What are the top private game design schools in the U.S. for 2021?

Top 25 Private Game Design Schools in the U.S. – 2021 College Rankings
RankingSchool% of Schools Considered
1University of Southern CaliforniaTop 2%
2Carnegie Mellon UniversityTop 3%
3New York University Top 4%
4Rochester Institute of TechnologyTop 6%
5DigiPen Institute of TechnologyTop 7%
6Savannah College of Art and DesignTop 8%
7Full Sail UniversityTop 9%
8Massachusetts Institute of Technology Top 10%
9Ringling College of Art and DesignTop 15%
10Gnomon School of Visual EffectsTop 15%
11DePaul UniversityTop 15%
12Southern Methodist UniversityTop 20%
13Drexel UniversityTop 20%
14Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTop 20%
15Columbia College ChicagoTop 20%
16Champlain CollegeTop 25%
17The New School/ParsonsTop 25%
18Northeastern UniversityTop 25%
19Becker CollegeTop 25%
20Worcester Polytechnic InstituteTop 30%
21Laguna College of Art and DesignTop 30%
22Otis College of Art and DesignTop 30%
23Academy of Art UniversityTop 30%
24University of PennsylvaniaTop 35%
25Maryland Institute College of ArtTop 35%

Our 2021 rankings of the Top 25 Private Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California (top 2% of schools considered)
University of Southern California

University of Southern California (USC) was established in 1880. This private research university opened with just 53 students and 10 teachers. Today, the school serves 46,000 students and 4,000 full-time faculty. In addition to the Los Angeles campus, USC has programs and centers in Marina Del Rey, Orange County, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Catalina Island, Alhambra, and around Southern California.

More than 200 undergraduate programs and over 400 graduate and professional programs are offered in 23 academic schools and units. 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 3D Computer Modeling and Graphics, Computer Science, Documentary, Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Design, Game Entrepreneurism, Game Studies, Game User Research, Immersive Media, Themed Entertainment, Video Game Design, and Management and Video Game Programming.

In addition to a range of program options for aspiring game designers, USC offers salaried or paid internship opportunities and the school 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.

Organizations that have recruited USC students for salaried or paid internships include 3Q Digital, Apple, Blackstone Gaming, CBS Interactive, Disney, Epic Games, ESPN, Heavy Iron Studios, NetEase Games, and Riot Games, to name a few.

2. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (top 3% of schools considered)
Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU or Carnegie Mellon) is a global university established in 1900 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In addition to the main campus in Pittsburgh, the school has more than a dozen degree-granting locations including Silicon Valley, Africa, Qatar, and Australia, to name a few. Serving more than 14,500 students representing 100+ countries, CMU has produced 10 Academy Award winners, 50 Tony Award Winners, and 20 Nobel Laureates. The school is also the former home of Andy Warhol.

Carnegie Mellon offers 80 majors and over 90 minors within its six undergraduate schools, colleges, and inter-college degree programs. Game design programs are offered through multiple areas.

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. The School of Art at CMU offers a BFA with a Concentration in Electronic and Time-Based Media.

The BFA curriculum “implicitly encourages cross-disciplinary study and as such, many students merge fine art and computer science based interests either within” the program “or through the unique BCSA degree program,” says the school. Areas of focus include animation, bioart, computational and interactive art, game arts, tactical media, tangible media, and video and performance.

The BFA also offers the opportunity to pursue an additional major in a technical field. “Particularly popular among students interested in interactive design and new media is the secondary major or the minor in Human-Computer Interaction.” The program “encompasses interdisciplinary work in design, computer science, and behavioral and social science, ideal for students who may wish to pursue a career in video game design, smartphone app design, or interactive robotics, or who are interested in gaining an understanding of human behavior to make interactive artworks.”

The Human-Computer Interaction Institute at CMU also offers an accelerated Master’s program, which allows undergraduate students to obtain a Master’s degree (MHCI) with an extra year of coursework. Students can customize their own path with electives from across the university. 

The College of Fine Arts IDeATe Collaborative Studios include Game Engine Programming offered with the Robotics Institute, Research Issues in Game Development offered with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at CMU, and Programming for Game Designers—also offered with the ETC. Students in all areas will gain skills in collaboration and the iterative design process, game programming, game systems and mechanics design, interactive narrative and character development, interface design and user testing, and visual and audio asset creation.

Two additional game design options are offered through the ETC at CMU. Founded in 1998, the Center 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. The MET is currently considered a terminal degree.

3. New York University, New York, New York (top 4% of schools considered)
New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts

Founded in 1831 and serving more than 60,500 students, New York University (NYU) is the largest private university in the U.S. The school has the highest number of international students in America, with degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, along with nearly a dozen 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 acting, animation, dance, design, film, games, interactive media, performance, photography, preservation, public policy, recorded music, and writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television 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 Design, Game Development, and Game Studies and four production areas including Audio Design, Game Business, Programming, and Visual Design. A Capstone is also part of the program.

The Game Center MFA is a two-year degree that includes classes in Game Design, Game History, Game Production, and Game Studies. Students in the program gain hands-on experience by taking studio courses and participating in play labs, and electives offer the opportunity to “explore everything from Game Journalism to Games and Players (a class on the psychology and emotions of game play),” says the school.

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," says the school.

In 2019, NYU Tisch School of the Arts and NYU Shanghai launched a Master of Arts in Interactive Media Arts. “The yearlong degree program pairs two online semesters with three immersive residencies at locations in NYU’s global network,” including New York, Berlin, and Shanghai. A collaboration between the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU Tisch and the Interactive Media Arts Program (IMA) at NYU Shanghai, the MA “is focused on the production, application and understanding of interactive media for creative expression and critical engagement.”

Students in this new program benefit from full access to IMA’s communal makerspace for production, prototyping and user-testing, immersion in both the commercial and cultural activities of Shanghai and surrounding areas, the local dialogue series, artist talks, industry visits, workshops and communal programming, and visits to Shenzhen—“an epicenter of design, manufacturing and innovation.”

Course highlights include Creative Coding, Design for Communication (includes hands-on experience in 2D and 3D), Designing Change, Interface Lab (VR/AR), and Virtual Worlds. The program also covers entrepreneurship and a thesis is required to graduate.

4. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York (top 6% of schools considered)

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829) and a technical training school known as 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 has campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China and it serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Urban Community Studies.

RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) houses the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM), which offers BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development and a BS in New Media Interactive Development. Minors in Game Design & Development (GAMEDD-MN) and Game Design (GAMED-MN) are also available as well as an accelerated BA/MS that takes five years to complete.

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

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

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

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

5. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington (top 7% of schools considered)
DigiPen Institute of Technology

Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology was the first school in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in Video Game Technology and Development. More than 550 companies have hired DigiPen graduates and the school is located near more than 400 interactive media companies in one of the largest video game centers in the world.

Serving around 1,175 students from across the U.S. and nearly 50 countries around the world, DigiPen has international campuses in Singapore and Spain as well as educational partnerships with Keimyung University in South Korea and Thammasat University in Thailand. 

DigiPen offers nine undergraduate and two graduate program options in five categories: Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio.

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, an MFA in Digital Arts, and a Minor in Mathematics.

The BA in Game Design includes extensive design coursework coupled with a deep dive into communications, psychology, and user experience. Students in the program will design original games and applications, they will learn how to rapidly prototype ideas, and they sill study human behavior from a “variety of lenses,” says the school. Focused subjects include Game Design and Development, Foundational Math and Science, and Humanities and Arts.

The BA also has six specialization tracks including Level Design, Narrative Design, Systems Design, Technical Design, User Experience (UX) Design, and User Research.

The BS in RTIS offers “extensive training in mathematics and physics,” and students will “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.”

DigiPen’s MFA in Digital Arts highlights courses such as 3D Concepts and Production, Character Design, Cinematography and The Art of the Story, Game Design, Development and Production, Facial Rigging and Animation, Organic and Hard Surface Modeling, Physics for Animation and Modeling, Scripting for Games, Storyboarding, and Texturing for 3D. A Team Project is part of the program as well as an Internship.

DigiPen student games have won more than 50 Independent Games Festival awards (more than any other school) and DigiPen alumni have been credited on more than 1,000 commercial game titles. Additionally, more than 550 companies around the world have hired DigiPen graduates. Program alumni have gone on to land job titles such as Content Designer, Director, Game Designer, Game Scripter, Level Designer, Technical Artist, Technical Designer, UX Designer, and many others.

6. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 8% of schools considered)
Savannah College of Art and Design

Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) began in a renovated armory, serving as the first classroom and administration building. Since then, the school has grown into a multi-campus art college with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. The school, which serves more than 15,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, offers 40+ majors and over 75 minors—more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design college.

The School of Digital Media at SCAD offers a BA in Digital Media with a Concentration in Game Development or 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 Atlanta, Savannah, and eLearning campuses. This program requires 45 credit hours in the concentration. Game Development course highlights include Applied Principles: Game Art and Game Design, Core Principles: Programming, Digital Communication, Digital Design Aesthetics, and Introduction to Interactive Design and Game Development.

Interactive Design course highlights include Anatomy, Form, and Space, Digital Design Aesthetics, Interactive Design and Game Development, Interactive Web Design, Programming, and Social Media Applications. Students may choose additional game design courses thanks to 20 hours of free electives. Both concentrations offer internship opportunities.

The 180 credit hour BFA is offered in Atlanta and Savannah. The program requires 75 hours in the major including courses such as Interactive Design and Game Development Postproduction, Interactive Design and Game Development Studio I & II, and Programming. Students in the BFA program will choose between two concentrations: Game Development or Interactive Design and Physical Computing. Course highlights include Game Art, Game Tech, User-Centered Design, and Visual Design for Interactive Media.

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

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

The MFA program consists of 45 credit hours of study including courses such as Character Development, Environment for Games, Game Design Documentation, and Scripting for Interactivity. Students will also take Thesis Studio I & II, and complete a Graduate Internship. The MFA program is offered at the Savannah campus and through eLearning.

At SCAD, professionals visit with students every quarter, interviewing for positions and reviewing portfolios. Recent visitors include representatives from Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Crystal Dynamics, Electronic Arts, and Zynga. Graduates have been recruited by Epic Games, Firaxis Games, Sucker Punch Productions, and many others.

7. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (top 9% of schools considered)
Full Sail University

Full Sail University was established in 1979. The school offers AS, BS, BFA, MS and MFA programs in Entertainment, Media, and the Arts. Graduate certificates are also available. Located just 35 minutes from downtown Orlando and Universal Studios, the school also offers unique internship opportunities to a population of 15,000 students.

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. A Game Design Certificate is also available.

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 Balancing, Game Mechanics, 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.”

The Game Design Certificate “gives students foundational knowledge in the structure and rules of gameplay, workflows, and game design theory.” Students in the program will gain basic skills in analyzing decision-making in gameplay, scripting testable algorithms, and using digital tools. “With curriculum in C# programming, logic, and functions,” this seven-month campus or online certificate “equips students to pursue roles in creating and testing interactive designs in the game design 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.

8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts (top 10% of schools considered)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded 1861. The school serves approximately 11,520 students enrolled in more than 100 programs in 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. “By their nature,” says the school, “games require an interdisciplinary approach to their 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.

9. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (top 15% of schools considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design

Founded by Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College) and circus baron, John Ringling, Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) opened in 1931 with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, the school serves more than 1,600 students from 45 states, 60 countries, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.

A private, not-for-profit college, RCAD offers BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Students in all programs benefit from the school’s “rigorous curriculum” that “employs the studio model of teaching,” says the school, and “immediately engages students through a comprehensive program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts.” Students also benefit from visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks and Blue Sky Studios, focused internship opportunities, and the chance to work with local businesses on real-world projects.

The Game Option is offered in 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 virtual reality (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.

10. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California (top 15% of schools considered)
Gnomon School of Visual Effects

Established in 1997, Gnomon School of Visual Effects is located in Hollywood, California, within the historic Television Center Studio Lot. Classrooms in this 30,000 square foot facility mimic the environments of real production studios, with access to 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.

Both degree and vocational certificate programs are available to students looking to break into the entertainment industry. Individual 10-week courses are available as well, allowing students to mix and match courses to meet their goals. Course examples include Anatomy of Games, Animation for Games, Character Creation for Games, Creature Design, Digital Sculpting, Game Creation, Game Design, Hard Surface Modeling, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Photoshop for Digital Production, Props and Weapons for Games, Texturing and Shading for Games, and Visual Effects for Games.

Formal programs include a BFA or Certificate in Digital Production. A one-year preparatory program, Foundation in Art & Design, is also available.

The BFA in Digital Production is a full-time program that may be completed in three or four years. The curriculum for this baccalaureate 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,” says the school. Through electives, students can enhance particular skills in specific areas of digital production.

The BFA program, which culminates in the creation of a professional demo reel, prepares students to work as digital artists within the animation, games, and VFX industries.

The Certificate in Digital Production is a full-time, two-year program offering emphasized studies in character or creature animation, games, modeling and texturing, or visual effects. Building on the 3D generalist foundation, this intensive program is “geared towards students with a background in art and who desire a career as a digital artist” in the animation, film, games, or visual effects industries.

With a 97% employment rate, Gnomon has helped graduates of both programs land positions at major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Digital Domain, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon Animation, Playstation, Reel FX, Rhythm & Hues, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

11. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (top 15% of schools considered)
DePaul University

DePaul University was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (of Vincentian) religious community. Serving nearly 22,500 students, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States, the 13th-largest private, not-for-profit university in the nation, and the largest private, not-for-profit college in the Midwest.

The school offers more than 300 programs of study in 10 colleges and schools and across 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).

The 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 BS degrees in Game Design and Game Programming, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Systems Concentration, an MFA in Game Design and MS in Game Programming that covers real time computing, computer graphics, and professional retooling for the game industry. Students in this program will learn about software engineering, computer graphics, artificial intelligence, animation, software architecture, and networking. Minors in Game Design and Programming are also available and jointly offered by the CDM’s SoC and SoD.

DePaul University also offers a Game, Cinema, and Animation Summer Academy and the DePaul Game Experience (DGE). The Summer Academy is a weeklong program that features “hands-on instruction using the latest equipment and technology.” Participants may focus on Computer Game Development, 3D Computer Modeling and Animation for Games and Cinema or Digital Cinema Production.

The DePaul Game Experience (DGE) allows a select group of students to work on a game to submit to the Student IGF Competition. Past DGE teams have made entries that were finalists in the IGDA student competition.

Students in all Game Design programs have access to the Deep Games Laboratory and all CDM labs, including several that intersect with the program specifically, including game development and research, gameplay, virtual reality, and playtest and usability labs. The Deep Games Laboratory is a cross-disciplinary design, research, development, and assessment game lab housed in CDM that focuses on games exploring the human experience.

Recent DePaul Game Program graduates have gone on to work at Carbine Studios, Disney Interactive Studios, Firaxis, NeatherRealm Studios, Owlchemy Labs, Phosphor Games, Scientific Games, Wargaming, and many others. Several graduates have gone on to form their own gaming companies, including Young Horses, whose indie hit Octodad was developed at DePaul.

12. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University (SMU) was founded in 1911 by what is now The United Methodist Church. The school serves nearly 12,400 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in seven schools. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered in Lyle School of Engineering and Meadows School of the Arts.

Lyle School of Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Track. Students interested in this track must be admitted to the Professional Certificate Program in Digital Game Development at The Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). The Certificate is “tailored to students who wish to become actively involved in the game development industry as designers or artists,” says the school.

Specializations for the program include Art Creation, Level Design, Production, and Software Development. Course highlights include Digital Computer Design, Graphical User Interface Design and Implementation, Programming for Commercial Game Engines, Software Development for Games, and Team Game Production.

Students will also complete a Gaming Design Project, Senior Design I&II, and six credit hours of advanced electives in the Lyle School of Engineering. An internship is also part of the program.

Meadows School of the Arts offers a BFA in Art/Masters of Interactive Technology (BFA/M.I.T) in Digital Game Development. Supported by the Guildhall, the program “provides the breadth and rigor of a BFA degree, which will develop skills supportive of the in-depth investigation of digital game development fundamentals through the curriculum of the Master of Interactive Technology.” BFA/M.I.T and M.I.T Specializations include Art, Design, Production, or Programming for Games.

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

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

Established in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, Drexel University introduced a cooperative education program, which became one of the first models of its kind in the U.S. Today, Drexel’s cooperative education program remains the oldest, largest, and best-known program in the nation and it is a degree requirement for most majors. This enables undergraduate students, including game design students, to balance classroom theory with practical, hands-on experience prior to graduation. Students have had co-op experiences in Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, London, Spain, and many other places.

