What are the top game design programs in New York for 2021?

Top 5 New York Game Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1New York University New York
2Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester
3Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroy
4The New School/ParsonsNew York
5Cornell UniversityIthaca

Our 2021 ranking of the top game design school programs in New York. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. New York University, New York, New York
New York University (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts

Founded in 1831 and serving more than 60,500 students, New York University (NYU) is the largest private university in the U.S. The school has the highest number of international students in America, with degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, along with nearly a dozen global academic centers and research programs in more than 25 countries. With more than 19,000 employees, NYU is also one New York’s largest employers.

Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of NYU and home to the NYU Game Center, Department of Game Design. Also known as Tisch or TSOA, the school serves more than 3,000 students from 48 states and 39 countries. Tisch students are enrolled in acting, animation, dance, design, film, games, interactive media, performance, photography, preservation, public policy, recorded music, and writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television programs at the BA, BFA, MA, MFA, MPS and PhD levels.

The NYU Game Center, Department of Design offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BFA, MFA and Minor in Game Design. The BFA program is organized in three primary areas including Game Design, Game Development, and Game Studies and four production areas including Audio Design, Game Business, Programming, Visual Design. A Capstone is also part of the program.

The Game Center MFA is a two-year degree that includes classes in Game Design, Game History, Game Production, and Game Studies. Students in the program gain hands-on experience by taking studio courses and participating in play labs, and electives offer the opportunity to “explore everything from Game Journalism to Games and Players (a class on the psychology and emotions of game play),” says the school.

Classes and events for all Game Center programs take place at the Media and Games Network (MAGNET) at the NYU Brooklyn campus. MAGNET also houses the Game Center Open Library, which is "the largest collection of games held by any university in the world," says the school.

In 2019, NYU Tisch School of the Arts and NYU Shanghai launched a Master of Arts in Interactive Media Arts. “The yearlong degree program pairs two online semesters with three immersive residencies at locations in NYU’s global network,” including New York, Berlin, and Shanghai. A collaboration between the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU Tisch and the Interactive Media Arts Program (IMA) at NYU Shanghai, the MA “is focused on the production, application and understanding of interactive media for creative expression and critical engagement.”

Students in this new program benefit from full access to IMA’s communal makerspace for production, prototyping and user-testing, immersion in both the commercial and cultural activities of Shanghai and surrounding areas, the local dialogue series, artist talks, industry visits, workshops and communal programming, and visits to Shenzhen—“an epicenter of design, manufacturing and innovation.”

Course highlights include Creative Coding, Design for Communication (includes hands-on experience in 2D and 3D), Designing Change, Interface Lab (VR/AR), and Virtual Worlds. The program also covers entrepreneurship and a thesis is required to graduate.

2. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829) and a technical training school known as Mechanics Institute (est. 1885). The Institute adopted the name Rochester Institute of Technology in 1944 and awarded its first Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. Today, RIT has campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China and it serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Urban Community Studies.

RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) houses the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM), which offers BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development and a BS in New Media Interactive Development. Minors in Game Design & Development (GAMEDD-MN) and Game Design (GAMED-MN) are also available as well as an accelerated BA/MS that takes five years to complete.

The MS and BS/MS offer unique advanced electives such as Board and Card Game Design and Development, Game Balance, Game Design and Development for Casual and Mobile Platforms, IGM Production Studio, Innovation & Invention, Interactive Game & Audio, Table Top Role-Playing Game Design and Development, and Theory and Design of Role Play and Interactive Narrative.

The GCCIS IGM Game Design and Development Program (all levels) emphasizes game programming and cooperative education (co-op). The co-op is a required, full-time paid work experience that provides students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. Students must complete two semesters, full-time, which amounts to a minimum 35-hour workweek over the course of an academic semester. Past co-op companies include Microsoft, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Sapient-Razorfish, Google, EA, Epic Games, Cartoon Network, Seagate, Hi-Rez Studios, and many others.

In addition to the co-op experience, students in the BS in New Media Interactive Development program will explore casual games, physical computing, production, web, mobile, and more. All GCCIS IGM students have the opportunity to take any minor or enroll in a double major.

Graduates of the Game Design programs at RIT are prepared for careers within the professional games industry or a related field such as edutainment, simulation, or visualization. At present, the school has a 95.2% employment rate for undergraduates and a 97.4% employment rate for graduates.

3. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Established in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is a designated New York State Center of Excellence in Digital Game Development, which works to support and grow New York state’s digital gaming sector. Serving 7,900 students, RPI offers more than 100 degree programs in five schools, including the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), which houses the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Department and the Department of Art.

GSAS pathways include BS degrees in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS) and Electronic Media, Arts, & Communication (EMAC), MS and PhD degrees in Critical Game Design, a Co-terminal Critical Game Design MS, and a BS, PhD, and Minor in Electronic Arts (EART).

BS GSAS students may choose a concentration or dual BS degree from the following options: Arts (Electronic Arts), Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Management/Entrepreneurship, or Writing for Games. Students will explore 3D Animation and Digital Arts, Artificial Intelligence in Games, Experimental Game Design, Game Audio and Music Composition, Game Programming and Software Engineering, Interactive Narrative and Game Storytelling, and Virtual and Augmented Reality.

Established in 1996, the BS in EMAC program is an interdisciplinary program that includes courses in communication as well as in digital art and animation, video, electronic music, and graphic design, supported by RPI’s strong technological infrastructure. The EMAC curriculum offers concentrations in Digital Storytelling (Animation, Game Design, Video), Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Marketing Communication and Design, Popular Culture, and Sound Design.

The Department of Arts offers MFA and PhD degrees in Electronic Arts (EART). Both programs allow students to explore everything from Animation and Gaming to Communication Technologies.

Students in all programs may enhance their education by adding a minor, dual major, study abroad, internship, or the co-terminal graduate program.

4. The New School's Parsons School of Design, New York, New York
The New School/Parsons

The New School was founded in 1896 as “The Chase School” by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, parsons launched Advertising, Costume Design and Interior Decoration programs. Today, known as The New School's Parsons School of Design, this art and design college serves 5,100 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the Schools of Art and Design History and Theory; Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.

Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT). Options include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology (DT). The BFA in DT, which has both Game Design and Creative Technology Pathways, teaches students to code and “develop a sustainable process for researching, experimenting, designing, prototyping, iterating, and producing projects that keeps pace with evolving technology,” says the school. Program highlights include access to university’s extensive libraries, galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities and visits to industry leaders such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and Curious Pictures. Other industry partners include Apple, Atari, Human Rights Watch, MTV, Siemens, and UNESCO.

The MFA in DT is a studio-based program that consists of collaborative studios and the thesis studios. Per the school, “in Collaboration Studio courses, students work on real-world projects with industry firms and nonprofits. Past partners include American Red Cross, Apple, Eyebeam, gameLab, Human Rights Watch, Intel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mozilla, NASA, Red Bull, Samsung, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Students also have the opportunity to work with peers in related programs including Communication Design, Fine Arts, Illustration, and Photography, and they have many elective options to choose from in order to create their own “coherent” study plan. Areas of practice include critical design, data visualization, digital fabrication, game design, interaction design, new media art, and physical computing,

Two additional programs—the BFA in Art, Media, and Technology, offered at Parsons Paris (est. 1921), and the BFA in Design and Technology (New York campus)—offer opportunities to learn game design.

These interdisciplinary programs explore art, design, media, and technology, preparing graduates to pursue careers in Animation, Computer Software and Hardware Design, Game Design, Interactive Design, Motion Design, and more.

5. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Cornell University

Founded in 1865, Cornell University has an impressive series of firsts. The school established the first four-year schools of hotel administration and industrial and labor relations and it awarded the world's first degree in journalism, the nation's first degree in veterinary medicine, and the first doctorates in electrical and industrial engineering. The federal land-grant institution of New York State, Cornell University serves 23,620 students enrolled in 80 undergraduate majors, more than 120 minors, and 102 fields of study.

Programs are offered through 15 colleges and schools and 100 academic departments. Cornell’s game design program is offered through the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering’s Computing and Information Science Department (Cornell CIS).

Known as the Game Design Initiative at Cornell University (GDIAC), the program was formed in 2001. GDIAC offers a Game Design Minor/Concentration and informal support to graduate students and faculty interested in pursuing game-related research.

Any undergraduate student in any college at Cornell University can pursue the Game Design Minor/Concentration and have it added to their transcript. To get started, students will pick a major in a core area (e.g., Computer Science, Information Science, Art, Music, Writing, etc.). They may take as many game courses as they can through multiple departments, and build a portfolio of games through independent studies.

Courses offered include (but are not limited to) Advanced Computer Game Architecture, Analytics-Driven Game Design, Game Studies and Japan, Graphics and Art, Human-Computer Interaction, Human Factors and Inclusive Design, Interactive Computer Graphics, Novel Interaction techniques, Project: Terrarium Imagined; World Building Through Allegory, and Psychology of Gaming. 

GDIAC students will work in interdisciplinary teams of four to six to create a game. Students may present their projects at the annual GDIAC showcase, which is open to the public.