What are the top game design programs in Washington for 2022?

Top 5 Washington Game Design Schools - 2022 College Rankings
1DigiPen Institute of TechnologyRedmond
2University of WashingtonSeattle
3Academy of Interactive EntertainmentSeattle
4Lake Washington Institute of TechnologyKirkland
5Cornish College of the ArtsSeattle

Our 2022 ranking of the top game design school programs in Washington. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
DigiPen Institute of Technology

DigiPen Institute of Technology (DigiPen) launched the world’s first bachelor’s degree in Video Game Technology and Development. The program has evolved and expanded to include BS degrees in Computer Science (CS) & Game Design, and Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation, and BA in Game Design. An MFA in Digital Art that prepares graduates for careers in animation and games is also available. The program, which allows students to customize a specialization, requires a final Thesis Project, which culminates with a professional portfolio.

Students in the DigiPen Game Design BA Program will explore interactive systems and game design, communications, user experience, and psychology. BS in Computer Science & Game Design students will study artificial intelligence (AI), system, level and technical design, user interface design, and programming languages.

BS in CS/Real-Time Interactive Simulation students will master software engineering, 2D and 3D simulation, engine technology, graphics rendering, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), artificial intelligence (AI), and programming languages.

For exceptional students, DigiPen offers an accelerated BS/MS Program that allows them to complete both programs in just five years. The BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation degree program is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET.

Students in all programs will work in multidisciplinary teams in a studio environment to create software and a series of video games.

DigiPen Institute of Technology graduates enjoy a high placement rate. To date, more than 600 companies have hired DigiPen graduates. A few examples include Epic Games, DreamWorks Interactive, Google, Amazon, Walt Disney Imagineering, SpaceX, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Electronic Arts (EA), ArenaNet, Bungie, Activision, Insomniac Games, Zynga, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Booz Allen Hamilton, Intel Corporation, Ubisoft Shanghai, and Take-Two Interactive.

DigiPen Institute of Technology is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Established in 1988, DigiPen serves 1,200 students enrolled in 10 degree programs in Game Design and Development, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Computer Science, Audio and Music. DigiPen Institute of Technology has international campuses in Singapore and Spain, and educational partnerships with Princess Nourah bint Abdul Rahman University in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Keimyung University in South Korea, The One Academy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Thammasat University in Thailand. 

2. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
University of Washington

University of Washington (UW) offers a Certificate in Game Design in the College of Professional & Continuing Education (PCE). Designed for artists with at least two years of college experience who are interested in launching a career in game design or working designers and developers seeking advancement opportunities in the games industry. This three-quarter intensive program covers game design, game mechanics and systems design, and game studio roles and development.

The UW PCE Game Design Certificate was developed in partnership with the UW Bothell Digital Future Lab. The program is approved by the UW Bothell School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.

For students seeking a degree, the University of Washington Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) undergraduate and graduate programs that offer access to four main labs in the Allen School: Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), Center for Game Science, Animation Research Labs, and the Reality Lab.

GRAIL provides opportunities to work with researchers from Adobe, Google, Intel, and Microsoft. The researchers at the CSE Center for Game Science create projects designed to solve problems through games. The multidisciplinary Animation Research Labs is a collaboration between CSE, the Department of Architecture, and the Schools of Art, Drama, Music, and the Center for Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS). Students have opportunities to interact with industry experts from Disney Animation Studios, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Xbox Game Studios, and Bungie, among others.

In the UW Reality Lab, designers have opportunities to work on research projects in a variety of areas. Computer vision, lighting rendering, character animation, and 3D reconstruction are a few areas. Established in 2018, UW Reality Lab houses ongoing programs including The Reality Studio and The Reality Lab, courses, lectures, and the idea incubator.

Allen School CSE academic programs include BS degrees in CS or Computer Engineering, the combined BS/MS in CS or Engineering, the Professional Master’s Program (PMP), and a PhD in CSE.

University of Washington is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). Engineering at UW is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Established in 1861, the University of Washington serves around 57,300 students across campuses in Seattle (main), Bothell, and Tacoma, Washington. UW offers more than 300 programs and 570+ degree options in 18 colleges and schools.

3. Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Seattle, Washington
Academy of Interactive Entertainment

The Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) offers Advanced Diplomas of Professional Game Development with Game Art or Game Programming options, and a Two-Year Game Design and Production Advanced Diploma. These career-focused programs are designed and delivered by working professionals in the field. Course examples across programs include Foundations in 3D Animation, Game Art, Game Art & Animation, Game Design, Game Design and Production, C++ Programming, Game Programming, and Game Development.

Students who are interested in starting their own businesses or studios can also earn a Graduate Diploma of Management Learning. This option is supported by the AIE Incubator, which provides funding and assistance to help students launch their start-ups. The Incubator also provides digital content and access to job opportunities.

Other AIE benefits include access to collaborative workspaces such as Games Plus, participation in workshops, and the opportunity tot complete multiple games that will be showcased in the student’s final portfolio. 

Academy of Interactive Entertainment graduates are prepared for immediate employment in the games industry. Potential job titles include Game Designer, Game Developer, Game Artist, Game Programmer, Ui Designer, Narrative Designer, and Systems Designer, among others. AIE alumni can be found at studios and production companies such as Resin, A44 Games, Moving Picture Company, and Method Studios. Academy of Interactive Entertainment alumni have also gone on to launch their own studios or a career as an independent contractor. Just a few recent alumni credits include Mortal Kombat, Shang Candyman, and Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

Academy of Interactive Entertainment is accredited by the Commission of the Council on Occupational Education (COE). Established in 1996, AIE is a non-profit institution that consists of four campuses in Australia, two in the United States (Seattle and Lafayette), and an Online campus. Academy of Interactive Entertainment serves an estimated 150-200 students enrolled in four Diploma programs and a variety of single courses. 

4. Lake Washington Institute of Technology, Kirkland, Washington
Lake Washington Institute of Technology

Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech) is the only public institute of technology in the State of Washington. The Institute houses the School of Design & Applied Arts, home to the Digital Gaming & Interactive Media Program, which leads to an AAS or BAS. The BAS is the first degree of its kind in Washington to be offered by a public post-secondary institution.

the Digital Gaming & Interactive Media Programs explore game mechanics, game and interactive media production, animation, 3D modeling, programming, coding, software development, technical art, user interface, level design, and project management.

Students in both programs benefit from hands-on, production-oriented coursework and studios led by industry professionals, interdisciplinary collaboration and team projects, and the opportunity to produce a number of industry-ready games. A major component of the program is the chance to showcase student-games at PAX West. The event attracts top publishers and studios and it features new game demos, tournaments, musical performances, and more.

In addition to positions at game design studios, graduates of the LWTech Digital Gaming & Interactive Media Program can pursue positions in educational media, virtual reality, medical simulation, advertising, film and television, and marketing. Program alumni have been hired at Cartoon Network, Microsoft, Nintendo, PopCap Studios (a subsidiary of EA Games), Amazon, Bungie, Oculus, Funko, Inc., and SGK Schawk. Some LWTech graduates also go on to launch their own studios.

Lake Washington Institute of Technology is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Founded in 1949, the school serves 6,365 students from the Seattle, Washington area and around the world. Programs offered include 45 degree options and 86 professional certificates in 42 areas of study. LWTech programs are housed in the Schools of Design and Applied Arts, IT, Business, Education, Engineering and Manufacturing, Transportation Technology, and Health Sciences.

5. Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, Washington
Cornish College of the Arts

The Design Department at Cornish College of the Arts (Cornish) offers a BFA and a Minor in Game Art. Students in the Minor will complete five three-credit hour courses including Digital Tools, Concept Art, Character Animation, Interactive Narrative Environments, and Digital 3D Modeling.

BFA students will spend their first year in the Cornish Foundations Program. This immersive program is project-based and interdisciplinary. Students will work with faculty from all visual arts departments to gain an understanding in multiple areas of visual arts. Foundations course examples include Form + Structure, Time + Motion, Color + Composition, Observation + Visualization, and Visual Arts Histories.

Upon completion of 30 credit hours in Foundations, BFA students will move on to creating 2D and 3D art for games. Course examples include Digital Tools for Motion, Meta-Systems (Games), Publishing Tools (Game Art), Immersive Studio (Game Art), Game Art History: Parallel Narratives, and Professional Practices in Arts. This 120 credit hour program also provides the opportunity to study fast growing areas such as augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR).

In addition to hands-on learning on-campus, Cornish BFA students will have opportunities to complete an internship with studios such as Microsoft, Valve Games, Big Fish, and PopCap Studios (a subsidiary of EA Games).

During the final year of the Cornish College of the Arts BFA in Game Art, students will complete Design Research (Game Art), the BFA Capstone (Game Art), a Portfolio, and the Game Art BFA Exhibition. Cornish College of the Arts alumni work in industries such as game art and design, film, video and animation, animation and VFX, advertising and graphic design, AR/VR, multimedia, and theater.

Cornish College of the Arts is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). Founded in 1914, Cornish serves 635 students enrolled in Visual and Performing Arts programs leading to a BFA or Bachelor of Music.