Drexel University has a total enrollment of 24,205 students. Over 200 degree programs are offered in 15 colleges and schools, including the College of Computing & Informatics and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which offer several programs for aspiring game designers.

Westphal College of Media Arts & Design houses the Digital Media Department (DMD), which offers BS degrees in Game Art & Production and Game Design & Production, and MS and PhD degrees in Digital Media. The two-year MS program features comprehensive studies in 3D Modeling, Animation, Gaming and Digital Media History, Interactivity, and Theory and Methods.

The College of Computing & Informatics offers 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 school also lists other concentrations such as Game Development and Design and Artificial Intelligence. A Minor in Interactive Digital Media is also available.

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

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

14. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York (top 20% of schools considered)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Established in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is a designated New York State Center of Excellence in Digital Game Development, which works to support and grow New York state’s digital gaming sector. Serving 7,900 students, RPI offers more than 100 degree programs in five schools, including the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), which houses the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Department and the Department of Art.

GSAS pathways include BS degrees in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS) and Electronic Media, Arts, & Communication (EMAC), MS and PhD degrees in Critical Game Design, a Co-terminal Critical Game Design MS, and a BS, PhD, and Minor in Electronic Arts (EART).

BS GSAS students may choose a concentration or dual BS degree from the following options: Arts (Electronic Arts), Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Management/Entrepreneurship, or Writing for Games. Students will explore 3D Animation and Digital Arts, Artificial Intelligence in Games, Experimental Game Design, Game Audio and Music Composition, Game Programming and Software Engineering, Interactive Narrative and Game Storytelling, and Virtual and Augmented Reality.

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, Game Design, Video), Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Marketing Communication and Design, Popular Culture, and Sound Design.

The Department of Arts offers MFA and PhD degrees in Electronic Arts (EART). Both programs allow students to explore everything from Animation and Gaming to Communication Technologies.

Students in all programs may enhance their education by adding a minor, dual major, study abroad, internship, or the co-terminal graduate program.

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

Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The school serves nearly 7,000 students enrolled in 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs in the Schools of Media Arts, Fine and Performing Arts, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Media Arts houses the Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department, which offers a number of programs for aspiring game designers.

Options include BA degrees in Game Art and Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development and Game Sound Design, BA/BS degrees in Programming with a Concentration in Game Programming, and Minors in Game Art and Game Design Minor.

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 Game Studio 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. 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,” says the school.

Graduates of the Game Programs at Columbia College have landed positions at studios and companies such as Bungie, High Voltage Software, Incredible Technologies, Iron Galaxy, Jellyvision, NetherRealm Studios, Pixar, Raven Software, Raw Thrills, Robomondo, Skywalker Sound, Sony, and Weta Digital. Some alumni even build simulations for major companies such as John Deere and Walmart.

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

Established in 1878, Champlain College serves more than 2,000 students from 40 states and 18 countries. The school offers more than 90 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, Game Design (with an optional Specialization in Sonic Arts), Game Production Management, Game Programming, and Game Sound Design. 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, 3D 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 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 Activision/Vicarious Visions, Behaviour, Gameloft, Square Enix/Eidos, and Warner Bros./Turbine. Facilitated by the Game Studio Career Coach, students have additional opportunities to network with top recruiters from companies such as Activision, ArenaNet, Crystal Dynamics, Insomniac, Rockstar, Sony, Survios, Ubisoft, and many others.

17. The New School's Parsons School of Design, New York, New York (top 25% of schools considered)
The New School/Parsons

The New School was founded in 1896 as “The Chase School” by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, Parsons launched Advertising, Costume Design and Interior Decoration programs. Today, known as The New School's Parsons School of Design, this art and design college serves 5,100 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the Schools of Art and Design History and Theory; Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.

Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT). Options include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology (DT). The BFA in 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 in DT is a studio-based program that consists of collaborative studios and the thesis studios. "In Collaboration Studio courses, students work on real-world projects with industry firms and nonprofits." Past partners include American Red Cross, Apple, Eyebeam, gameLab, Human Rights Watch, Intel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mozilla, NASA, Red Bull, Samsung, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Students also have the opportunity to work with peers in related programs including Communication Design, Fine Arts, Illustration, and Photography, and they have many elective options to choose from in order to create their own “coherent” study plan. Areas of practice include critical design, data visualization, digital fabrication, game design, interaction design, new media art, and physical computing.

Two additional programs—the BFA in Art, Media, and Technology, offered at Parsons Paris (est. 1921), and the BFA in Design and Technology (New York campus)—offer opportunities to learn game design. These interdisciplinary programs explore art, design, media, and technology, preparing graduates to pursue careers in Animation, Computer Software and Hardware Design, Game Design, Interactive Design, Motion Design, and more.

18. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts (top 25% of schools considered)
Northeastern University

Founded in 1898 as an Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Northeastern University began with less than two dozen students. Today, according to the school’s most recent enrollment figures, it serves nearly 38,000 students at locations in Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; Seattle; Silicon Valley; San Francisco; Toronto; Vancouver; London; Portland, Maine and the Massachusetts communities of Burlington and Nahant.

Northeastern University offers 150 undergraduate majors and concentrations and over 125 graduate programs in 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 programs include BFAs in Game Art and Animation and Game Design, a BS degree in Computer Science and Game Development, and a Game Design and Music BS with a Concentration in Music Technology. Minors include 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 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.

The CCIS BS in Computer Science and Game Development is a combined major, which 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.

19. Becker College, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 25% of schools considered)
Becker College

Established in 1784, Becker College is one of the 25 oldest institutions in the U.S. The schools founding charter was signed by John Hancock and Samuel Adams and notable graduates and students include Eli Whitney (1788), William Morton (1836), and Elliott P. Joslin. The school, which enrolls 1,675 students, 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 School of Design & Technology houses the Design Division, home to 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 the Internal Revenue Service, John Hancock, Meditech, Oracle, UMass Medical School, and the U.S. Army, to name a few.

20. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 30% of schools considered)
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) provides Global Scholarships to 100% of its students to complete "life-changing" project work. The school, which serves 6,870 students from more than 60 countries and 45 states, consists of 14 academic departments that offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business, engineering, humanities and arts, social sciences, and technology, 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.

21. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (top 30% of schools considered)
Laguna College of Art and Design

Established in 1961, Laguna Beach College of Art and Design (LCAD) began as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA). The school was inspired by “pioneering cultural ventures” of the early 1900s such as the Festival of Arts, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach Art Association, Laguna Playhouse, and Pageant of the Masters. Today, LCAD serves more than 700 full-time students enrolled in around 30 degree programs, minors, and specialized minors in areas such as animation, experimental animation, game design, illustration, and painting.

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, Double Helix, Insomniac Games, Obsidian Entertainment, Riot Games, Sony Online Entertainment, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

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 Nathan Fowkes and Steven Huston.

The Game Design MFA is an online two-year terminal degree that explores the design and development of games as a creative practice. The program offers a “unique, multidisciplinary approach that bridges the gap between theory and practice in game design,” says the school. Course highlights include Game Audio, Game Narrative, Game Production, Management Psychology, Mechanics Based Game Analysis, Prototyping, and Specialized Programming. Worth six credit hours, a Meaningful Games Summer Session is also part of the program.

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.”

22. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (top 30% of schools considered)
Otis College of Art and Design

Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the 47-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times—General Harrison Gray Otis. The school, which serves approximately 1,100 full-time students, says its alumni and faculty are “Fulbright, MacArthur, and Guggenheim grant recipients, Oscar awardees, legendary costume designers, leaders of contemporary art movements, entrepreneurs, and design stars at Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch, Pixar, DreamWorks, Mattel, Nike, and Disney.”

OTIS offers BFA degree programs including Architecture/Landscape/Interiors, Communication Arts (Graphic Design, and Illustration), Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design), Fashion Design, Fine Arts (Painting, Photography, and Sculpture/New Genres), Product Design, and Toy Design. Otis awards MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing and a variety of minors and certificate programs are available.

Programs for aspiring game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game and Entertainment Design Emphasis, a Minor in Digital Media, and the recently launched Game Level Design Certificate.

Students in the 16 credit hour Minor will take courses such as Basic 3D for Storytellers, Game Design Basics, and Motion Design Basics. In addition, students will take Senior Business Seminar I & II. The Minor can be added to undergraduate majors such as Graphic Design, Illustration, and Photography, and to MFA programs in areas such as Graphic Design or Fine Arts. 

The Game Level Design Certificate is an 8-course program that “provides the essential knowledge about the gaming industry, its workflows and production environments.” Course highlights include 3D Modeling: Game Design, Concept/Storytelling for Game Design, Game Development Teams, and Scripting for Game Design. Upon completion of the program,” students will have created portfolio-ready product that can be used towards applying to entry-level jobs within the game design profession.”

Offered through the Digital Media Department, the BA program consists of unique courses such as Basic 3D for Storytellers, CG for Digital Artists, Connections Through Color, Creative Action Studio, Game and Entertainment Basics, Games and Design, and The Visual Language of Film. Students will also take a number of studio electives, practicums, and seminars, and complete a senior project and capstone.

Through the curriculum, 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 Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and many others.

23. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (top 30% of schools considered)
Academy of Art University

Established in 1929, and serving more than 7,200 students from 112 countries, Academy of Art University is one of the oldest and largest private, accredited art and design schools in the nation. Family-owned, the school offers programs from acting, animation and architecture to visual development, web design, and writing for film and television. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online.

The School of Game Development at Academy of Art University 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. 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,” says the school.

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

The BS teaches “specialized aspects of design such as monetization, unique control types, rapid development via iteration, and production methods working in teams.” Course highlights include AAA Game Engine Architecture, Vector, Matrices, & Transformations, Artificial Intelligence, Data Structures & Algorithms, Indie Game Programming, Network Programming, Programming for Games, Scripting for Mobile Games, and Systems Design.

Students will graduate from the program 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 3D Modeler, Concept Artist, Game Designer, UI/UX Designer, and many others.

24. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 35% of schools considered)
University of Pennsylvania

Established in 1740, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. A member of the Ivy league with deep ties to Benjamin Franklin, the school has 189 research centers and institutes and it has employed 10 MacArthur Award recipients, four Pulitzer Prize recipients, one Nobel Prize winner, and a National Medal of Science recipient.

UPenn serves 26,675 students enrolled in more than 400 programs in four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools. The School of Engineering and Applied Science, houses the Department of Computer and Information Science and the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS)—home of the Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT.)

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

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

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

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 DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Pixar, and Zynga Games. These are the largest employers of UPenn DMD graduates.

25. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (top 35% of schools considered)
Maryland Institute College of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) was founded in 1826, making it the nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The school, which serves nearly 3,500, attracts more than 175 art historians, critics, designers, poets, visiting artists, and writers from around the world each year.

MICA offers around 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, or MPS degree. Study areas include art education, design, electronic media, fine arts, liberal arts, and professional studies. A number of post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also offered.

Programs for aspiring game designers include BFA degrees in Game Design and Interactive Arts with Concentrations in Game Arts Studio or Interactive Arts Studio. A Game Art Concentration is also available.

BFA students will work in “a team-based, open lab model,” says the school. They will “learn to make games from prototype to finished form and are able to focus on individual areas of interest-including game design, narrative, programing, art production, animation, sound, and more-as they work on collaborative projects with a variety of external partners.” The BFA curriculum “expands upon MICA's successful concentration in game arts, and “reflects the multidisciplinary nature of game development and draws upon the College's renowned faculty in interactive arts, illustration, and animation so that students gain an outstanding technical and conceptual skillset in preparation for a career in game design.”

Students will have the opportunity to create and collaborate in the Dolphin Design Center—a 25,000 square-foot state-of-the-art space with a designated game lab, serving as a nexus of creative ideas and output. Created specifically for designers in the 21st century, the center provides students “with the materials and tools they need to design and make whatever they can imagine.”

Students in the Game Programs at MICA can expect to take courses such as 2D Level and Narrative Design, 3D Game Design, 3D Game Studio, 3D Worlds and Level Design, Advanced 2D Game Design, Art Matters, Drawing: Tradition and Innovation, Game Collaborative Studio, Game/Play: Introduction to Design, and Form & Space. For an additional six credits, students can earn an integrated degree in Humanistic Studies, which combines in-depth coursework in academics with studio practice. Graduates will leave the program with a polished portfolio, which will help them showcase their talents at Game Design companies, technology firms, and more.

MICA designers have been hired for paid positions or internships by Abercrombie & Fitch, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Google, Kate Spade, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Modern Art, National Public Radio, Under Armour, and many others.