What are the best public game design colleges in the U.S. for 2020?
|Ranking||School||% of Schools Considered|
|1||University of Central Florida||Top 2%|
|2||University of Utah||Top 3%|
|3||University of California, Santa Cruz||Top 5%|
|4||University of California, Los Angeles||Top 6%|
|5||University of California, Irvine||Top 8%|
|6||Georgia Institute of Technology||Top 10%|
|7||University of Washington||Top 15%|
|8||University of Texas at Dallas||Top 15%|
|9||Michigan State University||Top 15%|
|10||Texas A&M University, College Station||Top 20%|
|11||University of Texas at Austin||Top 20%|
|12||University of Florida||Top 20%|
|13||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Top 25%|
|14||Indiana University, Bloomington||Top 25%|
|15||The Ohio State University||Top 25%|
|16||Purdue University||Top 30%|
|17||Miami University||Top 30%|
|18||George Mason University||Top 30%|
|19||University of North Carolina at Charlotte||Top 35%|
|20||University of Wisconsin – Stout||Top 35%|
|21||Ferris State University||Top 35%|
|22||University of Wisconsin – Whitewater||Top 35%|
|23||Kennesaw State University||Top 40%|
|24||Clemson University||Top 40%|
|25||University of Connecticut||Top 40%|
What are the 2020 top ranked public college game design programs in the U.S.? For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy, Orlando, Florida (top 2% of schools considered)
Established in 1963 and serving approximately 68,571 students across four campuses, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is the nation’s second-largest university and Florida’s largest by enrollment. Also one of the nation’s youngest universities, UCF offers more than 220 degree programs across 13 colleges. One of the school’s largest programs is game design.
UCF’s College of Arts and Humanities, Games & Interactive Media Department offers a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design that “allows students to integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology," says the school. In the Game Design Track, students "learn the history, design cultural impact and implementation of video games and video game technologies." Students will complete courses that will allow them to "build a series of prototype, casual and longer form games throughout the semester as individuals and in teams."
Other program highlights include the opportunity to participate in game jams and meet-ups, which offer networking opportunities and possible job placement.
UCF houses the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA). This graduate video game design school opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA serves dozens of students enrolled in a 16-month MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks including Tech Art, Programming, and Production.
The MS offers an “immersive, project-based video game curriculum that’s as active as it is interactive.” Students in the program will “become part of a team of fellow students” who will work together as “producers, programmers and artists on real-world projects with milestones and tight deadlines.” Projects are overseen “by some of the best video game faculty in the world.”
UCF also offers an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media. Students in this program may pursue a non-thesis option and portfolios might include works of art, software or games students have designed, written articles, and proposals or projects they have created.
2. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (top 3% of schools considered)
Founded in 1850, University of Utah (The U) serves nearly 33,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world. The school offers over 100 undergraduate and more than 90 graduate programs across 17 colleges and schools, and nearly 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts are home to 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 EAE Interdisciplinary Teaching Program now offers a BS in Games (BSG) designed “specifically for students who aspire to hold careers within the professional games industry or a related field, such as simulation, edutainment, or visualization.” The new program “provides a technical grounding in mathematics and computational skills, core knowledge in the design and production of digital playable experiences, and specialization options that prepare students for technical supervision, tools development and overall game design.” A Minor in Games is also available.
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 BS, five-year BS/MS, and Minor in Computer Science and a BA in Film and Media Arts. The BS in Computer Science and the BA in Film and Media Arts 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 offered through the School of Computing.
3. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (top 5% of schools considered)
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened in 1965. The school serves 18,805 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs across 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE) started the first undergraduate game major in the University of California System. Offered through BSOE’s Department of Computer Science (CS) and Computational Media (CMPM), options include a BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design, an MS in Games & Playable Media, and MS and PhD degrees in Computational Media or Computer Science with a Games Focus.
The UCSC Art Department houses the Arts Division, which offers an interdisciplinary BA in Art & Design: Games & Playable Media (AGPM) and 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 (CGPM). Established in 2010, CGPM houses the schools five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world. CGPM partners include eBay, Google, Sony, EA, Microsoft Studios, the MacArthur Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and many others.
4. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (top 6% of schools considered)
Founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) serves nearly 45,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The school offers 125+ undergraduate majors across 109 academic departments, and more than 40 graduate programs.
The School of Arts and Architecture houses the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers both BA and MFA degrees in Design Media Arts (BA DMA and MFA DMA). UCLA Extension offers a Game Design Specialization as well. The DMA program highlights game design study, interactivity and games, video and animation, visual communication, and more, while the Game Design Specialization consists of four courses including User Experience for Games, AR/MR/VR for Immersive Content: Experience, Game & Media, Introduction to Game Design and 3D Game Design and Game Engines: Unity.
With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab. Per the school, 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. Programming includes public lectures, workshops, exhibitions, a visiting artist program, and an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum.
5. University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California (top 8% of schools considered)
Established in 1965, the University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) serves nearly 36,750 students enrolled over 200 programs through more than a dozen schools. The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences offers a BS in Computer Game Science (CGS). Per the school, the program “is designed around a set of core courses that introduce the fundamentals of computer science (programming, data structures, graphics and artificial intelligence), math (statistics, linear algebra and logic), and games (games and society, game design, game engines and multiplayer games).”
Nearly thirty electives offer students the opportunity to specialize, “focusing anywhere from typical game topics such as modeling, world building and mobile games to more peripheral topics such as software design and social impacts.”
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.”
Graduates of the program continue on to graduate school or they often “find employment in the industry, whether at a major publisher, smaller studio or as self-employed freelancers. Many squarely focus on entertainment, others succeed in bringing their skills to the design and development of serious games in a variety of domains, including healthcare and education.”
6. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia (top 10% of schools considered)
Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) was founded in 1885. The school opened for classes October 8, 1888, with just 129 students enrolled in a BS in Mechanical Engineering program. Today, GeorgiaTech serves more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in over 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors in six colleges and 28 schools.
Degrees are offered through the colleges of Design, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Programs for aspiring game designers are available through GeorgiaTech’s College of Computing.
Degree options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Games Studies or Interaction Focus, an MS degree in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology), an MS in Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. A BS/MS in Computational Media/Digital Media and an Accelerated 5-Year Bachelor's/Master's are also available. In addition to the College of Computing, the BSCM - Game Studies Focus is supported by the School of Literature Communication and Culture within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
The programs, known as [email protected], are part of an institute-wide initiative designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.
Graduates of the Game Programs at GeorgiaTech are prepared to seek careers in Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Special Effects Creation, Animation, 3-D Modeling, Robotics, Virtual and Augmented Reality and Web Design.
7. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1861, University of Washington (UW) serves around 56,795 students across three campuses located in Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma. The school offers more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs and 16 colleges and schools. The Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science, a BS in Computer Engineering, a Combined BS/MS, and a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science & Engineering (CSE). All programs offer the opportunity to focus in Graphics, Vision, Games, and Animation.
In the BS degree programs, students can work with faculty and graduate students on research; collaborate with industry partners; tackle complex design and implementation projects in capstone courses; and tailor their degree to meet their interests and goals. Sample courses include Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Advanced Digital Design, Digital Sound, Data Visualization, and Artificial Intelligence. In addition, students can earn a Certificate in Game Design.
Students in all programs have access to three main labs at UW CSE. All are engaged in research spanning the areas of animation, computer game science, graphics, vision, and visualization. Labs include the Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Center for Game Science, and the Animation Research Labs. Per UW, the GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in computational photography, games for science and education, 3-D reconstruction, Internet photo collections, object recognition, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, and animation, while researchers at the Center for Game Science use gaming to solve grand challenges, crowdsource human problem-solving to aid scientific discovery, and improve student interest and achievement in mathematics.
The Animation Research Labs is a multi-disciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the Department of Architecture, and the Schools of Art, DXARTS, Drama, and Music. The ARL is focused on advancing the state-of-the-art in animation through teaching, research, and computer-animated production in collaboration with experts from Disney Animation Studios, Bungie, Industrial Light & Magic, Microsoft Game Studios, Pixar, and many others.
In addition to the Computer Science and Engineering Programs, University of Washington offers a BFA with a Major in Digital Arts and Experimental Arts (BFA DXARTS) and a PhD in DXARTS. Students in both programs have the opportunity to focus their work in a particular area of experimental arts (computer animation, digital video, digital media art, computer music and sound art, design computing, mechatronics, and so on). Whatever the chosen area, “artists and scholars working at DXARTS engage in teaching, learning, and research within the synergistic, multidisciplinary setting of the center's labs, studios, and classrooms.”
Additional programs include a Certificate in Game Design and nine-week courses including Game Studio Roles & Development and Game Mechanics & Systems Design.
8. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 15% 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 serves 28,755 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. ATEC serves more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students.
Program offerings include a BA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (BA ATEC), an MA in ATEC, an MFA in ATEC with Gaming Studies, and a PhD in 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.
9. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves around 50,350 students from 142 countries, every state in the United States and every county in Michigan. MSU students have access to more than 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 and Development Program.
Founded in 2005, the program offers BA and BS degrees in Media and Information with a Game and Interactive Media Design 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.
Per 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 Media and Information with a Focus in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) + Serious Game Design & Research Certificate and a PhD in Information and Media. The PhD program offers a range of research areas including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Games and Meaningful Play, Game Design and Development, Human-Centered Technology Design, Computational Communication, Media Innovation, and Design and Entrepreneurship, to name a few.
Besides offering a variety of programs for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses 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.”
10. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school serves 69,465 students enrolled in nearly 400 degree 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. A Minor in Game Design and Development is also available.
Per the school, the undergraduate Visualization curriculum “integrates elements of fine arts, three-dimensional design, scientific inquiry and digital technology to provide a broad, wide-ranging educational experience. The core of the program is the studio experience, which explores the relationship between theory and practice through a variety of exercises and projects using traditional and electronic media.”
Another highlight of the program is the required semester away during the Junior year followed by a capstone proposal and studio during the Senior year. “A broad range of directed electives allows the student to gain an in-depth understanding in an area of specialization.” Graduates of the program are prepared for employment in such fields as user interface and web design, the entertainment industry (game design and development, animation and visual effects), as well as fields such as modeling and simulation, data analytics and other fields where visualization contributes to understanding.
Graduates may also “enter graduate programs that emphasize digital media in either computer science or art/design.”
The MS in Visualization is “designed to prepare students for a range of long-term careers in visualization. The program helps students develop the focused expertise and broad foundation knowledge needed in this rapidly developing field.” The program’s core curriculum will give students a “basic grasp of the artistic, scientific, cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline. Beyond this broad training, the program requires students to develop a strong focus area of advanced expertise, and to complete a research thesis in this focus area.”
The MFA in Visualization is the only program of its kind in Texas and one of only a handful of its kind in the U.S. The program is designed for students “seeking a computing technology-infused terminal degree in the visual arts applicable to employment in digital media fields, working as a contemporary artist, and teaching in post-secondary digital arts programs.” This non-thesis degree requires the completion of 60 hours of coursework and a satisfactory presentation of a body of work by the candidate. “A written document addressing issues pertinent to the final study is also required.”
All 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.”
Visualization program alumni can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios including Pixar, Blue Sky, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Rhythm & Hues Studios and Reel FX.
11. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1883, the University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) serves nearly 52,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs in 18 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).
Formerly known as the Game and Mobile Media Applications (GAMMA) program, the University of Texas at Austin Game Development and Design Program allows participating students to “individually build their pertinent skills within their respective degree programs, then come together to collaboratively develop 2D and 3D games for AR/VR, mobile, online, and personal computer platforms in the program’s culminating experience: The Capstone Course,” says the school.
Game 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.
Students may earn a certificate in CS Game Development, CS Mobile Computing, CoFA Digital Art Production, CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production, CoFA Digital World Designer or RTF Visual Effects & Animation. Certificates are awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of the Game Development and Design Program.
Other program offerings include a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Development (BS CS), an MS in Computer Science (MS CS), and a Five-Year BS/MS Integrated Program in Computer Science. The Game Development Concentration culminates in a Capstone Course, which includes 2D Game Development and the 3D Game Development studio. All CS programs offer internships and the opportunity to obtain permanent employment in game development and interactive entertainment.
Graduates of all Game Programs at UT Austin are “ready to design, develop, and provide leadership for the exploding growth in AR/VR, game, mobile app, and creative media agencies and studios in Texas and around the world.”
12. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1858 as Gainesville Academy, University of Florida (UF) serves more than 56,000 students enrolled in 30 certificate programs, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs across more than a dozen colleges and schools. The College of Arts houses the Digital Worlds Institute, which offers a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS) and a Masters in Digital Arts & Sciences (MiDAS). The BADAS program crosses traditional college boundaries between arts, communications, and technology,” says the school. “Students will immerse themselves in every aspect of the new and developing digital landscape — from digital illustration to 3D animation, from programming to video-game design.”
Sample courses for the program include Game Design Practices, Game Development, Digital Storytelling, Writing for Interactive Media, Wearable & Mobile Apps, Design Production Studio, and 3D Digital Animation. Entrepreneurship in New Media, Undergraduate Research Forum, and a Senior Project are also part of the program.
Other BADAS highlights include the opportunity to gain experience working on team projects, access to high-tech facilities including a 5-screen Polymodal Immersive Classroom Theater (PICT) and a Virtual Production Studio (VPS), and the cohort experience. The experience allows a select group of students to “join a community of learners in taking a set sequence of courses together.” Students will network and build relationships with their classmates, work one-on-one with faculty, and participate in discussions.
The MiDAS program “provides students with the technical, design, and professional skills needed to enter and thrive in contemporary interactive media industries.” This one-year accelerated program “focuses in the area of emerging technologies including Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR / VR).” Students will work in a collaborative environment and receive personal attention from faculty and content area experts. Areas covered include Technical Skills, Game Engines and Development (i.e. Unity 3D), Software and Hardware Integration, Design and Interactivity, Visual Design Tools/Tech, 3D for VR/AR, UI-UX, Audio, Digital Compositing, Digital Storytelling, Professional Skills, Project Proposals, Production Pipelines, Project Management, and Critical Thinking and Analysis.
The MiDAS program is “designed for individuals from diverse backgrounds seeking to further their professional career goals at the intersection of interactive media, innovation, and emerging technologies.” Students will create “industry-standard projects that provide the basis for their professional portfolios to be career-ready upon graduation.”
Graduates of the Digital Arts & Sciences programs at UF have gone on to work for companies such as DreamWorks and Microsoft, as well as to form their own successful startups.
13. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 25% of schools considered)
North Carolina State University (NC State) was established in 1887. The school serves 34,340 students enrolled in more than 300 degree programs across 12 colleges and 65 academic departments. The College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science houses the game program. Degree options include a BS in Computer Science (CSC) with a Game Development Concentration and an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) degree.
Per the school, the BS program “allows the student to develop an understanding of the scientific and technological principles associated with the design and development of computer and console games for both entertainment and serious applications.” Students will take all of the courses required for the CSC as well as Game Design and Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Building Game AI, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Human-Computer Interaction, and Computer Graphics.
Students are also required to take Advanced Graphics Projects and Advanced Game Development Projects. Internships and study abroad opportunities are also available, and electives run the gamut from Game Studies and Fiction Writing to Fantasy, Film and Science Fiction.
The ABM 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.
Students in all programs will benefit from The Digital Games Research center (DGRc). Created in May of 2007, the center was designed to “undertake an ambitious agenda of research, education and outreach activities in the area of games and games technologies.”
“Housed in the Department of Computer Science, the center’s faculty include colleagues from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Design, Management and Humanities and Social Sciences that collaborate on a wide range of research and educational initiatives which focus on new modes of entertainment and interaction in digital worlds.”
14. Indiana University, Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana (top 25% of schools considered)
Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington) was founded in 1820 as “State Seminary.” The Seminary became Indiana College in 1828 and Indiana University in 1838. Today, Indiana University is the largest and oldest Indiana University campus, serving nearly 42,950 students (of the systems 91,515 students) enrolled in 577,209 credit hours. The school has more than 550 academic programs across 16 degree-granting colleges and schools, plus the Hutton Honors College.
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to The Media School. Here, students can earn a BS in Game Design with a Specialization in Game Art, Game Audio, or Game Production; a BA in Media with a Concentration in Interactive and Digital Media: Specialization Game Art, Game Audio, or Game Production, or an MS with a Concentration in Design and Production. A Certificate in New Media and Interactive Storytelling is also available.
All game students will study all aspects of programming, art, sound, design, and project management. Courses are a mix of hands-on production classes and seminars in theoretical foundations. Game theory and system strategies is highlighted as well as the production and publication of a finished game developed as part of a team. This original game will be produced through three workshops taken three semesters: Prototype, Demo, and Publish.
All students will also have the opportunity to select 15 elective credits to further refine their career path. In addition, BS students may take Human Computer Interaction courses in the School of Informatics and Computing and study abroad courses such as Game Development: Programming and Practice, Rhetoric of Gaming, and Game Development Lab in Copenhagen, Denmark.
15. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 25% of schools considered)
Established in 1870 as Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, The Ohio State University (OSU) serves 68,100 students enrolled in over 200 majors, minors and specializations through hundreds of departments, colleges, and schools and campuses. The school’s 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 also introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production in Autumn, 2017.
OSU's Department of Art offers a BFA in Art and Technology that allows students to “focus on the creative use, misuse, and investigation of technology in an art-making practice,” says the school. Students in the program will “engage the meaning and material of science and technology through the production of interactive installations, electronic objects and interfaces, moving images, 3D modeling and animation, art games, tactical media, bio-art, performance, digital imaging, rapid prototyping, holography, Internet art, sound, and emerging forms.”
The Department of Design offers an MFA with a Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM) Track. The program requires 60 credit hours of study including core design courses (18 credits), thesis project and writing development (15 credits), and open electives in the themes of studio/lab (12 credits), history/theory/criticism (9 credits), and collaborative/interdisciplinary studio (6 credits). “Students work closely with a three-person thesis committee to develop their thesis topics and the vehicles best used for their development.” Most students complete the program within a period of six semesters.
Course highlights include Digital Image Manipulation, Podcasting, Internet Art, 3D Modeling, Holography I and Holography II, Moving Image Art, New Media Art, Computer Animation, and Video Art I and Video Art II.
Students in all programs utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in the school’s many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
16. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana (top 30% of schools considered)
Established in 1869, Purdue University serves more than 43,400 students from all 50 states and nearly 130 countries. One of the 10 academic colleges of Purdue University, Purdue Polytechnic Institute was founded in 1964 as Purdue University College of Technology. Around 12% of Purdue’s students are enrolled in the Polytechnic Institute, which houses six academic departments and schools offering 70 academic options in six subject areas. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) offers game design programs at all degree levels.
Undergraduate offerings include a BS in CGT with a Game Development and Design Major. The CGT program provides STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math) and games. Studies include trigonometry, calculus, and physics, as well classes in video game design and development, animation, visualization, rendering and programming. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a unique research project.
Projects open to undergraduate students have focused on the use of games for sustainable energy, therapy and medicine, entertainment, information visualization and more.
Graduate offerings include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology offered through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT). The MS offers several focus areas including Game Studies, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Computer Graphics Programming, and Computational Art. The PhD Program offers a CGT Specialization that covers Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration, Animation, and Web Programming and Design.
Students may also earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six years or more if pursued separately. Graduates of the game design programs at Purdue Polytechnic Institute have gone on to work for EA Games, Riot Games, Volition, Zynga, and many others.
17. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (top 30% of schools considered)
Miami University was founded in 1809. The school serves around 24,600 students across one main campus (Oxford, Ohio), three regional campuses in Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, Ohio, and the European Center in Luxembourg. Miami offers bachelor's degrees in over 120 areas of study and graduate students choose from more than 70 master's and doctoral degree programs. Several associate's degrees as well as bachelor's degrees are offered through study at the regional locations.
The school consists of seven colleges, including the College of Creative Arts, which houses the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS). Per the school, this cross-disciplinary institute “works with students and faculty from across Miami University offering undergraduate, graduate certificate and graduate programs exploring the intersection of technology, design business and how digital technology is transforming traditional areas of inquiry.” Program options for aspiring game designers include a BS in Games + Simulation, a BA in Interactive Media Studies (IMS), and a Game Minor.
The BS in Games + Simulation offers three concentrations: Game Art, Game Development, and Game Studies. The program “provides students with an interdisciplinary plan of study covering all aspects of creating and interpreting games. With a focus on making and praxis, the BS in Games + Simulation prepares students for a career or graduate study in game design, development, 3D modeling, creative development, writing or designing, esports, and games in other industries, all while encouraging students to take creative risks, to build things, and to think critically about audiences, narratives, and aesthetics.”
The interdisciplinary BA in IMS “sits at the intersection of Design, Technology, and Business.” The program “exposes students to each of these three foundational areas, which provide a foundation for students to customize an advanced concentration, to focus their experience on a particular area of interactive media.”
The program requires 124 credit hours of study to graduate, including 64 in the IMS major. Course highlights include Game Programming, Game Studies, Game Development, Game Usability & Human Factors, The Business of Games, Research Methods in Games, Game Engine Scripting, Indie Game Development, and Game Prototyping, Pipeline, & Production. Students will also complete a Senior Degree Project and an internship.
The internship component of both programs allow students to gain hands-on experience at a local game design studio or other company. Miami University’s location offers access to a number of studios such as Wraith Games, SGM Games, Max Gaming Technologies, Green Door Games, and many others.
18. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (top 30% of schools considered)
Founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949 and serving nearly 37,700 students, George Mason University (GMU) is the largest public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The school offers 200 degree programs through 11 colleges and schools, including the College of Visual and Performing Arts—home of the Computer Game Design Program. Degree options include a BFA or MA.
The school says that the 36 credit hour MA “consists core courses drawn from interactive design, creative writing for games, the business of games, game design and production, and electives from CVPA or other Mason graduate programs.” The curriculum “is designed to reflect the games industry’s demand for an academically rigorous technical program coupled with an understanding of the artistic and creative elements of the evolving medium.”
Graduates of the program are prepared for employment in the computer game design and development fields, which include the commercial, entertainment, serious games, and federal sectors.
The 120 credit hour BFA program “enables students to focus on the artistic components of computer game design while providing them with the technical skills prerequisite to the field.” A charter member of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, the BFA program is interdisciplinary, which allows students to specialize in one area while “learning the language of many areas.”
Students will take portfolio courses as well as a pre-internship seminar, and they will complete an internship and a senior project. “Students can also network with employers at the Senior Expo, and those who want to start their own businesses can study Game Entrepreneurship.”
BFA and MA students also have access to the Virginia Serious Game Institute based on George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus. The institute offers Virginia schools, businesses and universities hands-on training, certification, research and development assistance by merging game company incubation and rapid prototype development.
The Virginia Serious Game Institute is the only one of its kind on the East Coast and one of only four global affiliated facilities established primarily to support early-entry entrepreneurship into the simulation and game design industry.
19. University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina (top 35% of schools considered)
University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) opened as an evening college center for returning veterans on September 23, 1946. When it opened, the school had just 278 students. Today, UNC Charlotte serves 29,615 students enrolled in 139 majors in 75 programs leading to bachelor's degrees, 65 master's degrees, and 24 doctoral degrees in seven professional colleges. The College of Computing and Informatics houses the Department of Computer Science, which has a number of programs for aspiring game designers.
Options include BA and BS degrees in Computer Science with a Concentration in AI, Robotics, and Gaming, an MS in Computer Science with an optional AI, Robotics and Gaming Concentration, and a PhD in Computing and Information Systems with a Computer Science Track. Course highlights for the undergraduate programs include AI for Computer Games, Game Design and Development, Advanced 3D Computer Graphics, Interactive Computer Graphics, Intelligent Robotics, Machine Learning, and Visualization and Visual Communication.
The Capstone requirement for the program highlights Game Design and Development Studio or Intelligent and Interactive System Studio.
Students in the MS program must take the gaming core, which consists of Computer Vision, Computer Graphics, and Intelligent Systems. The concentration consists of at nine credit hours with course options such as Game Engine Construction, Game Design and Development Studio, Real-Time Rendering Engines, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Natural Language Processing. The program requires 30 credit hours to graduate.
The Department also offers certificates and a minor for game designers. Options include undergraduate and graduate Game Design (GDD) Certificates and a Minor in Software and Information Systems. Sample courses for these non-degree programs include Game Engine Construction, Audio Processing for Entertainment Computing, and AI for Computer Games.
20. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin (top 35% of schools considered)
Established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School, University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) is a Polytechnic University that serves nearly 8,750 students from the U.S. and 47 countries. The school offers 45+ undergraduate majors and 20+ graduate programs through three colleges and six schools. The College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences (CACHSS) houses the School of Art and Design, which serves more than 1,000 students.
Program offerings here include BFAs in Game Design and Development and Entertainment Design, and an MFA in Design.
The school says that the BFA is the first and only BFA in Game Design in Wisconsin, Minnesota, & Iowa. Students in the program gain core skills in art and design such as drawing, 3D modeling, and animation. Program highlights include collaboration with computer science students,
courses covering two- and three-dimensional models, animation and visual effects for video games, television, movies, and access to three labs with industry-standard hardware and software, AAA development kits, Intuos Cintiq Displays, HD and 3D projectors, and virtual reality headsets.
The cross-disciplinary MFA program consists of study in the areas of Entertainment Design, Studio Art, Game Design, Interactive Media, Graphic Design, and more. Courses for the program are delivered through a variety of methods including on-site courses, online, evening, weekend and intensive summer courses. Graduates of the program will be prepared to pursue roles in the academic community and as design professionals and leaders.
The College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management (CSTEMM), Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science with Game Design and Development (GDD) and Mobile Applications (MA) Concentrations, and a Computer Science Minor with nine hours of electives.
A charter member of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, the Game Design and Development Concentration prepares students to design and develop software programs that use digital imagery and physics to create games, simulations or other applications. The school says, these programs can improve healthcare delivery, transform education, strengthen national security, shape public policy and continue to create social networks.
Graduates of the game programs at UW-Stout have landed positions at companies such as Big John Games, Finn Daniels Architects, Design Ready Controls, Wink Frozen Desserts, Find-It-Faster Online, Len Busch Roses, Pixel Spill Games, and many others.
21. Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan (top 35% of schools considered)
Ferris State University was founded in 1884 as Big Rapids Industrial School. Celebrating its 135th anniversary, the school announced that Fall 2019 enrollment was 14,472 students across all campuses, including 9,175 on the main campus in Big Rapids. Ferris offers more than 190 educational programs through the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, Health Professions, Pharmacy, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), and Michigan College of Optometry.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through both the School of Digital Media in the College of Education and Human Services and Kendall College of Art and Design. School of Digital Media programs include a BS in Digital Media Software Engineering (DMSE) and a BAS in Digital Animation and Game Design (DAGD). A Digital Media AS is also available. Per the school, the BS in DMSE is designed as an engineering degree focused on the technologies, procedures, and methodologies involved in the software development process. The program offers students the opportunity to actively compete in many growing industries such as Video Game Development, Information Technology, and Entertainment.
Students in the BAS DAGD program will learn how to create and manipulate 2D textures and images, model, rig, light, animate and render 3D characters and scenes, build content in industry leading game engines, author interactive applications and games, and design and create 3D game level mods. In addition to game design and asset creation, the program prepares students to pursue careers in medical visualization, legal simulation, film, and more.
The AS program combines existing courses within the DAGD, DMSE, and Television and Digital Media Production (TDMP) programs into an introductory and exploratory degree within the School. It allows students to complete their general education requirements while enrolling in courses from across the digital media curriculum.
Founded in 1928 and located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kendall College of Art and Design serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. KCAD offers a BFA in Digital Art and Design. The program allows students to work in one of two focus areas including Entertainment Art (animation, digital 3D, visual development for games and animation, and sequential arts like comics and storyboards) and Multimedia Design (interaction design for the web, apps, virtual reality, the internet of things, and video and motion design animation).
Students in the program will gain knowledge and hands-on experience via high-end equipment and on-campus facilities such as Cintiq Studios and a wide range of cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment, and via access to The Dow Center FlexLab, and KCAD Library. Graduates will leave the program with the skills and experience needed to pursue career paths in areas such as 2D animation, 3D game art, visual development, interaction design, and motion design.
22. University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin (top 35% of schools considered)
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W) was founded in 1868. The school serves nearly 13,000 students across two campuses. The school offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and 119 minors, many areas of emphasis, and dozens of graduate programs through five colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Communication is home to the Department of Art and Design. Program offerings here include BA and BS degrees in Gaming Technology and Communication/Gaming, and a BA in Media Arts.
Per the school, Gaming Technology students “will develop the programming skills and software development expertise required for cross-platform real-time interactive graphics and game development. Students focus on building a solid base of programming skills necessary to take on real-world challenges related to developing games, mobile apps, websites and more.” Course highlights for the program include C++ Sequence, Artificial Intelligence, Game Engine/Modding, and Graphics Programming. An Internship, Special Topics and Independent Study are also part of the program as well as a required Team Project.
Communication/Gaming course highlights include Video Production, Sound and Image, Game Development, Social Media Optimization, and Advanced Audio Techniques. Students in the program will “focus on the role of games in developing culture and communicating messages, intersections and interactions between audio and video, and approaches for the optimization of social media.” Practicum courses provide “real-world opportunities for students to hone their skills in a variety of areas, including web video production, motion graphics, composition/scoring, advanced web development and marketing.”
Media Arts (formerly Visual Media Design) “develops aesthetic sensibility and artistic design skills important in the production of original, creative, digital media content for interactive and time-based computer games, animation, websites, video, special effects, the 3D and motion graphic industry, and artistic productions.”
Course highlights include Graphic Media Imaging as a Web/Interactive Media, Raster/Vector & 3-D Modeling, Graphics and Animation, and Digital Video/Motion Graphics. Students in the Media Arts program may also choose additional elective courses from the Gaming Technology or Communication/Gaming programs.
Two team-based projects courses provide a capstone for the degree programs. In addition, all students may participate in the MAGD Expo—a juried show of interactive entertainment, 3D, 2D, aural, virtual and animated creative work held annually at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.
23. Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Georgia (top 40% of schools considered)
Founded in 1963, Kennesaw State University (KSU) serves more than 35,000 students enrolled in more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia, the third-largest university in the state, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the College of Computing and Software Engineering, Department of Software Engineering and Game Development.
Options include a BS and a Minor in Computer Game Development. The school says that the program “exposes students to the breadth of the field in the areas of digital media, human-computer interaction, the history and theory of gaming, game design, 2D and 3D graphics, simulation, modeling, software engineering, artificial intelligence, data structures, and algorithms.” Students in the program are required to select an upper-level concentration, “to ensure depth in their program of study.” Current options include Media-Production, Distributed-Mobile, Education-Serious, Planning-Management, and Simulation-Informatics.
KSU’s’ Department of Software Engineering and Game Development also supports student organizations and offers Game Jams throughout the year to encourage development of student knowledge and skills outside the classroom. Graduates will leave the program with the skills and knowledge needed to “apply computing and software engineering techniques to the design and production of digital media for entertainment, research, and education.”
24. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (top 40% of schools considered)
Established in 1889 as Clemson Agricultural College, Clemson University serves just over 25,800 students. The school offers more than 190 undergraduate majors, minors and graduate programs through the Graduate School and the Colleges of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Architecture, Arts and Humanities; Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences; Business; Education; Science, and Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences. Calhoun Honors College and Emeritus College are also part of Clemson.
The College of Engineering and Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BA or BS in Computer Science, an MFA or MS in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA or MS DPA), and a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Plan (BS/MS) in Computer Science. Students in the Computer Science programs will take classes such as Algorithms and Data Structures, Software Engineering, Computer Security, Computer Graphics, Game Design and Network Programming.
Launched in 2017, the MS DPA is offered within the Division of Visual Computing in the School of Computing. The MFA DPA is offered through the Division as well. Both programs offer significant collaboration with the departments of Art and Performing Arts. The MFA requires 60 credit hours, including an MFA thesis, and the MS requires 30 credit. The MS has both thesis and non-thesis options. Students in either program can study at the main campus in Clemson or Charleston, South Carolina.
All students have the opportunity to Minor in DPA, which emphasizes Games, Visual Effects, and Computer Animation.
25. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut (top 40% of schools considered)
The University of Connecticut (UConn) was founded in 1881 by brothers Charles and Augustus Storrs under the name Storrs Agricultural School. At the time, SAS was a two-year vocational school, which eventually became Storrs Agricultural College, and began officially admitting women. Today, UConn serves approximately 32,257 students enrolled in 113 majors, 90 research and professional practice fields of study, and six professional degree programs through 14 colleges and schools.
The School of Fine Arts at UConn houses the Digital Media and Design Department, which offers five programs for aspiring game designers. Pathways include BA and BFA degrees in Digital Media and Design with a Concentration in Digital Game Design, MA and MFA degrees in Digital Media & Design: Game Design, and an Online Digital Media Graduate Certificate.
Students in all programs are required to take the foundation curriculum, which consists of Digital Foundation, Animation Lab, Fundamentals of Web Design, Digital Culture, Motion Graphics I, Critical Perspectives of Digital Media, Student Agency (2 semesters), and Design Lab. Game design course highlights include Intro to Digital Game Design, Virtual Worlds & Simulations, Stories in Video Games, Advanced Digital Game Design & Development, Game System Design, Multiplayer Game Development, Disruptive Technologies, and Advanced Game Scripting.
Advanced coursework covers Instructional Game Design, Game-Based Teaching and Learning, Emerging Interactive Interfaces/Techniques, Human-Computer Interaction, and Psychological Principles for Improved Design, Motivation, Education, and Character Design. Current research areas include Game-Based Teaching and Learning, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Apps, Interactive Exhibits, Academic Entrepreneurship and Innovation, to name few.
Besides a variety of course offerings and research areas, the programs highlight internship opportunities at places such as Disney, Boston Interactive, and Rocket Software and participation in DMD Club, After Effects Club, and Video Game Club. Game graduates are prepared to seek positions such as 3D Character Artist, Technical Artist, Gameplay Programmer, Game Designer, User Experience Designer, Producer, VFX Artist, Cinematic Designer, Entrepreneur, Instructional Designer, and many others.