What are the top Florida game design programs for 2023?

Top 5 Florida Game Design Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1University of Central FloridaOrlando
2Full Sail UniversityWinter Park
3Ringling College of Art and DesignSarasota
4University of FloridaGainesville
5The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School Orlando

Our 2023 ranking of the top 5 game design school programs in Florida. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Academy, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

The College of Sciences at University of Central Florida (UCF) houses Nicholson School of Communication and Media (NSCM), which has a Digital Media BA Program with a Game Design Track, an Interactive Entertainment MS, a Digital Media MA, and a Digital Media Minor. Also part of Florida Interactive Academy (FIEA), the MS has Specializations in Programming, Animation, Technical Art, Level Design, 3D Modeling, and Project Management. Specializations are sub-tracks within the FIEA Production/Design, Art, and Programming Tracks.

Students in all FIEA and NSCM Programs at University of Central Florida have access to state-of-the-art production facilities, such as the 3,300 square feet MOCAP studio, where they have the opportunity to develop their own games and interactive projects from start to finish. Internships and career development resources are also available, and many FIEA students publish their games through avenues such as Xbox or Steam, resulting in their first published title.

Graduates of the UCF Games/Interactive Media and FIEA Programs have been hired by more than 300 companies. Examples include Epic Games, Walt Disney Imagineering, Zynga, Unity Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Marvel, Sony, Gameloft, Blizzard Entertainment, Nintendo, Cartoon Network, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), and Blur Studio.

University of Central Florida opened in 1968 as Florida Technological University. On the first day of classes, the school had less than 2,000 students. Today, UCF serves around 70,400 students, making it the largest university by enrollment in the state of Florida, and one of the nation’s largest universities. The school offers 535 degree programs across 13 colleges. University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University

Full Sail University is home to The Gaming School which houses production studios and classrooms that look and feel like major production studios. Degree options here include the Game Design BS and MS and BS degrees in Game Art, Game Development, Simulation & Visualization, and Game Business & Esports. Undergraduate Certificates in 3-D Arts, Game Design, and Game Business & Esports are also available. The Simulation & Visualization BS is offered on campus and all other programs are offered both on campus and online.

In addition to gaining production experience in a real-world studio environment on the Full Sail University campus, gaming students have opportunities to work off campus at local and national studios through the internship program. Courses in The Gaming School are also immersive. Course examples across all programs include Motion Capture, Game Mechanics, Game Production Tools, Engine Development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Data Visualization & Modeling. Students will master all roles in the production pipeline, video game development for computers, networks and consoles, test simulation, game effects, narrative design, and animation.

Full Sail University’s Career Development Department provides 24/7 access to job opportunities, along with workshops and presentations that cover branding, networking, research strategies, and interviewing techniques. The department also coordinates local hiring events and events in other major markets such as Los Angeles and New York.

Full Sail University graduates have worked on many popular games, films, and ad campaigns. Games include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Overwatch 2, Horizon Forbidden West, Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Fortnite. More than 200 graduates from Games, Art & Design, Music & Recording, Business, and Media & Communications areas were credited on over 25 projects nominated in 21 categories at The 2022 Game Awards.

Graduates from Game Design, Film, and Entertainment Business also contributed to winners in categories including Best Adaptation (Arcane: League of Legends), Best Esports Game (Valorant), Best VR/AR (Moss: Book II), Best Fighting (MultiVersus), and Games for Impact (As Dusk Falls).

Companies and studios that have hired Full Sail University graduates include Disney, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Nickelodeon, Bunim Murray, Pixar, MTV, ESPN, Universal Studios, Miramax, DreamWorks, and HBO.

Full Sail University offers graduate certificates and programs at all degree levels in the Arts, Entertainment, Media, and Technology. The school, which opened in 1979 in Dayton, Ohio, is located just 35 minutes from downtown Orlando and Universal Studios. Serving approximately 21,000 students, Full Sail is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design

Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) has a Game Art BFA Program that attracts recruiters from major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, and Riot Games. The program explores topics such as environmental design, professional practices, methods and technologies, and concept and creative problem-solving. Students also work on projects in teams to develop collaboration and communication skills.

Following the studio model of teaching, which emphasizes learning by doing, the Game Art BFA at Ringling College of Art and Design also highlights visiting artists, industry internships, and other experiences that provide the opportunity to work on real projects with local businesses and studios.

The RCAD Game Art BFA requires 48 credit hours in the major. This accounts for 40% of the coursework. Course examples for the program include 3D for Games I-IV, Game Design I-II, Programming for Artists, and Visual Development for Games. BFA students will also take four courses leading to the development of a Game Thesis Project.

Graduates of the Game Art BFA Program at Ringling College of Art and Design have been hired at Blizzard Entertainment, Rockstar Games, 343 Industries, Bungie, Bethesda Game Studios, and Naughty Dog, among others.

Ringling College of Art and Design is a private, not-for-profit college that has been in existence for more than 90 years. Co-founded by circus baron John Ringling, RCAD serves more than 1,600 students enrolled in eleven majors leading to a BFA degree, two majors leading to a BA degree, and minor options in 10 areas. Ringling College of Art and Design is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida

Established in 1925, the College of the Arts at University of Florida (UF) houses the Digital Worlds Institute, home to the Digital Arts & Sciences (DAS) Program. Degree options for game designers include the DAS BA (BADAS), the DAS Minor, and the DAS Masters (MiDAS). the BADAS is offered on campus and fully online through UF Online.

Digital Worlds Institute highlights include the DAS Mentorship Program, guest lecturers, access to LUMA at Digital World Studios, Portfolio Open House events, and participation in the internship program. In addition, all UF Digital Worlds Programs are interdisciplinary and combine arts, engineering, communications, and science. Course examples across pathways include Creating Mobile Games, 3D Animation Techniques, Game Content Creation, Game Systems Development, Game Design and Production, Digital Storytelling, Game Development, and Interaction & Usability. An optional internship is also part of the program.

The BADAS Program requires 120 credit hours of study and successful completion of the final DAS project. The UF MiDAS Program explores game engines and development, software and hardware integration, design and interactivity, emerging technologies such as AR/VR, and proposals, project management, and production pipelines. The MiDAS program is offered in an accelerated format, so it takes just one year to complete.

Graduates of the BADAS and MiDAS Programs at University of Florida are Game Designers, Level Designers, Game Artists, Character Modelers, Visual Effects (VFX) Artists, Software Engineers, Technical Animators, Digital Storytellers, Motion Graphics Animators, UI/UX Designers, Production Coordinators, Entrepreneurs, and Freelance Designers. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as Microsoft and DreamWorks.

University of Florida was founded in 1858 as Gainesville Academy. When it opened, the Academy has just a few students. Today, UF serves approximately 61,110 students enrolled in more than 300 undergraduate and graduate programs across 16 colleges and schools. The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School), Orlando, Florida

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School) has several award options: the 12-month Diploma, 18-month Diploma, the 32-month Bachelor’s, and the 36-month Bachelor’s. For game designer’s The DAVE School has a 12-month Diploma and a 32-month Bachelor’s degree in Game Production. DAVE students can earn the Diploma separately or as part of the 120 credit hour Bachelor’s degree program. Students in the Bachelor’s program will receive the Diploma credential after completing 60 credits.

The DAVE School also has a Virtual Production (VP) Diploma Program, which combines the curriculums of the Game Production and Visual Effects Production Diplomas. The VP Program takes 18 months to complete.

Across all production programs, students will explore areas such as game physics, world building, asset creation, concepts and terminology of game production, Unreal Engine, lighting and production techniques, emerging technologies, and Unreal for AR/VR. Course examples across programs include Advanced Asset Creation & Look Development, Emerging Real-Time Tech & Pipelines, Digital Modeling and Sculpting, Fundamentals of Computer Animation, and Real-Time Rendering & Emerging Technologies.

The programs at The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School emphasize collaboration, so students will complete a three-month residency in Orlando, Florida where they will work in teams to create games across the entire production pipeline. For the final project, DAVE students will complete an in-house game that will become a major component of their professional demo reel. 

DAVE school graduates are Gameplay Animators, Pipeline Supervisors, Lighting Artists, Cinematic Animators, Compositors, Environment Artists, and Art Coordinators. DAVE School alumni (and instructors) have worked on productions and games such as Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys, The Hobbit, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold, The Mandalorian, Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool, Green Lantern, Captain America, Dumbo, Conan Exiles, Anthem, The Hunger Games, Jurassic World, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and The Hobbit, among others.

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects (DAVE) School was founded in 2000. Located on the backlot of Universal Studios, Florida, The DAVE School is an academic unit of NUC University, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MCSHE). DAVE serves around 1,000 students enrolled in six programs leading to a Bachelor’s degree or Diploma.