Our 2017 list of the Top 25 public Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (top 2% of schools considered)
University of Utah (The U) was founded in 1850. The school is home more than 31,000 students enrolled in close to 200 academic programs. The U houses 17 colleges and schools, and nearly 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts manage the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS).
The Studio offers a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE). Tracks include Game Arts, Game Engineering, Game Production, and Technical Art. According to the Studio, “all students in each of the tracks have a series of common classes including Game Design, Rapid Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Final Project.” In addition, students will “develop and enhance a professional game portfolio” and they will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the game industry.
The David Eccles School of Business and the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Program also offer a dual degree program “designed to take advantage of the complementary elements in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and the Masters of Entertainment Arts & Engineering.” The MBA/MEAE, which aims to bridge the ‘suits’ vs. the ‘dev’ divide, takes three years to complete.
Other offerings include a BA in Film and Media Arts and a BS in Computer Science. Both programs offer an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE). The BA is available through the School of Computing and Department of Film and Media Arts, and the BS is available through the School of Computing.
2. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida (top 4% of schools considered)
The University of Central Florida (UCF) was founded in 1963, making it one of the nation’s youngest universities. With more than 64,000 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 13 colleges, UCF is also the largest university in Florida by enrollment, and one of the largest in the U.S. Based on size alone, it’s not surprising that the school offers one of the largest game design schools in the region as well.
The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) is UCF’s graduate video game design school. The Academy opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA is home to dozens of students enrolled in the MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks. Track options include Art, Production, and Programming. FIEA and the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD) also offer a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design, an MFA in Emerging Media with a Track in Digital Media, and an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media.
3. University of California - Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (top 10% of schools considered)
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened in 1965. The school is home to 17,335 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs across 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), Department of Computer Science (CS), offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design, an MS in Games & Playable Media, and MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a Research Focus in Computer Games.
The UCSC Art Department houses the Arts Division, which offers an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) with a Playable Media Research Option. UCSC is also home to The Center for Games and Playable Media. Established in 2010, the Center houses the schools “five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world.”
4. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (top 10% of schools considered)
Michigan State University (MSU) was founded in 1855. The school is home to more than 50,000 students enrolled in over 200 programs across 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department—home of the game design program. Undergraduate degree options include BA and BS degrees in Media and Information with a Game Design and Development Specialization, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Design and Development Specialization, and a BA or BFA in Studio Art with a Game Design and Development Specialization.
The Specialization is also available to other majors “on a case-by-case basis, particularly those in the Honors College.” An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available. According to the school, “the minor brings together students in Media and Information, Computer Science, and Studio Art. For most majors outside of MI, the Minor often nearly fulfills the student's cognate requirements.” The College of Engineering, College of Arts & Letters, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences administer the Minor jointly. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences is the lead administrative unit.
Graduate game offerings include an MA in HCI with a Games and Meaningful Play Focus, a PhD in Media and Information Studies (Research Area: Games and Meaningful Play), and a Graduate Certificate in Serious Games. Besides offering a wide variety of program offerings for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences is home to the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. According to the College, the mission of the GEL Lab is to “design innovative prototypes, techniques, and complete games for entertainment and learning and to advance state of the art knowledge about social and individual effects of digital games.”
5. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1885, the Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) opened for classes October 8, 1888 with just 129 students enrolled in a BS in Mechanical Engineering program. Today, GeorgiaTech is home to more than 25,000 students enrolled in over 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors. Offerings for aspiring game designers are available through GeorgiaTech’s College of Computing.
Known as Games@GT, this “institute-wide initiative” was “designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.” Degree options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Game Studies Focus, an MS degree in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology), an MS in Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. The BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Game Studies Focus is also supported by the School of Literature Communication and Culture within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
All Games@GT students have access to resources offered by the GVU Center at Georgia Tech and the Institute for People and Technology.
6. University of California - Irvine, Irvine, California (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1965, the University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) is home to 30,600 students enrolled 100-plus programs across more than a dozen schools. The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences offers a BS in Computer Game Science (CGS). According to the School, throughout the major CGS students will “gain hands-on experience in creating a variety of digital games, for entertainment purposes, but also for education, training and engendering social change.” Working in teams, students “will employ a variety of different programming languages, game platforms and hardware.” Overall, the program “strongly emphasizes the technical aspects of creating games, as well as working in teams to design and implement them.”
7. University of Texas - Austin, Austin, Texas (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1883, the University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) is home to nearly 51,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs across 13 colleges and schools. A unique program for aspiring game designers is available through a collaboration between the College of Fine Arts (CoFA), the Computer Science Department (CS), the Radio-Television-Film Department (RTF), and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET).
The interdisciplinary program is known as “Game and Mobile Media Applications” or “GAMMA.” The program allows students from a variety of different degree programs to “collaboratively develop 2D and 3D games for mobile, online, and social technology platforms in the program’s culminating experience: the Capstone Course.” GAMMA students also have the opportunity to work “alongside organizations such as UT’s EGaDS! and IGDA Austin,” and with local game and mobile studios, and industry professionals.
GAMMA students may earn one of the following Certificates:
- CS Game Development Certificate
- CS Mobile Computing Certificate
- CoFA Digital Art Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital World Designer Certificate
- RTF Visual Effects & Animation Certificate
Certificates are awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.
8. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to 43,301 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The UCLA College and 12 professional schools offer more than 5,000 courses in 124 undergraduate majors, 98 master’s programs, 109 doctoral and professional programs, and 91 minors. The School of Arts and Architecture is home to the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers both BA and MA degrees in Design Media Arts.
The DMA program highlights game design study, interactivity and games, video and animation, visual communication, and more. With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab. The primary function of the Lab is as “a research and production space for collaborative teams to pursue focused work on gaming projects.” It supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres, while emphasizing the “conceptual risk-taking and development of new modes of expression and form through gaming.”
In addition to producing games and research, the lab “functions as a center that develops public programming around critical issues in gaming, including: public lectures, workshops, exhibitions, a visiting artist program, and an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum.”
9. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) was established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969. The school is home to 26,793 students enrolled in more than 130 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) was created in 2015. It merged two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. As a School, ATEC serves more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students.
Undergraduate offerings include BA in Arts and Technology (BA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), an MFA in Arts and Technology (MFA ATEC), and a PhD in Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC). Undergraduates may choose between several pathways such as Game Design or Animation. BA ATEC students may also choose electives in more than one area. Examples include User Experience Design for Games, Game Design, Interaction Design, Level Design, Modeling and Texturing, Virtual Environments, Rigging, Game Production Lab, Game Pipeline Methodologies, Serious Games, Game Production Lab, Interactive Narrative, and Educational Games.
Research areas for all graduate students include Game Studies, Game Development, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and more. The program is a good pathway whether students are interested in teaching arts- and technology-related courses in colleges and universities or working in a professional studio or design practice. Graduate students may choose to pursue additional research opportunities.
10. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1876, Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. The school is home to more than 64,000 students enrolled in nearly 400 programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture founded the Visualization program in 1989. It features gaming-oriented study options in the MS and MFA degrees as well as enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level. Degree options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization.
Visualization students have access to the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab. Established in 2014, the Lab “provides space for graduate and undergraduate students to create game prototypes while learning about game theory, the art and science of the visual image and game history. In the lab, through research and rigorous scientific process, students collaborate with specialists from visualization, educational psychology, computer science and engineering to create innovative, interactive software.”
11. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 25% of schools considered)
The Ohio State University offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations from which more than 66,000 students can choose multiple paths to focus on animation in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering. Paths in animation encourage students to explore courses in 3D modeling, 2D/3D animation, video game production, augmented and virtual reality, digital imaging, digital video, interactive visualization, interactive art, game art and design, Art Games, motion capture, procedural content generation for games, real-time rendering, photogrammetry and more at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students in all programs can work on individually-defined or team-based projects.
The Department of Art offers BFA and MFA degrees in Art with an emphasis in Art and Technology. It emphasizes the creation of animation, interactive art and experimental forms in the context of art making.
The Department of Design offers an MFA degree in Design focusing on Digital Animation and Interactive Media. This program emphasizes the production of creative research-based projects in the user-centered context of design.
The Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a specialization in Computer Graphics and Game Design.
Ohio State introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production in Autumn, 2017.
Students utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in our many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
12. Purdue University - Purdue Polytechnic Institute, West Lafayette, Indiana (top 25% of schools considered)
Purdue University was established in 1869. It is home to 39,409 students enrolled in more than 200 majors across 10 academic colleges and schools. Purdue Polytechnic Institute, Department of Computer Graphics Technology, offers 68 academic options in six subject areas, including games. Offerings include a BS with Specializations in Game Studies and Computer Graphics Technology, an MS in Computer Graphics Technology, and a PhD in Technology. A 5-Year BS/MS in Computer Graphics Technology is also available.
13. North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 25% of schools considered)
Founded in 188, North Carolina State University (NC State) is home to 33,755 students across 12 colleges representing all major academic fields. The College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science houses the game program. Degree options include a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Concentration and an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) degree. This program allows students to complete the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree and a non-thesis Master’s in the same field within 18 months of completing the Bachelor’s degree.
The BS program “produces skilled computer scientists with deep knowledge in the algorithms, processes and technologies used to make games.” Highlighted courses include Game Design and Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Building Game AI, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Human-Computer Interaction, Computer Graphics, Advanced Graphics Projects, and Advanced Game Development Projects. Electives run the gamut from Game Studies and Fantasy to Film and Science Fiction.