What are the top Pennsylvania game design programs for 2023?

Top 5 Pennsylvania Game Design Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh
2Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia
3University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphia
4University of the ArtsPhiladelphia
5Moore College of Art & DesignPhiladelphia

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

1. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University

The Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) was established in 1998. A partnership between CMU’s College of Fine Arts and the School of Computer Science (CS), the ETC houses the Master’s in Entertainment Technology (MET) and the Game Design Minor in collaboration with the Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology Network (IDeATe).

The MET is a terminal degree that takes two years to complete. The program explores Building Virtual Worlds, Improvisational Acting, Fundamentals of Entertainment Technology, and Visual Story. Students will have the opportunity to select electives from the following areas: Game Design, Interactive Storytelling, Themed Entertainment, Leadership & Innovation, and General. Possible elective options include Game Design, Game Design, Prototyping and Production, Understanding Game Engines, Dynamic Motion and Game Experience, Advanced Pipeline Topics for Film and Game Art, IDeATe: Little Games/Big Stories: Indie Roleplaying Game, Story Development and Previsualization in AI, and Advanced Game Studio.

The ETC IDeATe Game Design Minor at Carnegie Mellon University is open to all majors (the school has more than 7,000 major/minor combo options). Popular combo options for game designers include the Art BFA/Game Design Minor, CS BS/Game Design Minor, the Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA)/Game Design Minor, and the Music and Technology BS/Game Design Minor. The CMU ETC also allows students across all departments to enroll in individual courses to enhance their program of study.

The ETC IDeATe Game Design Minor consists of courses that cover topics such as game programming, game systems and mechanics design, Interactive narrative and character development, user testing, computing, interface design, visual and audio design, the design process, and teamwork. The ETC IDeATe Game Design Minor requires a minimum of 45 units of study to complete the program.

Carnegie Mellon University graduates are routinely hired by companies and studios such as Amazon, Epic Systems, Apple, Google, Microsoft, ESPN, IBM, Meta, 2K Games, and 31st Street Studios.

Founded in 1900 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Mellon University began as Carnegie Technical Schools. Today, the school serves around 15,800 students enrolled in more than 200 programs across seven colleges and schools. CMU also has more than a dozen degree-granting locations, and over 20 research partnerships in Silicon Valley, Australia, Africa, and Qatar. A private, global research university, Carnegie Mellon University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

2. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Drexel University

The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design (The Westphal College) at Drexel University (Drexel) has a number of paths to study game design including undergraduate majors, minors, accelerated, and dual degree programs. Options include the Game Design and Production BS, Game Design and Production/Digital Media BS/MS, Interactive Digital Media/Digital Media BS/MS, and the Interactive Digital Media Minor.

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), Westphal College programs are hands-on and studio-based, with small class sizes that allow for individual instruction. Mandatory participation in the Drexel University Cooperative (co-op) Education Program enables students to gain work and world experience prior to graduation. Co-op experiences take place at both local and national companies, and in places such as Ghana, Hong Kong, Greece, London, and Spain.

The College of Computing & Informatics at Drexel University has several additional options for designers looking for programs that combine game development and computer science. Available pathways include BA and BS degrees in Computer Science (BAC, BSCS), and a 24 credit hour CS Minor. The BA and BS Programs provide an optional Game Programming and Development (GMPD) Concentration. Like all Westphal College programs, the Computer Science programs provide a hands-on curriculum combined with valuable co-op experiences. All programs end with a full-year capstone project.

Other program highlights across all pathways include access to the RePlay Lab, the Entrepreneurial Game Studio (EGS), and the Center for Games, Artificial Intelligence, and Media Systems (GAIMS Center). Graduates of the Game Design Programs at Drexel University are prepared to pursue positions in PC Game Design, Game Art, Simulation, Mobile Game Design, Job Training, and Console Game Design, and Serious Games, among other areas.

More than 80% of Drexel gaming graduates and nearly 90% of dual degree graduates are working in an area directly related to game development. Examples of companies that employ Drexel alumni include Xbox Game Studios, Microsoft Studios, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Zynga, Blizzard Entertainment, Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Disney Interactive, Digital Domain, BioWare, Disney Imagineering, Lockheed, Volition Inc., NCSoft Carbine Studios, Comcast Corporation, Razorfish, and Gameloft.

Drexel University was established in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science, & Industry. The school serves approximately 23,215 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). The Animation & Visual Effects (VFX) and Digital Media Programs are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Arts & Design (NASAD).

3. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) has several paths to study game design. At the graduate level, UPenn has an interdisciplinary option that’s one of the few programs of its kind offered at a four-year research university. Launched in 2004 by the UPenn Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS), the unique Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT) Program leads to the Master of Engineering (MSE) in CGGT.

The Center for HMS is housed in the Computer and Information Science Department (CIS) within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. CGGT MSE students here will take at least four computer science and engineering courses along with technical, graphics, and free electives. Course examples for the program include Game Design and Development, Computer Animation, Machine Perception, Engineering Entrepreneurship, Applied Machine Learning, and GPU Programming and Architecture.

UPenn CGGT MSE students may specialize in areas such as Creative Design, Animation and Simulation Technology, Human/Computer Interfaces and Production Management, and Art and Animation. Other program highlights include collaboration with students from other departments such as Digital Media Design (DMD), and access the SIG Center for Computer Graphics, which features a state-of-the-art motion capture studio, ViDi Center for Digital Visualization Center, AR/VR systems (Vive, Oculus, and HoloLens), and high-performance NVidia GPU processors. 

Graduates of the University of Pennsylvania CGGT MSE Program are prepared for a variety of roles in game design and animation. Program alumni have established careers at major studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), DreamWorks Animation, and Disney Animation Studios.

Also housed in the School of Engineering and Applied Science is the Digital Media Design (DMD) Program. Launched in 1998, this interdisciplinary program combines coursework from UPenn School of Design and the CIS Department. Leading to a Bachelor’s in Engineering and Science (BSE) with DMD Major, the program explores games, animation, interactive technologies, virtual reality design, and computer graphics. A programming-intensive Digital Media Design (DMD) Minor is also available.

Graduates of the UPenn DMD BSE are frequently hired at major companies and studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Microsoft, Disney Animation, and Pixar.

Established in 1740, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. The school, which houses 189 research centers and institutes, provides more than 400 programs to approximately 28,040 students from across the U.S. and just about every continent. Programs at UPenn are housed across 16 colleges and schools. The University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

4. University of the Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of the Arts

University of the Arts (UArts) launched The Center for Immersive Media (CIM) in 2019. Housed in a 5,600 square feet space, The CIM is dedicated to emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), performance motion capture, and human-computer interaction (HCI). The CIM is open to all UArts design students.

Specific programs students interested in games include the Game Art BFA and the 15 credit hour Game Design Minor. Housed in the School of Film, the programs consist of courses such as Game Play, Writing for Games, Virtual Environments, 3D Simulation & Effects, Game Concepts, Sound Design, Computer Art Studio, Advanced 3D Animation, Interface Design, Digital Studio, and Professional Practice. Free electives allow students to take additional courses in an area of interest, pursue other areas in the arts, or take on a minor in one of 23 programs. Examples include Business, Illustration, and Photography.

Other BFA Program benefits include the opportunity to work on real-world projects through the Digital Studio and Professional Practice courses, frequent visits by recruiters, opportunities to participate in the Global Game Jam, workshops and studios, and the Game Art Senior Thesis Exhibition, and participation in an internship with a local or regional company. UArts BFA students have completed internships with companies such as Comcast, Analytical Graphics Inc., PHL Collective, and Perfect Prototype. Recruiters that have visited UArts include Bethesda Softworks and Sony, among others.

Graduates of the Game Art and Game Design Programs at University of the Arts UArts have worked on major games such as the World of Warcraft and God of War series, and with studios such as Blizzard Entertainment and Sony. UArts alumni also work in a variety of positions at other studios across the country and around world.

Founded in 1876 as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, University of the Arts serves approximately 1,500 students enrolled in more than 40 degree programs in fine arts, design, media arts, dance, music, theater, and crafts. More than 20 minors are available and open to all students. UArts programs are offered in the Schools of Art, Dance, Design, Film, Music, Theater Arts, and Graduate and Professional Studies. University of the Arts is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

5. Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Moore College of Art & Design

Moore College of Art and Design (Moore) has an Animation & Game Arts (AGA) Program that features a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio, a $1,000 paid internship, and a 97% employment rate within one year after graduating. Moore AGA students and graduates have worked at Titmouse Animation Studio, QuadraTron Games, Digital Effix, PETAL et al., and Neon Ave. Studios.

Leading to a BFA, the AGA Program takes place in a collaborative environment where students have access to state-of-the-art equipment and production spaces, workshops led by professionals in the field, and the Annual Game Changers Symposium. Course examples for the program include Game Strategies Studio, Animation & Storyboarding, 3D Environments, Time-Based Media Projects, 2D Character Design & Environment Design, Mobile Media Projects, and Game Projects.

Through studios and open electives, students may focus in a specific area of AGA. In the final year of the program, students will complete Senior Studio and the Senior Thesis.

Graduates of the AGA BFA Program at Moore College of Art & Design have interned with or been hired after graduation for positions at Titmouse Animation Studio, Grover Gaming, Digital Effix, Viasat, Deux Wave, QuadraTron Games, Scoppechio, and Duolingo.

Founded in 1848 as the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, Moore College of Art & Design serves a co-ed population of approximately 380 students enrolled 20+ programs leading to a BFA, Minor, MA, or MFA. The school also offers nine 4+1 programs (BFA+MA), six certificate programs, and several youth education options. Moore College of Art & Design is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).