What are the top private game design schools in the U.S. for 2020?
|Ranking||School||% of Schools Considered|
|1||University of Southern California||Top 1%|
|2||New York University||Top 3%|
|3||DigiPen Institute of Technology||Top 4%|
|4||Carnegie Mellon University||Top 5%|
|5||Rochester Institute of Technology||Top 6%|
|6||Southern Methodist University||Top 8%|
|7||DePaul University||Top 9%|
|8||Savannah College of Art and Design||Top 10%|
|9||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Top 15%|
|10||Full Sail University||Top 15%|
|11||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Top 15%|
|12||Gnomon School of Visual Effects||Top 15%|
|13||Drexel University||Top 20%|
|14||Academy of Art University||Top 20%|
|15||The New School's Parsons School of Design||Top 20%|
|16||University of Pennsylvania||Top 25%|
|17||Northeastern University||Top 25%|
|18||Ringling College of Art and Design||Top 25%|
|19||Columbia College Chicago||Top 25%|
|20||Cornell University||Top 30%|
|21||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Top 30%|
|22||Laguna College of Art and Design||Top 30%|
|23||Champlain College||Top 30%|
|24||Becker College||Top 35%|
|25||Otis College of Art and Design||Top 35%|
Our 2020 rankings of the Top 25 Private Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
Established in 1880, University of Southern California (USC) serves 47,500 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate programs, 300-plus graduate programs, and more than 150 minors. Program options for aspiring game designers are offered through Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Media & Games Division. Dornsife programs are offered in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts.
Viterbi School of Engineering offerings include a BS in Computer Science (Games), an MS in Computer Science (Game Development), and a PhD in Computer Science with a Game Design and Development or Virtual Reality research area. A Minor in Computer Science and a Progressive Degree Program (PDP) are also available.
The PDP 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).
The Interactive Media & Games Division offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment, an intensive three-year MFA in Interactive Media, an MFA in Interactive Media (Games and Health), and an MA in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts, Games and Health). The Division’s extensive list of minors includes Game Design, Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Entrepreneurism, Game User Research, Game Studies, Documentary, Video Game Design and Management, Video Game Programming, 3D Computer Modeling and Graphics, Computer Science, Immersive Media, and Themed Entertainment.
In addition to a wide variety of program options for aspiring game designers, USC is home to 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.
Founded in 1831 and serving more than 60,500 students, New York University (NYU) is the largest private university in the U.S. With the highest number of international students in America, the school has degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai and operates 11 global academic centers and research programs in more than 25 countries. With more than 19,000 employees, NYU is also one New York’s largest employers.
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of NYU and home to the NYU Game Center, Department of Game Design. Also known as Tisch or TSOA, the school serves more than 3,000 students from 48 states and 39 countries. Tisch students are enrolled in games, animation, film, interactive media, acting, dance, design, performance, writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television, preservation, recorded music, photography, and public policy programs at the BA, BFA, MA, MFA, MPS and PhD levels.
The NYU Game Center, Department of Design offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BFA, MFA and Minor in Game Design. The BFA program is organized in three primary areas including Game Studies, Game Design, Game Development, four production areas including Programming, Visual Design, Audio Design, and Game Business, and a Capstone. Students may specialize in Game Programming, Visual or Audio Design, or Game Development.
The Game Center MFA is a two-year degree that includes classes in Game Design, Game Production, Game Studies, and Game History. Students will gain hands-on experience by taking studio courses and participating in play labs, and electives will allow students to “explore everything from Game Journalism to Games and Players (a class on the psychology and emotions of game play).”
Classes and events for all Game Center programs 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."
Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology was the first school in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in Video Game Development. More than 550 companies have hired DigiPen graduates and the school is located near more than 400 interactive media companies, making the region one of the largest video game centers in the world. The school, which serves around 1,100 students from all 50 states and close to 50 countries, has international campuses in Singapore and Spain along with educational partnerships with Keimyung University in South Korea and Thammasat University in Thailand.
DigiPen offers ten graduate and undergraduate program options in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the Department of Game Software Design and Production. Pathways 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 Mathematics. An MFA in Digital Arts is also available in the Digital Arts Department.
Although the BS in RTIS offers “extensive training in mathematics and physics,” says DigiPen, 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 MFA in Digital Arts is a terminal degree that allows students to build on their foundation and “expand beyond traditional arts,” says the school. Students will “hone their craft in digital media and build proficiency in subjects” such as character design, digital sculpting, digital painting, and other specializations within the digital media industries.
The program culminates with an advanced thesis project that allows students to develop and showcase an original body of work that is both personal and reflective of their strongest capabilities as a digital artist. In addition to the thesis project, students will collaborate with peers on team-based projects, including games and films, as part of elective coursework.
DigiPen student games have won 57 Independent Games Festival awards (more than any other school) and to date, more than 550 companies around the world have hired DigiPen graduates. DigiPen alumni have been credited on more than 1,000 commercial game titles.
Founded in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) serves more than 14,500 students representing over 100 countries. The school offers more than 100 programs across seven colleges. In collaboration with the School of Computer Science-Computer Science Department and the College of Fine Arts-Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe), CMU 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.
The School of Art at CMU offers a broad-based BFA with four primary concentrations that allow students to pursue particular areas of media-based study or to combine areas of interest to create hybrid or specialized practices. The Electronic and Time Based Media Concentration “explores the creative potential of emerging technologies and the critical impact they have on contemporary culture,” says the school.
The curriculum “implicitly encourages cross-disciplinary study.” As such, “many students merge fine art and computer science based interests either within the BFA program or through the unique BCSA degree program.” Areas of focus include animation, game arts, computational and interactive art, video and performance, tactical media, bioart, and tangible media.
Students particularly interested in the intersection of art and technology can take advantage of expanded course offerings through the IDeATe Program. Course highlights include Game Design, Game Design, Prototyping, and Production, Computer Game Programming, Experimental Game Design, Advanced Game Studio, Character Rigging for Production, and Understanding Game Engines.
Work by graduating seniors in the BFA program is showcased in a final group exhibition presented in the Miller ICA at the close of each spring semester.
Head over to ETC at CMU where you will find two additional game design options. Founded in 1998, ETC offers a Game Design Minor (in collaboration with IDeATe) and a Masters of Entertainment Technology (MET). The MET is jointly conferred by CMU’s School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts. MET is currently considered a terminal degree.
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was born of an unlikely institutional marriage of an influential cultural association, the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829), and a technical training school, the Mechanics Institute (est. 1885). The Institute adopted the name Rochester Institute of Technology in 1944 and awarded its first bachelor of science degree in 1955.
Today, RIT serves more than 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Urban Community Studies. The B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) houses the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM). Here students can earn both BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development or a BS in New Media Interactive Development. Minors in Game Design & Development (GAMEDD-MN) and Game Design (GAMED-MN) are also available.
The GCCIS IGM Game Design and Development program 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 work week 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.
Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) serves nearly 11,800 students enrolled in more than 200 programs through seven schools. Programs for game designers are offered through Meadows School of the Arts and Lyle School of Engineering. Options include a BFA in Art/Masters of Interactive Technology (M.I.T) in Digital Game Development and a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Track.
The BFA/M.I.T is supported by the Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). The school says, “this 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.”
BFA/M.I.T and M.I.T Specializations include Art, Design, Production, or Programming for Games. In addition to the M.I.T in Digital Game Development, the Guildhall offers a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development “tailored to students who wish to become actively involved in the game development industry as designers or artists.” Specializations for the program include Art Creation, Level Design, Production, and Software Development.
Lyle School of Engineering houses the Computer Science Program - Game Development Track. The 10 credit hour track consists of Math and Physics, Programming for Commercial Game Engines, Software Development for Games, and Team Game Production. A Gaming Design Project is also part of the program as well as a 47 credit hour Computer Science Core consisting of courses such as Programming Languages, Assembly Language Programming and Machine Organization, and Digital Computer Design.
Computer Science students who would like to enroll in the Game Development Track must be admitted to the Guildhall Professional Certificate program and attend classes at SMU Guildhall.
