What are the top Texas game design programs for 2024?

Top 5 Texas Game Design Schools and Colleges - 2024 College Rankings
1Southern Methodist UniversityDallas
2University of Texas at AustinAustin
3Texas A&M UniversityCollege Station
4University of Texas at DallasDallas
5Abilene Christian UniversityAbilene

Our 2024 ranking of the top game design school programs in Texas. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas
Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University (SMU) is home to SMU Guildhall. Launched in 2033 with just 32 students, this education initiative was the first digital game development program of its kind. Serving hundreds of students today, SMU Guildhall is still the only graduate program in the country to provide specializations in all four areas of video game development: Design, Production, Art, and Programming. 

SMU Guildhall students also benefit from the program’s partnerships with hundreds of studios and companies across the globe. Some 1,000+ SMU Guildhall alumni work (or have worked) at more than 350 studios worldwide. Examples include Blizzard Entertainment, Insomniac Games, Microsoft Game Studios, Gameloft, Samsung, Disney Interactive, Epic Games, Riot Games, Bungie, Unity, and Bethesda. Other SMU Guildhall highlights include workshops, lectures, and guest speakers; mentorship programs; team game projects; and professional development coursework, portfolio reviews; and career fairs.

SMU Guildhall at Southern Methodist University has two paths to study game design: the Master of Interactive Technology (MIT) in Digital Game Development (thesis required) and a Professional Certificate in Digital Game Development (no thesis). Guildhall specialization options include Production, Art Creation, Software Development, and Level Design. Guildhall students have the opportunity to develop a minimum of three industry-ready 2D and 3D games. This is a requirement to graduate. 

Southern Methodist University has several additional program options for game designers. Meadows School of Art houses the Division of Art and the Art BFA program. In collaboration with the Guildhall, the Art BFA allows students to add the Art Creation or Level Design specialization through the Guildhall’s Digital Game Development MIT program. 

The Computer Science Department in Lyle School of Engineering has a Computer Science BS (CS BS) that allows students to add a Game Development track. Courses examples include Programming for Commercial Game Engines; Software Development for Games; Math and Physics, and Team Game Production. Core requirements for the CS BS include Programming Languages; Assembly Language Programming and Machine Organization; Digital Computer Design; Graphical User Interface Design and Implementation; and Software Engineering Principles. 

BS CS students may also study games through the program’s required 11 credits of advanced electives. The program culminates with the Game Design Project. 

Graduates of the Game Design programs at Southern Methodist University are prepared to pursue advanced roles in all areas of game design and development. Program alumni have worked on games such as Call of Duty, Fortnite, Guitar Hero, Assassins Creed, Game of Thrones, God of War, Marvel Avengers, Grand Theft Auto, League of Legends, Batman, Disney Infinity, Elite Force, Days Gone, Atlas, Doom, and Diablo. 

In addition to the studios mentioned earlier, SMU graduates have been hired at places such as include Electronic Arts (EA), Google, Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, Bioware, Oculus VR, Zenimax Online Studios, Gearbox, Valve, Obsidian Entertainment, Irrational Games, and Crystal Dynamics. 

Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University serves approximately 11,840 students from all 50 states, DC, and 90 foreign countries. SMU provides 250 programs at all degree levels across seven colleges and schools. Southern Methodist University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The school is also an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

2. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) has been providing game design coursework since 2012. In 2020, the school launched a new gaming curriculum entitled the UT Game Development and Design Program. Designed for undergraduates interested in the gaming, creative, and interactive/immersive industries, the program is a partnership between the Department of Computer Science (CS), the Department of Radio-Television-Film (RTF), and the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies (AET). 

CS covers visualization and coding for games; RTF provides coursework that explores narrative design, cinematic arts, and emergent media; and AET features courses focused solely on gaming. Students may also focus in games through minor programs and concentrations provided across all three departments. 

Part of the College of Natural Sciences, the CS Department has a 15-credit hour Game Development concentration within the BS CS program. Courses include Game Programming Paradigms; Computer Graphics; Game Technology; 2D Game Development (capstone course); and 3D Game Development (capstone course). 

The AET Department is housed in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Design and Creative Technologies. The AET major curriculum covers design and interactivity; art and content; media and technology; sound and space; and creative coding. AET Students and others may concentrate in Game Design concentration. Featured courses include Game System Design; Game Scripting; Game Development; VR for Games; Physical Game Design; Level Design; Mobile Game Development; Game Prototyping; and Challenges in Game Design.  

The AET major also has concentrations in Experience Design; Music and Sound; Arts and Entertainment; and Visualization. Music and Sound is ideal for students who would like to compose music for video games. Experience Design, Visualization, and Arts and Entertainment provide additional courses related to games. Examples include Game Character Animation; Future of Gaming; Interactive Environments; Realtime Pipeline; Cross Platform Storytelling; Challenges in Game Design; Advanced Creative Coding; Virtual Production; Mixed Reality; Narrative Design; and Digital Experience Design Studio.

At the graduate level, students may study Game Design through the MS in CS (MS CS) or the Five-Year BS/MS Integrated CS. Both options explore game technology and computer graphics. A project-based capstone is a key part of the programs, as well as opportunities to complete an internship with a local, national, or global company. Many graduate internships lead to job offers. 

The Game Design programs at University of Texas at Austin require independent and collaborative projects to graduate. These hands-on experiences include team projects and working with UT Austin partners. Requirements can be fulfilled through courses such as AET Studio Industry Partnership; Senior Design Project; University Partnership; College Collaboration; Game Dev Capstone; and Independent Study. 

Graduates of the Game Design and Development programs at UT Austin enjoy a 93% employment rate within six months of graduation, regardless of concentration area. Across programs, alumni have been hired at places such as GameStop, IBM, Amazon, Google, HP, Zynga, Electronic Arts (EA), Apple, Scientific Games, Aspyr Media, Inc., Diamond Entertainment, Everi Digital, and Cloud Imperium.

Founded in 1883, University of Texas at Austin serves approximately 51,915 students, making it one of the largest universities in Texas. UT Austin provides more than 155 undergraduate degree programs with 170+ fields of study; 139 graduate degree programs; and nearly 100 doctoral programs across 19 colleges and schools. University of Texas at Austin is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas
Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University (TAMU) has several paths to study Game Design in the School of Performance, Visualization & Fine Arts (PVFA) and the College of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering. The PVFA houses the houses the Visualization Department, which has BS, MS, and MFA programs. In partnership with the PVFA, TAMU Engineering has a 16-credit hour Game Design and Development minor that explores the technical aspects of game creation. 

Course examples for the minor include Programming; Game Design; Game Development; Interactive Virtual Environments; Communication and Video Games; and Computer-Human Interaction. Students in this program have the opportunity to collaborate on the design and development of game projects and engage in problem-solving with interdisciplinary team members. 

The Visualization BS at TAMU combines programming, digital technology, three-dimensional design, and fine arts. Students in this 120-credit hour program may select from five emphasis areas. Options include Game Creation; Interactive Design; Visual Computing; Animation and Virtual Production; and Media Art. 

All options take place in a studio environment, where students will work on a variety of exercises and projects using electronic and traditional media. Course examples for the program include Drawing for Visualization; Production Techniques; Visual Computing; Field Studies in Design Innovation; Time and Interaction; Visual Studies Studio; Digital Media; and Research Techniques in Visualization. 

The Visualization BS culminates with a capstone project that integrates scripting and programming; digital communication; concept development; drawing and design; art history; and core methodologies. 

The TAMU Visualization MS has two tracks and eight emphasis areas. Students may focus in Gaming; Interactive Design; Computer Graphics; Virtual Reality; Computer Animation; Augmented Reality; User Experience Design; or Data Visualization. Tracks include: Thesis and Non-Thesis. The Thesis track is 32 credit hours. The Non-Thesis track is 36 credit hours. The Thesis track is an ideal option for students interested in careers in gaming, animation, motion graphics, concept art, and rigging. Students in this track are encouraged to have both local and competitive external exhibitions related to their thesis work. 

The Non-Thesis track allows students to customize the curriculum through a combination of required and elective courses. The culminating experience for this option is the creation and defense of a capstone project. In both tracks, students will develop projects under the direction of a faculty advisor. 

The Visualization MFA at TAMU is one of the few programs of its kind in the state of Texas. With a focus on technological innovations and applications, the interdisciplinary MFA provides the opportunity to select an area of emphasis from eight options. They include Gaming; Computer Animation; Visual Storytelling; Virtual/Augmented Reality; Interactive Art; Visual Effects; User Experience Design; and Data Visualization. 

All students in this 60-credit hour program will take courses such as Form/Installation/Environment; Design Communication; The Digital Image; Contemporary Art Studio/Seminar; and Professional Practice. Free and prescribed electives allow students to enhance the degree. Examples include 3D Modeling and Animation; Rendering and Shading; Advanced Animation; Physical Computing for Art and Design; Digital Compositing; Computer Animation; Computer Aided Sculpting; and Time-Based Media.

The Visualization MFA at TAMU culminates with a Final Presentation and Written Document.

Graduates of the Visualization programs and Game Design and Development minor at Texas A&M University are prepared for careers in fields such as Game Design, Game Level Design, Game Asset Development, Production Management, Technical Art, Production Management, UI/UX Development, and Visual Development. 

TAMU alumni are often hired at local (and major) companies and studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts (EA), Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), Microsoft, DreamWorks Animation, Pixar, LucasFilm Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Reel FX, Aspyr Media, Bouncing Pixel, and Presagis. 

Serving approximately 77,490 students, Texas A&M University the largest university in the state and one the largest in the nation. Established in 1876, TAMU is also the state’s first public institution of higher learning. The school provides around 410 degree programs across 16 colleges and schools; the main campus in College Station, Texas; branch campuses in Galveston, Texas, and Doha, Qatar; and numerous other locations throughout Texas and in Washington, D.C. 

Texas A&M University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

4. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas
University of Texas at Dallas

University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is home to the Harry W. Bass Jr. School of Arts, Humanities, and Technology (AHT). The AHT was established in August 2022 after the consolidation of the School of Arts & Humanities (founded in 1975), and the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC), founded in 2002 as Texas’s first Arts and Technology degree. 

The AHT still houses the ATEC BA, MA, MFA, and PhD programs, all of which provide opportunities to study game design and development. For example, the ATEC BA has an Animation & Games (A&G) concentration, while the MFA has a Game Development concentration. MA students may be admitted to the Emerging Media Studies pathway and/or create their own specialization through electives and other courses. 

PhD students may select up to 15 credit hours from other schools, and they may also choose electives in games and other related areas. And because ATEC is located in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and technology Building, PhD and other students have access to a number of research labs, studios, and teams engaged in areas such as game studies, modeling and simulation, virtual environments, emerging media and communication, and sound design. 

All Ut Dallas ATEC students have access to a variety of other state-of-the-art facilities and other resources including the Game Lab; CG Animation Lab; Motion Capture Studio; Games and Media Library; Surround Studio; Animation Lab; Narrative Systems Research Lab; The Studio for Mediating Play; ATEC Lecture Hall; experimenta.l.; Games Research Lab; Render Farm; 3D Studio; and Mixed Media Lab. The ATEC Lecture Hall has hosted speakers from Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks. 

Graduates of the ATEC programs at University of Texas at Dallas are prepared to pursue roles across industries and at leading studios, companies, and other organizations. Program alumni have been hired at places such as Pixar, Apple, DreamWorks, Google, Disney, Toyota, and Capital One. 

University of Texas at Dallas opened in the 1960s as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest. Established by the owners of Texas Instruments, UT Dallas is an official member of the University of Texas System, and a Carnegie R1 Doctoral Institution. The school serves more than 30,000 students enrolled in nearly 150 degree programs across seven schools. University of Texas at Dallas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). 

5. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas
Abilene Christian University

The College of Business Administration at Abilene Christian University (ACU) houses the School of Information Technology and Computing (SITC). Within the school is a Digital Entertainment and Technology BS (DET BS), an 18 credit hour DET minor, and a Computer Science BS (BS CS). Across programs, students benefit from access to internships and part-time employment opportunities; hands-on experience with the latest technology; and interactions with industry professionals. 

In addition, all degree-seeking students may join the DET Club and participate in ACU's Film Fest. Students are also encouraged to participate in ACU's Study Abroad Program. For designers who would like to learn more about the film and entertainment industry, Abilene Christian University houses the LA Film School Program, where students can spend an entire semester in Los Angeles learning about the film industry and making valuable connections with professionals at major studios. 

The portfolio-driven DET BS has tracks in Game Development and Virtual Production. The BS CS has a Game Development (GDP) concentration. Across options, students will complete 128 credit hours including 56 university hours, 66 in the major (with a track or concentration), and six hours of electives. DET BS students will take courses such as Game Textures; Game Materials; Serious Games; 3D Animation: Keyframes and Pixels; AR/VR Development; and Advanced 3D Modeling. 

BS CS/Game Development students will take courses such as Programming I-II; Software Engineering I-II; Digital Logic; Game Engines; Introduction to Digital Entertainment; and Design and Analysis of Algorithms. In the DET minor, students will take Introduction to Programming Using Scripting or Programming I; Introduction to Digital Entertainment; Introduction to 3D Modeling or 2D Animation; and Game Engines. The remaining credits will come from two upper level (300-499) courses--students choice. 

The culminating experience for the DET BS and the BS/CS GDP programs at Abilene Christian University is the final project. Students will also create a professional portfolio of their best work. Graduates are prepared to pursue roles across the video game, film and animation, mobile app, software development, advertising, software programming, AR/VR fields, education, and simulation training, among others. 

Examples of potential job titles include Game Developer, Game Designer, Game Programmer, Game Animator, Special Effects (SFX) Artist, Visual Effects (VFX) artist (VFX)Software Developer, Software Programmer, User Interface/User Experience Designer, Mobile App Developer, and Web Developer. 

Founded in 1906, Abilene Christian University serves approximately 5,730 students, making it one of the largest private institutions in the Southwest. Students at ACU have access to 87 undergraduate majors with 171 areas of study, 71 areas of study at the master’s and specialist degree levels, and four doctorate programs. Programs at ACU are housed across 10 colleges and schools. Abilene Christian University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).