Our 2016 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
The University of Utah (The U) is home more than 31,000 students. Founded in 1850, the school offers nearly 100 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs across 17 colleges and schools. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts are home to the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). Students may choose from four tracks including 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.
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. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
Founded in 1885, GeorgiaTech is home to more than 25,000 students enrolled in more than 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors across six colleges and more than 25 schools. The College of Computing is home to Games@GT. According to the school, this “institute-wide initiative” is “designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.”
Program 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.
3. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
The College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University (MSU) houses the Media and Information (MI) Department. The MI Department offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include BA and BS degrees in Media and Information (MI) 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. 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.”
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.”
Founded in 1855, MSU is home to approximately 50,543 students from all 83 counties in Michigan, all 50 states in the United States, and more than 138 other countries. The school offers more than 200 programs across 17 degree-granting colleges.
4. University of California - Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened to its first class of 652 students in June 1965. Since then, the school has grown to 17,280 students and 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 including 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.
UCSC’s Art Department houses the Arts Division, which 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.”
5. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida
Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the nation’s youngest and largest universities. The school is home to 60,810 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 13 colleges. The School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD), which is housed within the College of Arts & Humanities, and the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) offer several programs for aspiring game designers. The School of Visual Arts & Design offers 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.
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.”
6. University of California Los Angeles, 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 from across the U.S. and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 323 degree programs and majors through the College of Letters and Science, the university’s 11 professional schools, and more than 109 academic departments. The School of Arts and Architecture is home to the 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.”
7. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Established in 1876, Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Home to 59,000 students, Texas A&M is also one of the nation’s largest schools. The school offers nearly 400 bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and first professional degree programs across 16 colleges and schools. Founded in 1989 by the College of Architecture, the Visualization program 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.”
According to the school, “LIVE Lab students work with industry partners including EA, Epic Games and Side Effects Software. Graduates of the program have gone on to work at numerous game design companies, including EA, Certain Affinity, BioWare, gumi America and Virtuix Omni.”
8. University of California - Irvine, Irvine, California
The University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) was established in 1965 and it is home to 30,736 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, 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. University of Texas - Austin, Austin, Texas
Founded in 1883 as “The University of Texas,” University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) is home to more than 51,000 students enrolled in 300-plus academic programs across 13 colleges and schools. The College of Fine Arts, Computer Science Department, Radio-Television-Film Department, and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET) offer an interdisciplinary undergraduate Certificate 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 to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.
10. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
Established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969, the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) 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 in Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC).
ATEC students may choose electives in more than one area. Just a few options for game designers 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, name a few.
11. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University (OSU) was established in 1870. It is home to 45,289 undergraduate students and 10,219 graduate students enrolled in more than 200 majors, specializations and minors across more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art offers interdisciplinary three-year MFA, a four-year BFA program in Art with an Emphasis in Art and Technology, and an MFA in Digital Animation and Interactive Media.
The Art and Technology program focuses on 3D modeling, 3D animation, 3D virtual environments within unity and oculus, art games, interactive projection mapping environments, video Art, interactive robotics, speculative design and professional Practices. The Digital Animation and Interactive Media program concentrates on Videogame Prototyping and Production, Digital Cinematography, 3D Virtual Environments, Experimental and Independent Animation and Interactive Arts Media.
12. Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio
Shawnee State University was established in 1986. It is home to more than 4,400 students enrolled in 80 bachelor’s and associate degree programs, and several master’s degree programs. The Fine, Digital and Performing Arts Department has several for aspiring game designers—a BFA in Game and Simulation Arts, an AA in Art with a Game Design Concentration, a Minor in Gaming Arts, and a BFA in Visualist Design and Interactive Media with a 3D Design or Interactive Media Track.
13. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina
Clemson University was established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College. The school is home to 22,104 students enrolled in more than 190 programs through five colleges and the graduate school. The College of Engineering and Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA or BS in Computer Science with a Minor in Digital Production Arts (DPA), an MFA in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA), and a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Plan (BS) in Computer Science. All students have the opportunity to Minor in DPA, which emphasizes Games, Visual Effects, and Computer Animation.
Many Clemson DPA graduates have been hired by Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks, EA Games, Pixar, Walt Disney Animation Studios, ReelFX, and Sony Pictures Imageworks.