What are the top Massachusetts game design programs for 2023?

Top 5 Game Design Schools in Massachusetts - 2023 College Rankings
1Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge
2Worcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcester
3Northeastern UniversityBoston
4Hampshire CollegeAmherst
5Fitchburg State UniversityFitchburg

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

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) houses the MIT Game Lab, which helps students customize a plan of study to match their goals. The Lab is also a research and development hub that designs games for research.

Besides opportunities to customize their curriculum, students at MIT may study game design through several programs that allow students to choose a built-in “cluster” or electives from any department. Examples of programs that allow this much flexibility include Comparative Media Studies (CMS) and Computer Science and Engineering (CSE).

Housed in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), the Department of Comparative Media Studies (CMS) provides programs leading to a BS or MS in CMS. The CMS Games and Interactive Media Cluster consists of more than 20 game design course options.

The Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Department in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing (MIT EECS) is the largest department at MIT. EECS provides BS and MS degrees CSE. Programs are highly interdisciplinary and emphasize on-campus team and independent projects, lab work, research, and off-campus internships with MIT partner companies. Programs explore human-computer interaction (HCI) and graphics, artificial intelligence (AI), software engineering, programming languages, machine learning, algorithms and theory, and computer systems.

Elective requirements allow students to take additional courses that focus on games. Courses may be offered within and outside the department. Examples from the CMS Department include Game Design Methods, Design and Development for Games and Learning, Videogame Theory, Computation & Expression Studio, Interactive Narrative, Fun and Games: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, Games and Culture, Advanced Game Design Studio, Designing Interactions, and Games for Social Change. 

The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has an additional pathway for designers looking to specialize in unique areas such as psychological games and behavioral change. The Brain & Cognitive Science BS is provided in partnership with the EECS Department. Finally, students who are interested in the business side of game development, or those looking to launch their own studios, can enroll in the Business BS Program, housed in the MIT Sloan School of Management. For both options, students may work with the MIT Game Lab to customize a focus area that aligns with their goals.

Graduates of the Computer Science and Engineering Programs/MIT Game Lab have been hired at major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Harmonix Music Systems, Bungie Studios, Muzzy Lane (educational game studio), Learning Games Network (LGN), Moonshot Games, and Fire Hose Games (founded by MIT alumni in 2008).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology was founded on April 10, 1861, just two days before the start of the Civil War. The school serves approximately 4,640 undergraduate students and approximately 7,300 graduate students from all 50 states, DC, two territories, and 130 foreign countries. Providing more than 100 programs across five schools, Massachusetts Institute of Technology is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

2. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

The School of Arts and Sciences at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is home to the Interactive Media & Game Development (IMGD) Program. One of the earliest gaming programs in the U.S. IMGD houses several degree pathways including the BA, BS, MFA, MS, and BS/MS in IMGD. The dual IMGD BS/MS allows students to complete both degrees at an accelerated pace. Students can complete the program in four to five years instead of six or more.

The IMGD BA has Concentrations in Animation, 3D Sculpting, Design, Writing, and Technical Artistry. The BS allows students to begin working on everything from games and virtual environments to interactive fiction from the very first day of the program. The WPI MFA is an interdisciplinary, studio-based program that has three focus areas: Serious Games, Production and Management, and Technical. Students will leave the MFA program with a solo thesis project or a group project.

The interdisciplinary IMGD MS is a two-year program designed for students interested in careers in interactive media or game design and development. Students may specialize in one of three focus areas: Serious Games, Production and Management, or Technical. The IMGD MS culminates with a Thesis or Group Project.

For students who would like to major in a related area and minor in games, WPI has an IMGD Minor that provides the opportunity to design a focus area consisting of six courses that explore game studies, animation, social impact of games, game design, and others.

All IMGD programs provide access to state-of-the-art facilities such a dedicated IMGD Lab equipped with industry-standard software and hardware tools, a Digital Art Studio, an Artificial Intelligence & Intelligent Tutoring Lab, and a Sound Recording Studio. In addition, all programs blend art, technology, and real-world experience through a co-op or professional internship.

As part of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, IMGD graduates enjoy frequent on-campus recruiting events and a 92.7% success rate. Examples of companies that have hired WPI IMGD graduates include Kaon Interactive, NextGen Interactions, Zudy, and Centre Technology.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute was established in 1865. A top 25 STEM college, WPI has more than 50 global project centers on six continents. The school provides 70+ degree programs to 7,230 students. Academic offerings are housed across four schools including Arts & Sciences, Business, Engineering, and The Global School. Worcester Polytechnic Institute is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

3. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern University

The College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) and Khoury College of Computer Sciences at Northeastern University (Northeasters) provide several pathways to study game design. CAMD undergraduate options include Game Design and Game Art & Animation BFAs, a Game Design and Music BS with a Concentration in Music Technology, and Game Art and Game Design Minors. Graduate programs include a Game Science and Design MS jointly offered through CAMD and the Khoury College, and Certificates in Game Experience Design and Game Science. Khoury College also has a Computer Science & Game Development BS.

All programs are interdisciplinary and include courses such as Game Design and Analysis, Mixed Research Methods for Games, Prototyping for Experience Design, Advanced Topics in Game Design, Generative Game Design, Spatial and Temporal Design, Level Design and Game Architecture, Exploratory Concept Design, Player Experience, Business Models in the Game Industry, Building of Game Engines, Psychology of Play, Game Artificial Intelligence, Generative Game Design, Games and Society, Game Studio, Data-Driven Player Modeling, Advanced Topics in Game Science, Game Concept Development, and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

In addition to a variety of courses, the Game Design Programs at Northeastern University provide the opportunity to participate in the school’s distinctive co-op program. This paid experiential learning program allows undergraduate students to gain up to 18 months of hands-on, professional experience in game design. A graduate co-op program is also available for full-time graduate students. Northeastern University partners with more than 20,000 co-op employers nationwide and in 65+ countries around the world. Examples include Hasbro, Mass DiGi, Greenbrier Games, Splash Damage Games, Harmonix, Jamspot, Live Nation, and Demiurge Studios.

In addition to gaining work experience through the co-op program, students in all programs enjoy hands-on learning in collaborative classrooms and studios, access to state-ot-the-art production facilities, courses taught by industry professionals, and access to 3,350+ employer partners, including Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and global companies. 

Graduates of the Game Design Programs at Northeastern University work in Game Art, Game Design and Development, Game Programming, Sound for Games, Animation, and many other areas. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as Google, Zynga, Xbox Game Studios (a division of Microsoft), and Cognizant. 

Northeastern University began as the Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in 1898. According to the most recent enrollment figures, the school serves approximately 41,850 students enrolled in more than 400 programs in eight colleges. Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

4. Hampshire College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Hampshire College

Students at Hampshire College have the unique opportunity to design their own major from 50 areas of study and classes in the school’s Five College Consortium. Instead of academic years, Hampshire students work their way through their chosen program through a divisional structure consisting of community-based learning, courses, projects, portfolio reviews, and final papers. During the entire final year of the program, students will conceptualize, design, and finalize a solo project.

In the Game Design and Development Area (GDD), students will also work in interdisciplinary teams to develop games to add to their final professional portfolio. Courses for the GDD Area are project-based and explore 2D and 3D art and animation, audio design, game programming, playtesting and user testing, game design, storytelling, project management, and entrepreneurship. Course examples include Analog Game Design, Game Programming, Pixelbending, The Art and Science of Digital Imaging Game Design, Computer Animation I, II, and III, Women in Game Programming, Designing Treasure Hunts, Radical Innovation in Digital Arts, and Game Development Workshop.  

GDD students have access to the Hampshire College Cluster Computing Facility, the Game Lab and Library, and The Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video. All facilities provide state-of-the art production equipment and spaces where students can create games, animations, films, and digital works, and work on other projects.

Graduates of the Game Design and Development Area at Hampshire College are prepared to pursue positions in all areas of game design and development.

Hampshire College is an independent, not-for-profit institution that serves approximately 510 students enrolled in self-designed programs across 50 areas of study. Hampshire is part of The Five College Consortium, which also includes Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and UMass Amherst. Hampshire College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

5. Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Fitchburg State University

Fitchburg State University (Fitchburg State) has several paths to study game design. The School of Arts and Sciences houses the Communications Media Department, which has a Game Design Program leading to a BS or a Minor. The School of Health and Natural Sciences at Fitchburg State is home to the Computer Science (CS) Department, which has a Game Programming Concentration within the CS BS Program.

The Game Design BS at Fitchburg State University explores game design and development, computer programming, 3D modeling & animation, game studies, level design, art and visual design, and creative writing. The Game Design Core requires 24 credit hours of study. Course examples for the Core include 3D Game Development, Advanced Game Workshop, Game Art, Elements of Game Design, and Game Studies Seminar. Other course examples include Computer Science I-II, Mobile Game Design,  Virtual Reality Development, Advanced game Art, Game Programming, The Art of Puppetry, Film Scoring, and Game Narrative Design.

The Game Design BS prepares students for careers in the game design industry and related fields. Opportunities beyond the classroom include study abroad programs, professional capstone projects, game partnerships with clients, and internships.

The 18 credit hour Game Design Minor at Fitchburg State explores the planning stages and design of games. Course examples include Game Level Design, 3D Game Development, Serious Games, Game Narrative Design, and the Games Studies Seminar. As part of the Communications Media Department, students in the minor may participate in the Communications Media Showcase and they have access to the campus game library/lounge, the game workshop room, and game design and development lab.

The CS BS Program at Fitchburg State University has a number of features. In addition to Game Programming, CS students can enroll in the dual-track curriculum, which combines software and hardware education with business courses, internship opportunities, and access to an extensive study abroad program. CS students also benefit from small class sizes, mentoring, and hands-on learning. Course examples for the program include Game Art, Game Programming, Digital Electronics, Elements of Game Design, and Game Design Workshop.

The CS BS Program at Fitchburg State is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Over the last five years, graduates of the program have enjoyed a 95% job placement rate. Fitchburg CS alumni hold titles such as Game Programmer, Quality Assurance Engineer, Systems Programmer, and Software Engineer. Some CS graduates go on to enroll in graduate programs at Fitchburg State University and other top universities.

Established in 1894, Fitchburg State University comprises 48 buildings and 60 acres. Six of the school’s buildings are more than a century old. Serving 7,000 students, Fitchburg State offers more than 30 undergraduate and 22 master’s degree programs across five schools and 16 academic departments. Fitchburg State University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).