What are the top Washington game design programs for 2023?

Top 5 Washington Game Design Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1DigiPen Institute of TechnologyRedmond
2University of WashingtonSeattle
3Academy of Interactive EntertainmentSeattle
4Lake Washington Institute of TechnologyKirkland
5Cornish College of the ArtsSeattle

Our 2023 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) was the first college in the world to offers a Bachelor’s degree in Video Game Technology and Development. The program has expanded to include BS degrees in Computer Science (CS) & Game Design and CS in Real-Time Interactive Simulation, and a Game Design BA.

A Digital Art MFA that allows students to customize a specialization is also available. The MFA requires a Final Thesis Project, consisting of a Professional Portfolio. MFA graduates are prepared to pursue careers in both Games and Animation.

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.

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

For exceptional students, DigiPen offers an accelerated BS/MS Program that can be completed 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.

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

DigiPen Institute of Technology was established in 1988 as a Vancouver, British Columbia-based computer simulation and animation company. The school serves around 1,200 students enrolled in 10 degree programs in Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio.

DigiPen 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. 

DigiPen Institute of Technology is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

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

The College of Professional & Continuing Education (PCE) at University of Washington (UW) has a Game Design Certificate Program developed 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 UW’s School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.

For students seeking a degree, the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) at University of Washington has several options that are suitable for game designers. Degree programs include the BS in CS or Computer Engineering, the combined BS/MS in CS or Engineering, the Professional Master’s Program (PMP), and a CSE PhD. All programs provide access to four main labs in the Allen School including the Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), Center for Game Science, Animation Research Labs (ARL), 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, the UW Reality Lab houses ongoing programs including The Reality Studio and The Reality Lab, courses, lectures, and the idea incubator.

Graduates of the Game Design and Computer Science Programs at University of Washington are prepared for careers in all areas of game design and development, technology, entertainment, and more. UW graduates are hired by hundreds of different employers each year. Examples include Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, and Meta.  

Established in 1861, University of Washington serves approximately 59,725 students across campuses in Seattle (main), Bothell, and Tacoma, Washington. UW offers more than 300 programs and 570+ degree options across in 18 colleges and schools. 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 the University is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

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

Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE) has several paths to study game design including an Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development with Game Art or Game Programming options, and a Two-Year Game Design and Production Advanced Diploma. All options are designed and delivered by working professionals in the video game industry.

These career-focused programs feature courses such as C++ Programming, Game Programming, Game Development, Foundations in 3D Animation, Game Art, Game Art & Animation, Game Design, and Game Design and Production.

At the graduate level, Academy of Interactive Entertainment has a program designed for students who are interested in starting their own studios or businesses. The Graduate Diploma of Management Learning 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 to complete multiple games that will become part of the student’s professional portfolio.

Graduates of the Game Design Programs at Academy of Interactive Entertainment 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 have been hired at studios and production companies DreamWorks, Weta Digital, Animal Logic, Luma Pictures, Telltale Games, Rising Sun Pictures (RSP), MPC Film, A44 Games, and Method Studios. Academy of Interactive Entertainment alumni have also gone on to launch their own studios or a successful career as an independent contractor. Just a few recent alumni credits include Mortal Kombat, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Candyman.

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

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 and the only public college in the Northwest to offer LWTech is the only public college in the Northwest to offer an AAS and BAS in Digital Gaming and Interactive Media.

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

Students 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, which attracts top studios and video game publishers, features new game demos, musical performances, tournaments, and more.

Graduates of the Digital Gaming and Interactive Media Programs at Lake Washington Institute of Technology can pursue positions in game design and development, virtual reality, film and television,  medical simulation, educational media, and advertising. Program alumni have been hired at Amazon, Nintendo, Bungie, Cartoon Network, Microsoft, PopCap Studios (a subsidiary of EA Games), Oculus, Funko, Inc., and SGK Schawk. Some LWTech graduates have also launched their own studios and freelance businesses.

Founded in 1949, Lake Washington Institute of Technology serves 6,365 enrolled in 42 areas of study leading to 45 different degrees and 86 professional certificates. LWTech programs are housed in the Schools of Design and Applied Arts, IT, Business, Education, Engineering and Manufacturing, Transportation Technology, and Health Sciences. Lake Washington Institute of Technology is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).  

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

Cornish College of the Arts (Cornish) houses the Design Department—home to the project-based Game Art BFA. Students in this immersive and interdisciplinary program will work with faculty from all visual arts departments to gain an understanding in multiple areas of visual arts. The first year consists of the Cornish Foundations Program. Course examples include Form + Structure, Time + Motion, Color + Composition, Observation + Visualization, and Visual Arts Histories.

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

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

During the final year of the Game Art BFA Program at Cornish College of the Arts, students will complete Design Research (Game Art), the BFA Capstone (Game Art), a Portfolio, and the Game Art BFA Exhibition.

Graduates of the Art and Design Programs at Cornish College of the Arts work in industries such as Game Art and Design, Visual Effects (VFX), AR/VR, Film, Video & Animation, Graphic Design, Multimedia, Advertising, and Theater.

Cornish College of the Arts dates back to 1914 when pianist and music educator Nellie Cornish founded The Cornish School for Drama, Music, Dance. Today, Cornish serves 635 students enrolled in Visual and Performing Arts Programs leading to a BFA or Bachelor of Music. Situated near theaters, museums, galleries, and music venues, and the Space Needle, Cornish College of the Arts has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) since 1977.