Established in 1898, DePaul University serves nearly 22,500 students from across the U.S. and about 70 countries. The school offers 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools and two campuses in Chicago. One of the first universities to offer a game development course for smartphones, DePaul offers game design programs at all levels through the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM).
CDM is organized into three schools including the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), the School of Computing (SoC), and the School of Design (SoD). Degree options include a BS and a Minor in Game Design and Game Programming, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Systems Concentration, a BFA in Animation with a Game Art concentration, an MS in Game Programming, an MFA in Game Design, and a MS in Software Engineering with a concentration in Real-Time Game Systems. The Minors are jointly offered by CDM SoD and SoC.
DePaul University also offers a Game, Cinema, and Animation Summer Academy. 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.
Students in all Game Design programs have access to Prototype, Iterate, and Play Space 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 Prototype, Iterate, and Play Space 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 Disney Interactive Studios, NeatherRealm Studios, Owlchemy Labs, Firaxis, Wargaming, Phosphor Games, Carbine Studios, Scientific Games, and many others. Several grads have gone on to form their own gaming companies, including Young Horses, whose indie hit Octodad was developed at DePaul.
Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) was founded in 1978. With campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, the school serves more than 14,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Offering more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design university, SCAD houses the School of Digital Media, which offers a BA with a Concentration in Interactive Design and BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD). Minors in Concept Art for Games, Concept Design for Animation and Games, Games UX, Interactive Design and Game Development, and Mobile and Interactive Design are also available.
The 180 credit hour BA is available at the Savannah, Atlanta, eLearning campuses. This program requires 45 credit hours in the concentration including courses such as Digital Design Aesthetics, Core Principles: Programming, Introduction to Game Design, Core Principles: Interactive Design and Typography I: Anatomy, Form and Space.
The 180 credit hour BFA is offered in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong. The program requires 75 credits in the major including courses such as Interactive Design and Game Development Studio I & II, Interactive Design and Game Development Postproduction, and Programming. Students in the BFA program will choose between two concentrations: Game Development and Interactive Design and Physical Computing. Sample courses include Game Tech, Game Art, User-Centered Design, and Visual Design for Interactive Media.
Offered at the Savannah and Hong Kong campuses, the MA consists of 45 credit hours of study including courses such as Contemporary Art, Interactive Web Design, and Collaboration. Students in this program will complete an Interactive Design and Game Development MA Final Project.
The MFA program consists of 45 credit hours of study including courses such as Environment for Games, Character Development, Scripting for Interactivity, and Game Design Documentation. Students will also take Thesis Studio I & II, and they will complete a Graduate Internship. The MFA program is offered at the Hong Kong and Savannah campuses and through eLearning.
At SCAD, professionals visit with students every quarter, interviewing for positions and reviewing portfolios. Recent visitors include representatives from Zynga, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Crystal Dynamics and Activision. Graduates have been recruited by Epic Games, Sucker Punch Productions, Firaxis Games, and many others.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded 1861. The school serves around 11,575 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 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. Students may choose the BS or MS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster.” BS and MS degrees in Computer Science and Engineering are also available.
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.” Minors in CMS with Games and Interactive Media and Computer Science are also available. The CMS programs are available through the HASS Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.
Other unique degree pathways include a BS in Brain & Cognitive Science for those interested in psychological games and behavioral change and a BS in Business for those interested in studying business practices required for creating their own game company. The BS in Brain & Cognitive Science is offered through the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the BS in Business is offered through MIT Sloan School of Management.
Established in 1979, Full Sail University serves 15,000 students enrolled in 78 Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Associate degrees in the areas of Entertainment, Media and the Arts. Graduate Certificates are also available. The Game School at Full Sail offers several programs for aspiring game designers.
Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development, Simulation & Visualization, and Mobile Development. Graduate degrees include an MS in Game Design or Mobile Gaming (online). In the Game Art BS students will create 3D content and “take traditional art and animation principles and apply them to models that look, move and articulate artistically,” says the school. Course highlights for the program include Game Animation, Motion Capture, and Level Assembly & Lighting.
The Game Design BS is designed to enhance the students “ability to work in a game studio environment.” The program “is comprised of high-level game design and production courses that will take” students “deep into the game development pipeline.” The program covers key industry concepts influencing both systems and level designs that will prepare students to prototype and evaluate their game projects. Course highlights include Game Mechanics, Game Balancing, and Prototyping.
The BS in Game Development guides students through the entire game development cycle, from pre-production to finished product. Course highlights include Artificial Intelligence, Engine Development, and Data Structure and Algorithms. Graduates will have the ability to create program code for 3D graphic display, multiplayer gaming, artificially intelligent opponents, and real-time virtual environments.
The BS in Simulation & Visualization equips students with the programming and critical-thinking skills needed to study and design virtual systems. Course highlights include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Computer Graphics. Through hands-on experience, students will develop their “tech savvy in order to keep pace with an ever-evolving industry.”
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.
The Game Art and Game Design BS degrees are available on campus and online, while the MS in Mobile Gaming is available entirely online.
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is the oldest technological research university in the U.S. The school serves nearly 8,00 students enrolled in more than 145 programs across five schools including Architecture, Engineering, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS), Lally School of Management, and Science. Programs for aspiring designers are offered through HASS and include a BS in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS) and a BS in Electronic Media, Arts, & Communication (EMAC).
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.
Established in 1996, the BS in EMAC program is an interdisciplinary program that includes courses in communication as well as in digital art and animation, video, electronic music, and graphic design, supported by RPI’s strong technological infrastructure. The EMAC curriculum offers concentrations in Digital Storytelling (Animation, Video, Game Design), Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Marketing Communication and Design, Sound Design and Popular Culture.
RPI also offers several advanced degree programs for 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 everything from Gaming and Animation to Communication Technologies.
Students may enhance their education by adding a minor, dual major, study abroad, internship, or even a co-terminal graduate program.
Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. The campus is located in Hollywood, California, within the Television Center Studio lot. Per the school, “classrooms have been designed to cultivate creativity and learning by mimicking the environments of real production studios.” The schools “30,000 square foot facility has nine state-of-the-art computer labs, a green screen stage, two cycloramas, dedicated sculpture labs, a drawing studio, lecture spaces, student lounges, a student store, and the Gnomon Gallery.”
With more than 600 graduates to date, Gnomon offers a three- or four-year Digital Production BFA and a two-year Digital Production Certificate. The BFA program “covers all aspects of a 3D generalist skillset, providing an in-depth understanding of the 3D production pipeline, visual arts, and general education studies.” The two-year pathway is an “intensive program, built on a 3D generalist foundation, offering emphasized studies in games, modeling and texturing, visual effects, or character and creature animation.”
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, Digital Sculpting, Visual Effects for Games, Props and Weapons for Games, Hard Surface Modeling, Photoshop for Digital Production, and Introduction to 3D with Maya. Students can mix and match courses to meet their career goals, and some courses are available 100% online.
Gnomon graduates have gone on to work with Blizzard Entertainment, Digital Domain, Disney Interactive Media Group, Electronic Arts, ILM, PlayStation, ZeniMax Online Studios, and many others.
Drexel University was established in 1891. It serves nearly 29,000 students enrolled in over 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) and the school lists Game Development and Design and Artificial Intelligence Concentrations. A Minor in Interactive Digital Media is also available.
The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design also offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include BS degrees in Game Art and Production and Game Design & Production, and MS and PhD degrees 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.
A final option is for students interested in teaching game design. The School of Education offers a Graduate Certificate in Learning in Game Based Environments. All students have access to Drexel Game Design and the RePlay Lab. DGD and RePlay are collaborative efforts between the Digital Media program (in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design) and the Computer Science department (in the College of Computing and Informatics).
Academy of Art University was established in 1929. The school serves more than 7,200 students from 112 countries enrolled in dozens of Art, Design, Fashion, and Architecture programs. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online.
The School of Game Development offers a variety of degree programs for aspiring game designers. Options include AA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Game Development and a BS in Game Programming. 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.”
Courses for the programs (AA, BFA, MA, and MFA) cover techniques in game design, game programming, concept art, 3D modeling, and animation, among others. Course highlights include History of Comics: International and Alternative Comics, 3D Character Artist, 3D Environment Modeling, Environment Concept, Game/Level Design, UX/UI, and The Power of Signs: Semiotics & The Visual Arts. The programs include internships, collaborative projects, and Games Portfolio Preparation.
The multidisciplinary MFA 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.” Students in this program will complete a thesis, as well as Directed Study.
The school says the BS in Game Programming teaches “specialized aspects of design such as monetization, unique control types, rapid development via iteration, and production methods working in teams.” Course highlights include Programming for Games, Data Structures & Algorithms, AAA Game Engine Architecture, Vector, Matrices, & Transformations, Network Programming, Scripting for Mobile Games, Artificial Intelligence, Systems Design, and Indie Game Programming.
Students will graduate with 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 game designer, 3D modeler, concept artist, UI/UX designer, and many others.
The New School was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. Back then, the school was known as The Chase School, and later as New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Today, known as The New School's Parsons School of Design, this art and design college is home to nearly 5,500 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, School of Art Media and Technology, School of Constructed Environments, School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT) and include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology (DT). The BFA DT, which has both Game Design and Creative Technology Pathways, teaches students to code and “develop a sustainable process for researching, experimenting, designing, prototyping, iterating, and producing projects that keeps pace with evolving technology,” says the school. Program highlights include access to university’s extensive libraries, galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities and visits to industry leaders such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and Curious Pictures. Other industry partners include Apple, Atari, Human Rights Watch, MTV, Siemens, and UNESCO.
The MFA DT is a studio-based program that consists of collaborative studios and the thesis studios. Per the school, “in Collaboration Studio courses, students work on real-world projects with industry firms and nonprofits. Past partners include Red Bull, Intel, Apple, Eyebeam, gameLab, Human Rights Watch, Mozilla, NASA, the Red Cross, Samsung, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
Students also have the opportunity to work with peers in related programs including Communication Design, Photography, Fine Arts, and Illustration, and they have many elective options to choose from in order to create their own “coherent” study plan. Areas of practice include interaction design, physical computing, game design, new media art, digital fabrication, data visualization, and critical design.
A related program, the BFA in Art, Media, and Technology, is offered at the Parsons Paris campus. This interdisciplinary program, which explores design, art, media, and technology, prepares graduates to pursue careers in Animation, Game Design, Interactive and Social Media, Motion Graphics, and more.
Graduates leave the Game programs at Parsons with the skills needed to pursue careers in game design, virtual reality and immersion experience design, motion graphics, animation, film, advertising, software design, hardware engineering, and graphic arts.
Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. The school serves 25,860 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered The School of Engineering and Applied Science houses the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), which offers a Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT) leading to an MS in 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.
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 CGGT program can be found in major game, film, and video companies such as Disney, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Acclaim, and Crystal Dynamics.
Also housed within the School of Engineering and Applied Science is the Digital Media Design Program, which leads to a Bachelor’s in Engineering and Science (BSE) with a Digital Media Design Major (DMD). Created in 1998, the interdisciplinary BSE DMD program was designed for students who have an interest in computer graphics, animation, games, and the design of virtual reality environments and interactive technologies. A Digital Media Design (DMD) Minor, and a PhD in Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS PhD) are also available.
BSE DMD graduates go on the work at major studios such as Walt Disney Animation, DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Pixar, and Zynga Games. These are the largest employers of UPenn DMD graduates.
Northeastern University was established in 1898. The school serves nearly 37,000 students enrolled in over 150 undergraduate majors and concentrations and more than 125 graduate programs across nine colleges and schools. Programs for game designers are offered through the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD), which serves nearly 6,000 students, and the College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) - Khoury College of Computer Sciences.
Undergraduate pathways include a BFA in Game Art and Animation, a BFA in Games, a BS in Computer Science and Game Development, a Game Design and Music BS, and Minors in Game Art, Game Design, Experience Design and Interaction Design. Graduate options include an MS in Game Science, jointly offered through CAMD and CCIS - Khoury, and Graduate Certificates in Game Design and Game Analytics.
The Game Design Certificate consists of five 12-week courses, and the Game Analytics Certificate requires 20 credit hours of study. The interdisciplinary MS requires 34 credit hours of study and it offers three concentrations: Game Analytics, Game User Research and Game Design and Development. 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 can be completed in two years.
The 130 credit hour BFA in Game Art and Animation allows students to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams and with students in the BS in Computer Science and Game Development and BFA in Games majors. Students in the program will also gain practical and technical experiential training via Northeastern’s co-op program. Each student will take at least two co-ops. The BFA in Game Art and Animation culminates in a two-semester Senior Capstone.
The BFA in Games requires 128-129 credit hours of study covering Art and Design, Art History, Games, Entrepreneurship, Critical Making, Creative Making, and Game Electives. While the program does not require a co-op, the school says that students “are exposed to a wide variety of genres and contexts, as well as different ways of thinking about games content, platforms, and production.” Students will have “a minimum of four games courses in which they interact with and collaborate with students in the BS in Computer Science and Game Development major.” The program culminates in a Game Design Capstone.
The BS in Computer Science and Game Development focuses on “building and developing games and playable media experiences” along with “courses in computer science and specialized game technology and design. Interdisciplinary courses enable students to develop their creative and entrepreneurial abilities, as well as create a strong portfolio of game pieces.” The program requires 133 credit hours to graduate.
The 138 credit hour Game Design and Music BS with a Concentration in Music Technology is a unique program that “focuses on the creative application of digital sound technologies to a broad range of artistic, social, and industrial purposes, including experimental composition, film, video, theatre, game design, mobile applications, sound design for urban environments, and beyond.”
In addition to plenty of co-op opportunities, the program offers a diverse set of courses ranging from Programming Basics and Game Interface Design to Hip Hop in the Music Industry and Interactive Music Programming. Students in this program will complete a Music Technology Capstone/Senior Recital or a Game Design Capstone.
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron, art collector, and real estate developer John Ringling. A member of the only global association to serve art and design education research (Cumulus), RCAD opened with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, the school serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in 13 BA and BFA degree programs and nine minors. Computer Animation, Film, Game Art, Illustration, and Virtual Reality Development are just a few degree options.
RCAD programs offer a rigorous curriculum, which combines studio and liberal arts, with client projects, substantive internships, and national competitions. The program option for aspiring game designers is part of the Computer Animation Department, which serves around 20% of the student population. The Department also houses eight state-of-the-art computer labs in addition to three open labs. Students in the Department are also experimenting with VR technology using the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
The BFA with a Game Art Major is one of the few programs available that focuses on visual art for computer games. Students in the program will study “the basics of game design mechanics, meaningful play, interactivity, and options for creating and refining game content,” says the school. The technical aspects of 3D animation software and game engines will also be explored.
Other program highlights include visiting artists from major game studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, and Riot Games, and internships at these studios and others such as Electronic Arts, Insomniac Games, and Sony Online Entertainment. Graduates of RCAD enjoy a high professional placement rate at Activision, Blizzard, Cartoon Network Game Studios, Disney Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Gameloft, Hasbro, Intel corporation, LucasArts, Microsoft Game Studios, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Riot Games, Sony Imageworks Interactive, Zynga and many others.
Established in 1890, Columbia College serves nearly 7,000 students from nearly every state and more than 60 countries. The school offers more than 100 academic majors or programs across several schools and more than 20 departments. Schools include the School of Media Arts, the School of Fine and Performing Arts, and the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department, which is housed within the School of Media Arts. Options include a BA in Game Art, a BA in Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development and Game Sound Design, and BA and BS degrees in Programming with a Concentration in Game Programming. A BS in Music Technology along with Game Art and Game Design Minors are also available.
Game Design students will have the opportunity to create games right away in their first semester and create many more throughout their time at Columbia. The software tools used in class are the same tools students will use as professional game artists. “The curriculum mirrors the collaborative environment of the game industry,” says the school. Students will work in collaborative teams formed from seniors in Game Art, Game Design, Game Programming, and Game Sound.
The Senior Capstone provides the opportunity to work in small (Indie Game Studio) or large (Large Team Game Studio) groups to develop a game. Students will also have the opportunity to show their work at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, South by Southwest (SXSW), and Industry Night at Columbia College.
Students in all programs have access to The Game Lab. Per the school, “this center for student-led game research includes PC- and console-gaming hardware, including both current generation consoles as well as an archived collection, a high-definition AV system, and a library of several hundred video game titles.”
Graduates of the Game Programs at Columbia College have landed positions at Pixar, Weta Digital, NetherRealm Studios, Raw Thrills, Iron Galaxy, Raven Software, Sony, Incredible Technologies, High Voltage Software, and many others.
Founded in 1865, Cornell University serves 23,600 students enrolled in more than 80 formal majors, 70 minors, and dozens of graduate programs in 15 colleges and schools. The program for aspiring game designers is offered through the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, Computing and Information Science Department (Cornell CIS).
Known as the Game Design Initiative at Cornell University (GDIAC), the program was formed in 2001. GDIAC offers a Game Design Minor, as well as informal support to graduate students and faculty interested in pursuing game-related research. Here’s how the GDIAC works: students pick a major in a core area (e.g., Computer Science, Information Science, Art, Music, Writing, etc.). They may take as many game courses as they can, and build a portfolio of games through independent studies. Course highlights include Computer Game Development, Advanced Projects in Computer Game Development, and Analytics-Driven Game Design.
GDIAC students will work in interdisciplinary teams of four to six to create a game. Students may present their projects at the annual GDIAC showcase, which is open to the public. Per the school, “any undergraduate student in any college at Cornell University can pursue the Game Design Minor and have it added to their transcript.”
Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) serves nearly 6,500 students from more than 60 countries and 45 states. WPI's 14 academic departments offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science, engineering, technology, business, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts, leading to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
The Division of Arts & Sciences has several pathways for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include BA and BS degrees in Interactive Media & Game Development (BA IMGD and BS IMGD) and a BS in Computer Science. Minors in IMGD and Computer Science are also available. Graduate offerings include an MS in IMGD and a PhD and Graduate Certificate in Computer Science.
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 Writing for Games, Game Audio, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Virtual Reality, and 3D Modeling. 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.
Established in 1961 as the Laguna Beach School of Art, Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) serves 670 students enrolled in five BFA and two MFA programs. With 168 students, Game Art is the second largest program at LCAD. Degree options include a Game Art BFA and a Game Design MFA.
The project-based BFA program highlights a collaborative environment, partnerships with USC’s graduate program (GamePipe), among others, and exclusive access to teachers and mentors that come from Blizzard Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, Appy Entertainment, Double Helix, Obsidian Entertainment, NCsoft Carbine Studios, Insomniac, and Highmoon.
The school says that students may choose to further develop and perfect their skills through industry internships that apply theory to real world situations. Additionally, the Game Art program hosts workshops that have featured such inspirational giants as Steven Huston and Nathan Fowkes.
The Game Design MFA is an online two-year terminal degree that explores the design and development of games as a creative practice. Per the school, “the program offers a unique, multidisciplinary approach that bridges the gap between theory and practice in game design.” Course highlights include Game Narrative, Specialized Programming, Game Audio, Game Production, Mechanics Based Game Analysis, Management Psychology, and Prototyping. The program also features a Meaningful Games Summer Session worth six credit hours.
Select MFA program candidates “will create a graduate level game development environment, replicating that which reflects the current industry model, nurturing advanced skills in design, research and development, leadership and marketing in the creative art of game design.”
Established in 1878, Champlain College serves around 2,130 students from 44 states and 18 countries. The school offers more than 150 subject areas, including undergraduate majors, minors and specializations as well as online and on-campus graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain has four academic divisions including the Division of Communication & Creative Media, Robert P. Stiller School of Business, the Division of Education & Human Studies (EHS), and the Division of Information Technology & Sciences.
The Division of Communication & Creative Media offers BS degrees in Game Art & Animation, Game Design (with an optional Specialization in Sonic Arts), Game Production Management, and Game Programming. A BFA in Creative Media is also available, as well as a Game Programming Minor. The BFA has Game Media and Interaction Design Specializations and students have the option to choose one primary and two complementary specializations to enhance their degree.
Through the game programs’ “Upside-Down Curriculum,” students will take relevant courses, including Game History & Development and Introduction to Game Design, in their first year at Champlain. This gives them the advantage of gaining hands-on knowledge about the major from the start. Students will have the opportunity to build their portfolios using state-of-the-art technology resources at the school’s new cutting-edge multimedia, 3-D art and game production labs.
Another important aspect of the Game program is the collaborative environment of the school’s Game Studio. Here, Game Programming majors work with their counterparts in Game Art & Animation and Game Design as well as Game Production Management to build games from start to finish. The Game Studio replicates a professional game development setting to give students a firsthand understanding of how creative teams collaborate to develop individual game assets and coordinate them into a functional product.
All students have the opportunity to study abroad in Montreal, Canada, with internship opportunities at the Montreal Game Summit and the Montreal International Game Developers Association. Recent internship opportunities (outside of the Canada options) include Microsoft Game Studios and Wired Magazine.
Students may also participate in the Game Development Senior Show where they will present games they create with their Game Studio team to recruiters from all over the East and Canada, including Square Enix/Eidos, Gameloft, Warner Bros./Turbine, Behaviour and Activision/Vicarious Visions. Networking opportunities are also part of the program. Facilitated by the Game Studio Career Coach, these opportunities allow students to meet with top recruiters from companies such as Ubisoft, ArenaNet, Crystal Dynamics, Activision, Survios, Insomniac, Rockstar, and Sony.
John Hancock and Samuel Adams signed Becker College’s founding charter. Notable graduates and students include Eli Whitney (1788), William Morton (1836), and Elliott P. Joslin. Founded in 1784, Becker College is one of the 25 oldest institutions in the U.S. The school, which enrolls nearly 1,700 students from around the country and across the globe, offers 29 areas of study across six academic divisions including Animal Studies, Business, Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, Design, Education and Psychology, and Nursing and Health Sciences.
The Design Division houses the Interactive Media Design program, which offers a BA in Interactive Media Design with Concentrations in Game Arts, Game Development and Programming, Game Production and Management, Game Design and Game Audio. A rigorous 60-credit MFA in Interactive Media is also available as well as a BA in Interactive Media Design/MFA Fine Arts 4+1 (Game+) Program, and a BS in Applied Computer Science with a Game Programming Specialization. A Minor in Interactive Media Management is also available.
Established in 2006, Becker’s Interactive Media Program began with just 12 students. Today, the program has around 600 students, which led to expanded academic offerings and resources, such as the MFA in Interactive Media and the $7.3 million Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides student’s access to Game Studio and an Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality lab.
Besides a variety of game programs and resources, Becker College houses the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI). Established in 2011, “MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, industry and government, aimed at fostering the growth of the game industry and innovation economy.” It is a statewide center, “designated by the Commonwealth, for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.”
Students work on real game properties, government simulation projects, and educational and serious games that the school says “are making a difference in people’s lives.” Students participate in internships and externships, and are exposed to networking opportunities with industry professionals at conferences such as the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Boston’s PAX East, where they debut the games they created.
Becker students have produced digital technology applications for John Hancock, Meditech, UMass Medical School, Oracle, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Army, to name a few.
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. The school serves approximately 1,100 full-time students enrolled in 11 BFA degree programs ranging from Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design) to Toy Design. The school also offers MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing as well as a variety of minors and certificate programs.
Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game and Entertainment Design Emphasis and a Minor in Digital Media. Offered through the Digital Media Department, the BA program consists of unique courses such as Connections Through Color, Basic 3D for Storytellers, Game and Entertainment Basics, The Visual Language of Film, Games and Design, CG for Digital Artists, and Creative Action Studio. Students will also take a number of studio electives, practicums, and seminars, and complete a senior project and capstone.
Through the curriculum, the school says Game and Entertainment Design students “will learn to create visual elements for games, apps, films, and other platforms.” 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.” Students will have access to nine state-of-the-art labs and shops to complete their projects.
OTIS alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, and Nickelodeon.