Our 2016 rankings of the Top 25 Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) is home to 43,000 students enrolled in more than 500 undergraduate and graduate programs, and over 150 minors across 18 colleges and schools. Program offerings for aspiring game designers are offered through several colleges and schools including the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences - Interactive Media & Games Division (in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts) and the Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science.
The Interactive Media & Games Division offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment, an intensive three-year MFA in Interactive Media, and Minors in Game Design and Game Entrepreneurism. According to USC, the MFA program “draws on the strengths of the School of Cinematic Arts, including Game Design, Animation, Sound Production, Screenwriting, Producing and Critical Studies, bringing these resources together in a vibrant community of innovative digital media practice.”
USC Viterbi game design programs include a BS in Computer Science – CSCI (Games), an MS in Computer Science (Game Development), and a PhD in Computer Science (Game Design and Development or Virtual Reality). A Minor in Computer Science and a Progressive Degree Program (PDP) are also available.
The Progressive Degree Program allows exceptional undergraduate students to “start graduate-level classes during their senior year and request a reduction in the units required for the Master’s degree.” This “allows students to earn the MS in Computer Science with one or two additional semesters of study.” The PDP is available for the MS in Computer Science (Game Development). All programs are offered through USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science.
In addition to a wide variety of program offerings for aspiring game designers, USC is home to the GamePipe Laboratory. The Laboratory is sponsored by Intel, Sony, and other technology companies and it 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.
2. Digipen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology is home to around 1,071 students from across the U.S. and 45 countries. Founded in 1988, the school offers 10 graduate and undergraduate programs in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Game Design, a BS in Computer Science and Game Design, a BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation (BS in RTIS), a five-year BS in RTIS/MS in Computer Science, and a Minor in Game Design.
According to DigiPen, although the BS in RTIS offers “extensive training in mathematics and physics,” students in the program also “work both individually and collaboratively to learn the fundamentals of Game Design, Production, and Programming. Additionally, they write game design documents and technical design documents, learn how to schedule tools and techniques, and participate in the full production of several games.” The Game Design programs at Digipen Institute of Technology are offered through the Department of Game Software Design and Production.
3. 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.
Also on the menu are a Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) and a Minor in IDeATe. The MET is “jointly conferred by the School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts.”
4. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was founded in 1885 as Mechanics Institute. The school opened with just 400 students enrolled in 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.
5. 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 including 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.
6. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to more than 12,000 students enrolled in 40-plus majors and more than 60 minors. Founded in 1978, the school has multiple campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. SCAD’s School of Digital Media offers a BA (Savannah, Atlanta, eLearning), BFA (Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong), MA (Savannah, Hong Kong, eLearning), and MFA (Savannah, Hong Kong, eLearning) in Interactive Design and Game Development. A Minor in Interactive Design and Game Development is also available as well as a Certificate in Interactive Design.
7. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Established in 1931 by circus baron John Ringling, Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) opened with just 75 students enrolled in 111 courses. Today, RCAD sits on a 35-acre campus that houses 1,300 degree-seeking students enrolled in 13 majors. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA in Game Art & Design. Students in the program will study “the basics of game design mechanics, meaningful play, interactivity, and options for creating and refining game content.”
Graduates of the Game Art & Design program have landed jobs at Riot Games, Epic Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Gunfire Games, Evertoon, Naughty Dog, S2 Games, and many others.
8. 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.
9. 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."
10. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York
Founded by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase in 1896, 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.”
11. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University is home to 18,000 students from 50 states and 73 countries. Established in 1979, the school offers dozens of programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media, and the Arts and it awards degrees at all levels and graduate certificates. The Game School at Full Sail offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development, and Mobile Development and MS degrees in Game Design and Mobile Gaming.
12. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University is the nation’s largest Catholic University. Established in 1898, the school is home to 23,539 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 10 colleges and schools. The College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM) offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include an MS in Computer Game Development and a BS in Computer Game Development with Concentrations in Game Design, GamePlay Programming, and Systems Programming.
In addition to a variety of game design offerings, DePaul University offers a Game, Cinema and Animation Summer Academy as well as 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 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.
13. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California
Gnomon School of Visual Effects is home to more than 100 students enrolled in variety of computer graphics classes and programs. Offerings for aspiring game designers include one-, two-, and three-year programs leading to a Certificate. Programs include Entertainment Design (One-Year Track), Digital Production for Entertainment (Two-Year Program), Entertainment Design and Digital Production (Three-Year Program), and Maya Fast Track (10-Week Program).
Established in 1997, Gnomon also offers a variety of online courses ranging from Games Tools and Techniques to Character Animation, and Master Classes that “focus on different elements of the visual effects and games industries in a private forum.” Master Classes are offered exclusively online.