specialization in Art Creation, Level Design, Production, or Software Development. 

23. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (top 25% of schools considered) 

Academy of Art University was established in 1929 and it is home to an estimated 13,800 students enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs through several schools. The School of Game Development offers a variety of degree programs for aspiring game designers. Options include AA, BFA, BS, and MFA degrees in Game Development. According to the school, these multidisciplinary programs provide 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.”   

The Game Development programs at academy of Art prepare students for positions such as game designer, 3D modeler, concept artist, UI/UX designer, and many others. 

24. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School, Orlando, Florida (top 25% of schools considered)   

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (The DAVE School) offers intensive and “comprehensive training” in Game Production, 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, and 3D Visual Effects. Options include a 15-month Game Production Diploma covers Modeling & Sculpting, Game Production, Game Engine Fundamentals, Game Asset Production, and Animation Fundamentals. Launched in 2014, the Game Production Diploma is designed for those interested in working on the artistic side of game production. 

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (The DAVE School) is a 35,000 square foot facility located on the backlot of Universal Studios Florida, Soundstage 25. 

25. Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts (top 25% of schools considered) 

Founded in 1965, Hampshire College is home to 1,400 students enrolled in 50-plus areas of study. Hampshire College 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.” 

Unique courses for the program include Radical Innovation in Digital Arts, Pixelbending, Analog Game Design, Designing Treasure Hunts, Women in Game Programming, and the 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. 

Hampshire College is a member of the Five College Consortium, so students have access to an additional 5,300 courses offered through nearby University of Massachusetts (UMass) and at Amherst, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges.