Our 2015 list of the Top 25 Public College Game Design/Development Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
The University of Utah was founded in 1850. It is home to 31,000 students enrolled in nearly 100 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs. The school houses 17 colleges and schools and close to 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts offer the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). Tracks include Arts, Engineering, Technical Arts, and Production. 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.
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, Department of Film and Media Arts and the BS is offered through the School of Computing.
2. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) is home to 43,239 students enrolled in more than 125 programs across 12 colleges and schools. The School of Arts and Architecture houses Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers a BA in Design Media Arts. With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab.
According to UCLA, the Game Lab “supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres.” 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.”
3. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) was founded in 1885. It is home to more than 21,500 students enrolled in more than 80 degree programs and more than 50 minors across six colleges and more than 25 schools. The College of Computing is home to Games@GT—an “institute-wide initiative designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.” The College also offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Game Studies Focus (also supported by the School of Literature Communication and Culture within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts), MS degrees in Digital Media and Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. All College of Computing students will have access to resources offered by the GVU Center at Georgia Tech and the Institute for People and Technology.
4. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy
Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is home to 61,000 students enrolled in 210 degree programs across 12 colleges and dozens of schools and departments. Programs for aspiring game designers are available through two schools—the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD) of the College of Arts & Humanities, and the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA).
The School of Visual Arts & Design offers a BA 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.
The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy 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 around 65 Students enrolled in the MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks. Track options include Art, Production and Programming. During semesters two and three of the program, all students will work on a “final, large-scale game with fellow producers, programmers and artists.”
5. University of California - Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) has been around since 1965. The school is home to 17,200 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs through 10 colleges and dozens of divisions, departments, and schools. Several departments and schools offer programs for aspiring game designers. First, the Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), Department of Computer Science (CS), offers several programs. Offerings 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.
Next, UCSC’s Art Department houses the Arts Division. The Division offers an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) with a Playable Media research option. Finally, UCSC is 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.”
6. University of Texas - Austin, Austin, Texas
The University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) opened in 1883. It is home to more than 51,000 students enrolled in more 300 academic programs across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, the Computer Science Department, and the Radio-Television-Film Department offer an undergraduate program for aspiring game designers.
The interdisciplinary Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) 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” as well as “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
The Certificate is awarded in addition the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.
7. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Michigan State University was established in 1855. It is home to more than 50,000 students enrolled in 200+ programs through 17 colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Media and Information Department offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include a BA and a BS 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.
Graduate programs 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.”
8. University of California - Irvine, Irvine, California
The University of California - Irvine was established in 1965. It is home to more than 29,000 students enrolled more than 100 programs through 12+ schools. The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences offers a BS in Computer Game Science (CGS). According to the School, CGS students will “acquire a solid foundation in computer science and software development” and “learn how to create interactive and human-centered computer game designs.” Students will have the opportunity to work in teams to “design and implement new games.”
9. North Carolina State University Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University (NC State) was established in 1887. It is home to 33,989 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs through 12 colleges and 65 departments. The College of Engineering is home to the Department of Computer Science. The Department offers one program for aspiring game designers—a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Concentration. An Accelerated Bachelors/Masters (ABM) program and a Computer Programming Certificate are also on the menu.
10. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) was established in 1969. It is home to 23,095 students enrolled in 133 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts and Humanities, Department of Arts and Technology (ATEC) is home to more than 1,100 students and it offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a 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 Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC).