What are the best public game design colleges in the U.S. for 2021?

Top 25 Public Game Design Schools in the U.S. – 2021 Rankings
RankingSchool% of Schools Considered
1University of UtahTop 2%
2University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment AcademyTop 3%
3University of California, Santa CruzTop 5%
4Georgia Institute of TechnologyTop 10%
5University of California, Los AngelesTop 10%
6Michigan State UniversityTop 10%
7University of California, IrvineTop 15%
8University of Texas at AustinTop 15%
9University of WashingtonTop 15%
10Texas A&M University, College StationTop 15%
11University of Texas at DallasTop 20%
12North Carolina State University at RaleighTop 20%
13The Ohio State UniversityTop 20%
14Purdue University Top 25%
15University of FloridaTop 25%
16Clemson UniversityTop 25%
17Indiana UniversityTop 30%
18California Polytechnic State University, San Luis ObispoTop 30%
19University of Wisconsin – StoutTop 30%
20Miami UniversityTop 30%
21University of North Carolina at CharlotteTop 35%
22George Mason UniversityTop 35%
23Ferris State UniversityTop 35%
24Indiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisTop 40%
25University of Wisconsin – WhitewaterTop 40%

What are the 2021 top ranked public college game design programs in the U.S.? For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (top 2% of schools considered)
University of Utah

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.

2. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy, Orlando, Florida (top 3% of schools considered)
University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida (UCF) opened its doors in 1968 as Florida Technological University with 1,948 students. The first graduating class consisted of 423 students, and the school granted its first doctoral degree in 1977. Today, UCF leads all universities in Florida in conferring more than 17,000 degrees a year. Serving nearly 72,000 students, the school is also the largest university by enrollment in Florida and one of the largest universities in the nation.

UCF offers 103 bachelors and 91 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degree programs in 13 colleges.

UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication & Media, 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’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) offers an MS in Interactive Entertainment. 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 Art, Production, and Programming.

Each specialization requires nine credit hours of study. Students in all specializations will complete a three credit hour capstone that will allow them to complete a large-scale project. A six credit hour practicum allows students to engage in supervised training with a research team, through an on-site internship, by developing a start-up, or with a faculty member on research in an area of interest.

The base curriculum teaches specific skills in the areas of 3D artistry, game design, and programming as well as essential skills such as problem solving, project management, and teamwork.

“Student production teams are mentored by industry trained faculty who provide instruction in” 3D animation and modeling, game design, level design, motion capture, postmortems, preproduction, rapid prototyping, software engineering, and technical design. The program also covers creative collaboration and legal and technical issues.

Graduates of all programs have access to internship and venture opportunities as well as job interviews with media and game companies from across the country.

UCF also offers an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media through the Nicholson School of Communication & Media. Students in this program may pursue a non-thesis option and portfolios might include works of art, software or games. Active areas of work at UCF include Digital Media and Instructional Applications, Interactive Performance, and Serious Games for Training and Education, to name a few. Digital Media faculty have extensive professional and academic experience in animation, digital storytelling, game development, immersive design environments, motion graphics, multimedia, and more.

3. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (top 5% of schools considered)
University of California, Santa Cruz

The University of California - Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz or UCSC) opened in 1965. The school serves more than 19,000 students enrolled in 130 undergraduate majors and graduate studies programs in 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE) at UCSC 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 CS with a Games Focus.

The Computer Game Design Program focuses on the construction and design of interactive computer games. Per the school, “the degree features a freshman year introduction to game design, a sophomore year game programming experience, two upper-division digital media electives, and an intensive senior-year game design studio where students work in teams to develop a substantial video game.”

MS in Games and Playable Media students will learn game art pipeline and integration, game audio design, game mechanics, game programming, and more, while MS and PhD in Computational Media or CS with a Games Focus student’s will immerse in computer game design, history of computational media, media research and methods, and theory of computational media. A thesis is required and graduate assistantships are available.

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.

UC Santa Cruz 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 EA, eBay, Google, Microsoft Studios, Sony, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the MacArthur Foundation, and many others.

4. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia (top 10% of schools considered)
Georgia Institute of Technology

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 in collaboration with the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts’ School of Literature, Media, and Communication.

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.

The game programs 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. Course highlights include Computer Animation, Constructing the Moving Image, Experimental Media, Game Design as a Cultural Practice, Principles of Interaction Design, and Video Game Design.

All Games students have access to resources offered by the GVU Center at GeorgiaTech and the Institute for People and Technology, as well as international campuses in China (the world's biggest games industry in terms of users and revenue) and France.

Graduates of the Game Programs at GeorgiaTech are prepared to seek careers in 3D Modeling, Animation, Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Robotics, Robotics, Special Effects Creation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Web Design. Many have been hired at major video game studios and interactive media firms. Others are now pursuing graduate degrees in digital media, human-computer interaction, and even film studies.

5. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (top 10% of schools considered)
University of California Los Angeles

University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. Considered one of the leading arts and cultural centers in the western United States, UCLA hosts more than 1,000 visual and performing arts events each year that attract more than 500,000 patrons. The school, which serves nearly 45,000 students, offers more than 125 undergraduate majors in 109 academic departments, and master’s degrees in over 80 academic and professional fields. Programs are offered in eight colleges and schools.

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. DMA program courses are taught as studios of no more than 22 students. The program highlights game design study, interactivity and games, video and animation, visual communication, and more. Sample courses include 3D Modeling and Motion, Game Design, Tangible Media, Word + Image, and Video.

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. The primary function of the Lab is as “a research and production space for collaborative teams to pursue focused work on gaming projects,” says the school. 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 an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum, a visiting artist program, exhibitions, public lectures, and workshops.

6. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (top 10% of schools considered)
Michigan State University

Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves around 47,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 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 Games and Interactive Design 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,” says the school. An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available.

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.

MSU offers another program option for students interested in majoring in computer science. The BS in Computer Science, offered in the College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, provides the option to add the Game Design and Development Minor. Students in the program “will learn the foundations, and develop core competencies in their primary area of study and broaden their horizons as interdisciplinary team members, learning game design theories and principles, collaborating on the design and development of game projects, and engaging in active learning and authentic, situated creative problem-solving.”

Course highlights for the Game Design Programs at MSU include Advanced 3D Modeling, Building Virtual Worlds, Collaborative Game Design, Compositing and Special Effects, Computer Graphics, Experiments in Digital Video, Figure Modeling, Game Design and Development, Game Design Studio, Interaction Design, Interactive Environments and Digital Fabrication,  Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Sound Design for Cinema, Television, and Games, and Spatial Design.

Besides offering a variety of courses and programs for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. 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.”

7. University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California (top 15% of schools considered)
University of California, Irvine

Established in 1965, the University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) UCI is one of 65 universities in the U.S. and Canada elected to membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities. The school serves around 37,630 students enrolled 220 degree programs in more than a dozen academic units, including the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences—the only computing-focused school in the University of California System. The School’s Department of Computer Science offers a BS in Game Design and Interactive Media (GDIM).

Formerly known as “Computer Game Science (CGS)” the BS in GDIM “explores both established and emerging platforms, including AR/VR, tabletop, and mobile,” says the school. Hands-on courses are taught by “internationally recognized faculty and industry experts,” and include titles such as Children’s Learning Media, Computer Game Development, Design and Analysis for Algorithms, Game Engine Lab, Game Systems and Design, Game Technologies and Interactive Media, Mobile and Ubiquitous Games, Modeling and World Building, and Multiplayer Game Systems. Capstone Game Project and Capstone Project and Portfolio are also part of the program.

Students in the program benefit from UCI’s location, known as “Silicon Beach,” which offers access to industry partners such as Blizzard, Cartoon Network, Disney, Electronic Arts, Obsidian Entertainment, Riot, Tencent, and more.

Graduates of the BS in GDIM Program “find employment in the industry, whether at a major publisher, smaller studio or as self-employed freelancers.” Some focus in entertainment, while “others succeed in bringing their skills to the design and development of serious games in a variety of domains, including healthcare and education.” Many students “also pursue a career or graduate school in game design, interactive media, computer science, or informatics after they complete the major.”

8. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (top 15% of schools considered)
University of Texas at Austin

Founded in 1883, the University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) serves nearly 52,000 students enrolled in 156 undergraduate degree programs with more than 170 fields of study, 139 graduate degree programs, and nearly 100 doctoral programs. Degrees are offered in 18 colleges and schools.

UT Austin’s Game Design and Development Program is a partnership between the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies (AET) in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Design and Creative Technologies, the Department of Computer Science (CS) in the College of Natural Sciences, and the Department of Radio-Television-Film (RTF) in Moody College of Communication.

“Newly offered classes focused specifically on game design are offered by AET, coursework in coding for games and visualization are offered by CS, and courses offered by RTF center on narrative design, cinematic arts, and emergent media,” says the school. Complementary minor programs and concentrations are “exclusively offered by all three departments to provide a broad and comprehensive curriculum that blends instruction in computer science, media, and design.”

The program highlights the 2D and 3D Capstone courses, where teams of 5-8 students assemble to create 2D games to show prospective employers and learn how to make 3D games (including virtual reality games), while learning the common practices and processes of game studios. 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.

UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Computer Sciences has several additional programs for aspiring game designers. Options 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. Programs include elective options that allow students to study game design and because Texas has the second largest concentration of game studios in the U.S., all CS programs offer local internship opportunities that often lead to permanent employment in game development or interactive entertainment.

Graduates of the 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.”

9. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (top 15% of schools considered)
University of Washington

Established in 1861, the University of Washington (UW) serves more than 54,000 students annually across three campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell. The school’s 18 colleges and schools offer more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs, with more than 1,800 undergraduate courses alone each quarter.

Serving more than 1,500 undergraduates, the Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) offers a Computer Science Program that allows students to tailor their course of study to their specific interests. The program is also highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and it allows students to get hands-on experience building software and hardware and choose advanced courses such as Artificial Intelligence, Computational Biology, Computer Graphics and Animation, Computer Networking, Computer Security and Privacy, Data Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, and much more.

Allen School degree options include BS degrees in Computer Science and 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 or add a Certificate in Game Design offered through UW’s Professional & Continuing Education Division.

Students in the BS programs 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. Course highlights include Advanced Digital Design, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Data Visualization, and Digital Sound.

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. The GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in computational photography, says the school, as well as games for science and education, 3-D reconstruction, Internet photo collections, object recognition, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, and animation.

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.

10. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 15% of schools considered)
Texas A&M University

Established in 1876, Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Consisting of more than 5,200 acres at the College Station campus alone and serving more than 69,000 students, Texas A&M is also one of the nation’s largest universities.

The school offers 133 undergraduate degree programs, 175 master's degree programs, 92 doctoral degree programs and five first professional degrees in 17 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture houses the Visualization Program, which was established in 1988. The program offers 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.

The BS in Visualization is a 120 credit hour studio-based program that integrates aspects of fine arts, 3D design, and digital technology into the studio experience. The program focuses on “the processes of creation, design and development of the visual experiences” says the school.

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), and fields such as modeling and simulation, data analytics, and other areas 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 (MFA-V) 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 Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
University of Texas at Dallas

The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) was established as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW) in 1961 by the founders of technology company Texas Instruments. The school became an official member of the University of Texas System in 1969. Today, UT Dallas serves more than 28,000 students enrolled in over 140 academic degrees in eight schools, including the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC).

Created in 2015, ATEC merged two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. Serving more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students, ATEC offers programs that blend Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Management (STEAM).

Degree pathways 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. Elective highlights include Educational Games, Game Design, Game Pipeline Methodologies, Game Production Lab, Interaction Design, Interactive Narrative, Level Design, Modeling and Texturing, Serious Games, User Experience Design for Games, and Virtual Environments.

Research area options for all graduate students include Computer Animation, Game Development, Game Studies, and Interaction Design, to name a few. 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.

ATEC students have access to a number of studios and labs housed in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. Spaces include the 3D Studio, CG Animation Lab, experimenta.l. Animation Lab, Game Lab, Games Research Lab, Mixed Media Lab, Motion Capture Studio, Narrative Systems Research Lab, Render Farm, Surround Studio, and The Studio for Mediating Play. The building also houses a Games and Media Library and the Lecture Hall.

Speakers such as “Father of the Internet” Dr. Vinton Cerf, and others from Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar, have been featured in the Lecture Hall.

12. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 20% of schools considered)
North Carolina State University at Raleigh

North Carolina State University (NC State) began as a land-grant institution in 1887 focusing in agriculture and research. Today, the school is a leader in agriculture, business, education, natural resources, and textiles. Serving more than 36,000 students, NC State is also one of the nation’s largest schools, offering more than 300 degree programs in 12 colleges and over 60 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.

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,” says the school. Students will take all of the courses required for the computer science degree, as well as courses such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Building Game AI, Computer Graphics, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Game Design and Development, and Human-Computer Interaction.

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.”

Students interested in multiple areas of art and design as well as game design might consider two other degree pathways offered at NC State—the Bachelor of Art and Design and the Master of Art and Design (MAD). Offered in the College of Design, Department of Art and Design, the undergraduate program allows students to develop “creative portfolios through a wide-range of 2D and 3D hand-based and computer-based processes.”

In addition to game design, these processes include 3D modeling, animation, digital fabrication, drawing and illustration, fibers, graphic and interactive narratives, interactive and computational media, motion graphics, soft materials construction, virtual and augmented reality, visual composition, visual effects, web design, and more. Students will gain additional skills through the required International Experience.

MAD students will have the opportunity to explore Computer Gaming Serious Games, which focuses on “the creation and application of training models and simulations to balance adaptive learning with natural learning environments used with commercial game companies, simulation developers, and technologies that create immersive learning environments.” Animation and Digital Storytelling, Kinetic Interaction Design, and Mechatronics and Electronic Art are other areas MAD students will explore. A final project is also part of the program.

13. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 20% of schools considered)
The Ohio State University

The Ohio State University (OSU) is a land-, sea- and space-grant university established in 1870. The school houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation, and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines.

Serving more than 68,000 students, OSU offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools. The school’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) in the College of Engineering 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 in the College of Arts and Sciences 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.”

Also in the College of Arts and Sciences is Department of Design, which offers an MFA with a Digital Animation an 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).

14. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana (top 25% of schools considered)
Purdue University – Purdue Polytechnic Institute

Established in 1869, Purdue University is Indiana’s land-grant university. In existence since 1964, Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue. The Institute, which began as the university’s School of Technology, enrolls around 12% of Purdue’s students (nearly 5,000) at the West Lafayette campus. Seventy academic options are available in six subject areas in seven departments. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) houses the Computer Graphics Technology Program, which offers game design programs at all degree levels.

At the undergraduate level, a BS in CGT with a Game Development and Design Major is available. 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 Computational Art, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Studies, and Virtual and Augmented Reality. The PhD Program offers a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration, 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 or more years 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.

15. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (top 25% of schools considered)
University of Florida

The University of Florida (UF) was founded as Gainesville Academy in 1858 by educator and senator James Henry Roper. The small school opened with just a few students. Today, UF sits on a 2,000-acre campus with more than 900 buildings, including the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified building in the state of Florida. UF also serves 56,570 students, making it one of the largest schools in the U.S.  Programs include 30 certificates, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs in 14 colleges and schools.

Established in 1925, the UF College of the Arts offers fully accredited schools of Art and Art History, Music, Theatre and Dance along with the Center for Arts in Medicine and the Digital Worlds Institute. At the Institute, aspiring game designers can earn a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS), a DAS Minor or a Masters in Digital Arts and Sciences (MiDAS).

BADAS students may choose elective courses from current offerings in Animation, Digital Production, and Game Design. Course highlights include 3D Digital Animation, Design Production Studio, Digital Storytelling, Entrepreneurship in New Media, Game Design Practices, Game Development, Wearable & Mobile Apps, and Writing for Interactive 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 such as the UF Reality Lab, and a 5-screen Polymodal Immersive Classroom Theater (PICT) and a Virtual Production Studio (VPS). In addition, a cohort 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.

Graduates of the BADAS program have gone on to form their own successful startups or work for companies such as DreamWorks and Microsoft.

MiDAS is a one-year accelerated program for individuals “seeking to further their professional career goals at the intersection of interactive media, innovation, and emerging technologies.” MiDAS students will have the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment with “personal attention from faculty and content area experts.”

The program covers digital storytelling, game engines and development, software and hardware integration, UI/UX, Audio, and Digital Compositing, and Visual Design Tolls/Technology/3D for virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR). The program also covers project proposals, production pipelines, and project management.

Course highlights include Applied 3D Modeling, Digital Arts & Sciences Convergence, Digital Design and Visualization, Entertainment Technology, Interaction Design, Movement, Media and Machines, Project Methodologies, and Protocols for Multimedia Interfaces. Students will have access to the UF Reality Lab and a Capstone Project is part of the program.

16. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (top 25% of schools considered)
Clemson University

Clemson University began as Clemson Agricultural College in 1893. On the day it opened, the school welcomed 446 male students. Today, the Clemson serves a coeducational population of nearly 26,000 students enrolled in more than 290 majors, minors, and graduate degree programs in more than a dozen colleges and schools.

The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences houses the School of Computing, which offers 10 degree programs and two minors. Among these programs are BA and BS degrees in Computer Science, an MFA and MS in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA or MS DPA), and a fast-track Bachelor’s/Master’s (BS/MS) in Computer Science.

In addition to Game Design, students in the Computer Science programs will take courses such as Algorithms and Data Structures, Computer Graphics, Computer Security, Network Programming, and Software Engineering.

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 credits. 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 Computer Animation, Games, and Visual Effects.

Graduates of the Computer Science and DPA Programs at Clemson can pursue employment in 3D graphics programming, animation, commercial virtual reality, game design, software engineering, technical direction in the digital production entertainment industry, tool building, visualization, and more.

17. Indiana University, Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana (top 30% of schools considered)
Indiana University

Founded in 1820 as The Seminary, Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington) became Indiana College in 1828 and Indiana University in 1838. Today, the school is the largest and oldest Indiana University campus, serving more than 40,000 students of the systems 90,090 students.

IU Bloomington has more than 200 undergraduate majors divided among 12 schools and 400+ graduate degrees in The University Graduate School. The College of Arts + Sciences is home to The Media School, which has several degree pathways for aspiring game designers. Options include 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, and an MS in Media with a Concentration in Design and Production. A Minor in Game Design and a Certificate in New Media and Interactive Storytelling are also available.

Students in all programs will study all aspects of art, design, programming, project management, and sound. Courses are a mix of hands-on production and professional learning classes, practicums, internships, 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 have the opportunity to select up to 15 elective credits to enhance their major. Courses may come from the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, Jacobs School of Music, and Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. In addition, BS students may take Human Computer Interaction courses in the Luddy School along with study abroad courses such as Game Development Lab, Game Development: Programming and Practice, and Rhetoric of Gaming in Copenhagen, Denmark.

18. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California (top 30% of schools considered)
California Polytechnic State University

Founded in 1901, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) is part of the 23-campus California State University System. The school, which houses more than 25 centers and institutes, sits on 9,000 acres, making it the second largest campus in California and one of the largest in the nation.

Cal Poly serves close to 22,000 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs. Pathways are offered in six colleges that focus on hands-on learning. The College of Engineering (CENG) provides a project- and design-centered curriculum that “stresses teamwork and collaboration across disciplines,” says the school. Majors range from Aerospace Engineering to Software Engineering.

Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the school’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. Options include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science and Minors in Computer Science. The Department offers an undergraduate Concentration in Interactive Entertainment (IE). Students in the Minor can focus in IE through electives, and MS students have the option to specialize in multiple areas, including IE. A Blended BS + MS is also available.

The Interactive Entertainment Concentration consists of 24 units of study. Course requirements and electives include Advanced Rendering Techniques, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Game Design, Interactive Entertainment Engineering, Introduction to Mixed Reality, Real-Time 3D Computer Graphics Software, and User-Centered Interface Design and Development.

All programs are designed to be flexible and “laboratory experiences ensure that students have both a theoretical and practical understanding of computer science. Individual and team projects, culminating in a capstone experience or a senior project, reinforce concepts and provide students the opportunity to apply and communicate their knowledge.” Students in all programs are provided with a “modern computing environment that includes the most current software tools running on a variety of workstations and servers.”

Another option for aspiring game designers is a program offered jointly by the Department of Art and Design and the Computer Science Department. The cross-disciplinary Computing for Interactive Arts Minor consists of 40 units of study including course options such as Collaborative Studio: Storyboarding, Modeling, Animation and Rendering, Digital 3D Modeling and Design, Game Design, Interactive Entertainment Engineering, Interaction Design, The Art of Mixed Reality, and Type in Motion.

The Minor “enables students from different disciplines to collaborate on projects requiring both a technical and a creative perspective.” All programs offer internship opportunities and study abroad experiences in 75 countries.

Graduates of the programs at Cal Poly enjoy a 93% employment rate within nine months of graduation.

19. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin (top 30% of schools considered)
University of Wisconsin – Stout

University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) was established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School. One of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in Wisconsin, UW-Stout serves nearly 8,000 students enrolled in 49 undergraduate and 22 graduate degrees, many of which are unique to Stout or are not offered elsewhere in the Midwest.

Programs are offered in three colleges and six schools, including the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences (CACHSS), which houses the School of Art and Design. Serving more than 1,000 students, the School offers BFAs in Game Design and Development and Entertainment Design, and an MFA in Design.

The School of Art and Design says the undergraduate program is the “first and only BFA in Game Design in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.” Students in the program gain core skills in art and design such as 3D modeling, animation, and drawing. 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.

UW Stout’s cross-disciplinary MFA program consists of study in the areas of Entertainment Design, Game Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media, Studio Art, 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, Design Ready Controls, Find-It-Faster Online, Pixel Spill Games, and many others.

20. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (top 30% of schools considered)
Miami University

Founded in 1809, Miami University houses the oldest college newspaper west of the Alleghenies. Established in 1826, The Miami Student was named the "Best College Newspaper (Non-daily) in Ohio" by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Miami University 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 and additional 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). This cross-disciplinary institute “works with students and faculty from across Miami University,” says the school, and offers “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 here include a BA in Interactive Media Studies (IMS) and Minors in Digital Innovation, Games + Simulation, and Interactive Media Studies.

The College of Creative Arts also houses the Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design, which offers a BS in Games + Simulation.

The interdisciplinary BA in IMS “sits at the intersection of Design, Technology, and Business.” The 124 credit hour 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.” Sixty-four credits are 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 BS in Games + Simulation offers three concentrations: Game Art, Game Development (contains a Computer Science Minor), and Game Studies (contains the Interdisciplinary Studies Minor). 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.” Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.

The internship component of both the BA and BS programs allows 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 Green Door Games, Max Gaming Technologies, SGM Games, Wraith Games, and many others.

21. University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina (top 35% of schools considered)
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

On September 23, 1946, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) opened as an evening college center for returning veterans. The school had just 278 students. Today, the school serves more than 30,000 students enrolled in 171 majors in 77 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 or Human-Computer Interaction (with optional game design electives), 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.

The Department also offers undergraduate and graduate Game Design (GDD) Certificates and a Minor in Software and Information Systems. Sample courses for these non-degree programs include AI for Computer Games, Audio Processing for Entertainment Computing, and Game Engine Construction.

Course highlights for the undergraduate programs include Advanced 3D Computer Graphics, AI for Computer Games, Game Design and Development, Intelligent Robotics, Interactive Computer Graphics, 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 nine credit hours with course options such as Game Design and Development Studio, Game Engine Construction, Natural Language Processing, Real-Time Rendering Engines, and Virtual and Augmented Reality. The MS program requires 30 credit hours to graduate.

22. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (top 35% of schools considered)
George Mason University

Founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949, George Mason University (GMU) serves more than 39,000 students, including nearly 500 at GMU, Korea. The school is the largest public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and offers 200 degree programs in 11 colleges and schools, including the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), which houses the Computer Game Design Program.

Degree options include a BFA, MA or Minor in Computer Game Design and a Minor in Sport and Computer Game Design. The Computer Game Design Minor requires 15-16 credit hours of study. Offered jointly with CVPA and the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism, the Sport and Computer Game Minor requires 18 credit hours of study.

The 120 credit hour BFA Computer Game Design Program “enables students to focus on the artistic components of computer game design while providing them with the technical skills prerequisite to the field,” says the school. 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.”

Program highlights include portfolio courses, a pre-internship seminar + internship, and a senior project as well as the opportunity to network with employers at the Senior Expo. Course highlights include 2D Design and Color (offered by the School of Art), Advanced Game Design Animation, Applied Coding for Game Designers, Computer Game Platform Analysis, Game Design Studio, Music for Film and Video, and Online and Mobile Gaming.

The curriculum for the 36 credit hour MA in Computer Game Design “has been modeled after the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) most recent ‘Curriculum Framework’ for the Study of Games and Game Development.” It 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.”

Core courses for the program are “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.” Course highlights include Advanced Game Art, Advanced Music and Sound for Games, Game Business, Entrepreneurship and Practice, Game Production, Interactive Game Systems Design, Research Methodologies in Game Design, and Special Topics in Games. Students will complete a graduate internship and teaching practicum as well as a game or written project OR the Game Thesis.

All BFA, MA, and Minor students have access to the Virginia Serious Game Institute based at GMU’s Science and Technology Campus. The institute offers Virginia schools, businesses, and universities hands-on training, certification, and 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.

Graduates of the Games Programs at GMU are prepared to seek employment in the computer game design and development fields, which include the commercial, entertainment, serious games, and even federal sectors.

23. Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan (top 35% of schools considered)
Ferris State University

Ferris State University (FSU or Ferris) dates back to 1884. On September 1, 1884, the Big Rapids Industrial School opened, and a year later, the institution became Ferris Industrial School. Around 1898, the name changed to Ferris Institute, and in 1963, it became Ferris State College. In 1987, FSU changed its name yet again to Ferris State University.

The school offers 180 undergraduate and graduate majors including 2-year degrees that "ladder" into 4-year, BA and BS degrees, eight master's degrees, and Doctorates of Education, Optometry, and Pharmacy. Some FSU majors are offered at no other university in Michigan or the United States.

Programs are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, and Health Professions, and Pharmacy, as well as Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and Michigan College of Optometry.

Established in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) opened its doors in 1931 with just 35 art students. Today, the school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. Aspiring game designers will find education pathways at Kendall College of Art and Design and in the College of Business’ School of Digital Media.

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) or 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.

School of Digital Media programs include a BS in Digital Media Software Engineering (DMSE), a BAS in Digital Animation and Game Design (DAGD), and a Digital Media AS. The BS in DMSE is designed as an engineering degree focused on the methodologies, procedures, and technologies 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.

The BAS in DAGD Program is “focused on educating students in the latest tools and technology used to create digital and interactive content,” says the school. Aspiring game designers will learn how to animate and render 3D characters and scenes, author interactive applications and games, build content in industry leading game engines, create and manipulate 2D textures and images, and design and create 3D game level mods. They will learn to edit, manipulate, and develop digital video, model, rig, and light 3D characters and scenes, and prepare a professional portfolio and demo reel.

In addition to game design and asset creation, the program prepares students to pursue careers in growing industries such as architectural flythroughs, educational software, film, independent game and animation development, legal simulation, medical visualization, product design, web development, 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. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level positions in a variety of industries or they will enjoy a “smooth transition” into any of the bachelor’s degree programs offered in the School of Digital Media.

24. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, Indiana (top 40% of schools considered)
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) was established in 1969. The school serves 29,390 students enrolled in 450 undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in 19 distinct schools and colleges. The School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Media Arts and Science (MAS) with a Specialization in Game Design and Development and a five-year BS+MS in MAS with a Specialization in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). A Game Design and Development Minor is also available.

IUPUI SoIC students “design and develop projects that focus on entertainment, serious game design, mobile applications, video and audio production, animation, and innovative web design and technologies,” says the school. All students have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including the Media Arts and Science Research and Learning Arcade (MARLA), the Advanced Visualization Lab, and a virtual reality theater.

Graduates of the IUPUI game design programs work in fields such as animation, game design, interactive video, and wed design. Sample job titles include Augmented Reality Designer or Developer, Game Designer, Game Developer, Game Producer, Game Production Artist, Technical Designer, Unity Developer, Unreal Developer, and Virtual Reality Designer or Developer.

IUPUI SoIC graduates have been hired at local, national or global companies such as Blizzard, Bottom Line Performance, Digital Domain, Gearbox, Half Full Nelson, HTC, Motion Picture Company (MPC), Owlchemy Labs (now part of Google), Pixar, Plow Digital, Sony Imageworks, Treyarch (parent organization Activision), and Vision3 Interactive, to name a few.

25. University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, Whitewater, Wisconsin (top 40% of schools considered)
University of Wisconsin – Whitewater

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (UW-W) was founded in 1868. The school serves nearly 12,000 students enrolled in more than 50 undergraduate majors and 119 minors, numerous areas of emphasis, and dozens of graduate programs in five colleges and schools. The College of Arts and Communication houses the Department of Art and Design, which offers BA and BS degrees in Gaming Technology and Communication/Gaming, a BA in Media Arts, Game Design and Development (MAGD), and Minors, Communication/Gaming, Gaming Technology, and Media Arts.

BA/BS Gaming Technology students “will develop the programming skills and software development expertise required for cross-platform real-time interactive graphics and game development,” says the school. “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 programs include Artificial Intelligence, C++ Sequence, Game Engine/Modding, and Graphics Programming. An internship, Special Topics and Independent Study are also part of the program as well as the required Team Project.

Communication/Gaming course highlights include Advanced Audio Techniques, Game Development, Social Media Optimization, Sound and Image, and Video Production. 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), Game Design and Development “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 for the program include Digital Video/Motion Graphics, Graphics and Animation, Graphic Media Imaging as a Web/Interactive Media, and Raster/Vector & 3D Modeling. 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, 2D, 3D, aural, animated and virtual creative work held annually at the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.

The Minors consist of 24 credit hours of study “mirroring the options in the major.” Both the Communication/Gaming and Media Art and Minors “feature the same general core and electives as the majors, while the Gaming Technology Minor was specifically made to pair with a major in Computer Science.”

The Computer Science program, which leads to a BA or BS, is offered in the College of Arts and Letters, Department of Mathematical & Computer Science. Artificial Intelligence, Programming Languages, Software Engineering, and Software Testing are a few course highlights. The Department also offers an MS in Computer Science (MSCS) and a CS Minor.