Our 2017 list of the Top 50 Game Design School Programs in the US. For an explanation of ranking criteria, click here.
1. University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California (top 1% of schools considered)
University of Southern California (USC) was established in 1880. The school is home to 44,000 students enrolled in over 500 degree programs across 18 colleges and schools. Program options for aspiring game designers are available through Viterbi School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, Interactive Media & Games Division. Dornsife programs are offered in in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts.
Viterbi School of Engineering offerings include a BS in Computer Science – CSCI (Games), an MS in Computer Science (Game Development), and a PhD in Computer Science with a Game Design and Development or Virtual Reality research area. A Minor in Computer Science and a Progressive Degree Program (PDP) are also available.
The Progressive Degree Program allows exceptional undergraduate students to “start graduate-level classes during their senior year and request a reduction in the units required for the Master’s degree.” This “allows students to earn the MS in Computer Science with one or two additional semesters of study.” The PDP is available for the MS in Computer Science (Game Development).
The Interactive Media & Games Division offers a BA in Interactive Entertainment, an intensive three-year MFA in Interactive Media and an MFA in Interactive Media (Games and Health), and an MA in Media Arts, Games and Health. The Division’s extensive list of minors in 2-D Art for Games, 3-D Art for Games, Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Design, Game Entrepreneurism, Game Studies, Game User Research, Video Game Design and Management, and Video Game Programming.
In addition to a wide variety of program options for aspiring game designers, USC is home to the GamePipe Laboratory. Sponsored by Intel, Sony, and other technology companies, the Lab produces a "Demo Day," which allows students to showcase their work. The semiannual event attracts game industry reps, reporters, faculty, students, and hundreds of spectators from across the country.
2. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (top 1% of schools considered)
Founded in 1850, the University of Utah (The U) is home more than 31,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world. The school offers nearly 100 undergraduate programs and more than 90 graduate programs. The U houses 17 colleges and schools, and nearly 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts manage the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Master Games Studio (EAE:MGS). The Studio offers a Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE). Tracks include Game Arts, Game Engineering, Game Production, and Technical Art. According to the Studio, “all students in each of the tracks have a series of common classes including Game Design, Rapid Prototyping, Pre-Production, and Final Project.” In addition, students will “develop and enhance a professional game portfolio” and they will have the opportunity to complete an internship in the game industry.
The David Eccles School of Business and the Entertainment Arts & Engineering Program also offer a dual degree program “designed to take advantage of the complementary elements in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and the Masters of Entertainment Arts & Engineering.” The MBA/MEAE, which aims to bridge the ‘suits’ vs. the ‘dev’ divide, takes three years to complete.
Other offerings include a BA in Film and Media Arts and a BS in Computer Science. Both programs offer an Emphasis in Entertainment Arts and Engineering (EAE). The BA is available through the School of Computing and Department of Film and Media Arts, and the BS is available through the School of Computing.
3. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York (top 2% of schools considered)
The B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) has several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development, and a BS in New Media Interactive Development. The Game Design and Development program focuses on the design of game interaction and game development, as well as game programming and cooperative education (co-op). Cooperative education is a full-time paid work experience, which provides students the opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings.
Students in the BS in New Media Interactive Development program can explore casual games, physical computing, production, web, mobile, and more. All GCCIS students have the opportunity to minor in Game Design or Game Design and Development or enroll in a double major.
Head to the RIT School of Design, where you will find another program for game designer. The 3D Digital Design program offers a curriculum in visual design for games, virtual worlds, and more. This program leads to a BFA, with plans for developing an MFA. Note that all programs offer opportunities for co-ops and internships.
In addition to the academic programs, the RIT MAGIC (Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity) Center recently launched MAGIC Spell Studios. The Center and Studios are a university-wide state-of-the-art education, research and production studio focused on exploring cutting-edge interactive digital media. Highlights include computer gaming labs, a movie theatre, innovation suite, soundstage, collaborative partner suite, AR/VR/MR lab, and a research computing facility.
4. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (top 3% of schools considered)
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) was founded in 1900. The school is home nearly 14,000 students and it houses more than 100 centers and institutes. CMU students have access to over 100 programs across seven colleges and schools. In collaboration with the School of Computer Science-Computer Science Department, the College of Fine Arts-Integrative Design, Arts and Technology Network (IDeATe) offers a Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) with a Concentration in Game Design. IDeATe Collaborative Studios include Game Engine Programming offered by the Robotics Institute, Research Issues in Game Development offered by the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at CMU, and Programming for Game Designers—also offered by the ETC. An IDeATe Minor is also available.
Head over to CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) and you will find another game design option. Founded in 1998, ETC offers a Master of Entertainment Technology (MET) that is jointly conferred by CMU’s School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts. MET is currently considered a terminal degree.
5. New York University Tisch School of the Arts, New York, New York (top 4% of schools considered)
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of New York University (NYU) and home to the NYU Game Center, Department of Game Design. Also known as Tisch or TSOA, the school has more than 3,000 students enrolled in acting, dance, design, performance, film, animation, writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television, preservation, recorded music, photography, interactive media, games, and public policy programs.
The NYU Game Center, Department of Design offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a Game Design BFA or MFA. A Minor in Game Design is also available. The BFA program is organized in three primary areas including Game Studies, Game Design, Game Development, and four production areas including Programming, Visual Design, Audio Design, and Game Business. Students may specialize in Game Programming, Visual or Audio Design, or Game Development.
The Game Center MFA is a two-year degree that includes classes in Game Design, Game Production, Game Studies, and Game History. Students will gain hands-on experience by taking studio courses and participating in play labs, and electives will allow students to “explore everything from Game Journalism to Games and Players (a class on the psychology and emotions of game play).”
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."
6. Digipen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington (top 4% of schools considered)
Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology is home to 1,084 students from across the U.S. and 45 countries. The school offers 10 programs leading to a BA, BFA, BS, MS, or MFA in the areas of Art, Design, and Computer Science. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Game Design, a BS in Computer Science and Game Design, a BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation (BS in RTIS), a five-year BS in RTIS/MS in Computer Science, and a Minor in Game Design.
Although the BS in RTIS offers “extensive training in mathematics and physics,” per Digipen, students in the program also “work both individually and collaboratively to learn the fundamentals of Game Design, Production, and Programming. Additionally, they write game design documents and technical design documents, learn how to schedule tools and techniques, and participate in the full production of several games.” The Game Design programs at Digipen Institute of Technology are offered through the Department of Game Software Design and Production.
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts (top 5% of schools considered)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded 1861. The school is home to 11,376 students enrolled in more than 100 programs across five schools including the School of Architecture and Planning, the School of Engineering, the School of Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences (HASS), MIT Sloan School of Management, and the School of Science. Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also home to the MIT Game Lab, the MIT Education Arcade, and the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.
Together, the labs provide the opportunity to study, design, and develop games as a supplement to several degree programs. Simply put, students who are interested in games can create their own program is study. Students may choose the BS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster” or an MS with a Specialization in Games.
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science offers an extensive graduate program in Computer Science, which allows students to “study and participate in active research of aspects in computer science that are vital in the creation of modern digital games, such as artificial intelligence, networking, and computer graphics.” A Minor in CMS is also available. These programs are available through the HASS Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.
8. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida (top 10% of schools considered)
Founded in 1963 the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the nation’s youngest universities. With more than 64,000 students enrolled in more than 200 degree programs across 13 colleges, UCF is also the largest university in Florida by enrollment, and one of the largest in the U.S. Based on size alone, it’s not surprising that the school offers one of the largest game design schools in the region as well.
The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) is UCF’s graduate video game design school. The Academy opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA is home to dozens of students enrolled in the MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks. Track options include Art, Production, and Programming. FIEA and the School of Visual Arts & Design (SVAD) also offer a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design, an MFA in Emerging Media with a Track in Digital Media, and an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media.
9. University of California - Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (top 10% of schools considered)
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC) opened in 1965. The school is home to 17,335 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs across 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE), Department of Computer Science (CS), offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design, an MS in Games & Playable Media, and MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a Research Focus in Computer Games.
The UCSC Art Department houses the Arts Division, which offers an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) with a Playable Media Research Option. UCSC is also home to The Center for Games and Playable Media. Established in 2010, the Center houses the schools “five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world.”
10. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York (top 10% of schools considered)
Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is a collection of five schools offering more than 145 programs to a population of more than 7,000 students. The School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) offers a BS in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS). Students may choose a concentration or dual BS degree from the following options: Arts (Electronic Arts), Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Science, Management/Entrepreneurship, Cognitive Science, or Writing for Games.
RPI also offers several advanced degree programs for game designers. Graduate offerings include MFA and PhD degrees in Electronic Arts (EART). Offered through the Department of Arts, both degree programs allow students to explore everything from Gaming and Animation to Communication Technologies.
11. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (top 10% of schools considered)
Established in 1898 and home to more than 23,000 students, DePaul University is the nation’s largest Catholic University and one of the oldest. The school offers more than 300 programs of study across 10 colleges and schools. A few include the College of Communication, the School of Music and the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM).
CDM is organized into three schools including the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), the School of Computing (SoC), and the School of Design (SoD). CDM SoD offers a BS in Game Design, MFA in Game Design, and Minors in Game Design and Game Programming. SoC offers BS and MS degrees in Game Programming and Minors in Game Design and Game Programming. The Minors are jointly offered by CDM SoD and SoD.
DePaul University also offers a Game, Cinema, and Animation Summer Academy and the DePaul Game Experience (DGE). The Summer Academy is a weeklong program that features “hands-on instruction using the latest equipment and technology.” Participants may focus on Computer Game Development, 3D Computer Modeling and Animation for Games and Cinema or Digital Cinema Production.
The DePaul Game Experience allows a select group of students to work on a game to submit to the Student IGF Competition. Past DGE teams have made entries that were finalists in the IGDA student competition.
12. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (top 10% of schools considered)
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) is home to more than 50,000 students from all 82 counties in Michigan, all 50 states, and more than 133 other countries. MSU students have access to more than 200 programs across 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department—home of the game design program.
Undergraduate degree options include BA and BS degrees in Media and Information with a Game Design and Development Specialization, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Design and Development Specialization, and a BA or BFA in Studio Art with a Game Design and Development Specialization. The Specialization is also available to other majors “on a case-by-case basis, particularly those in the Honors College.” An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available.
According to the school, “the minor brings together students in Media and Information, Computer Science, and Studio Art. For most majors outside of MI, the Minor often nearly fulfills the student's cognate requirements.” The College of Engineering, College of Arts & Letters, and College of Communication Arts and Sciences administer the Minor jointly. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences is the lead administrative unit.
Graduate game offerings include an MA in HCI with a Games and Meaningful Play Focus, a PhD in Media and Information Studies (Research Area: Games and Meaningful Play), and a Graduate Certificate in Serious Games. Besides offering a wide variety of program offerings for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences is home to the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. According to the College, the mission of the GEL Lab is to “design innovative prototypes, techniques, and complete games for entertainment and learning and to advance state of the art knowledge about social and individual effects of digital games.”
13. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 10% of schools considered)
Established in 1891, Drexel University is home to more than 24,000 students enrolled in over 200 degree programs across 15 colleges and schools. The College of Computing & Informatics offers several programs for aspiring game designers including a BS in Computer Science (BSCS) and a BA in Computer Science (BACS). Both programs offer a Concentration in Game Programming and Development (GMPD).
The Westphal College of Media Arts & Design also offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Programs include BS degrees in Game Art and Production or Game Design & Production, and MS and PhD degrees in Digital Media. The two-year MS program features comprehensive studies in Gaming and Digital Media History, Theory and Methods, 3D Modeling, Interactivity, and Animation.
A final option is for students interested in teaching. The School of Education offers a Graduate Certificate in Learning in Game Based Environments. All students have access to Drexel Game Design and the RePlay Lab. DGD and RePlay are collaborative efforts between the Digital Media program (in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design) and the Computer Science department (in the College of Computing and Informatics).
14. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia (top 10% of schools considered)
Georgia Institute of Technology (GeorgiaTech) was founded in 1885. The school opened for classes October 8, 1888, with just 129 students enrolled in a BS in Mechanical Engineering program. Today, GeorgiaTech is home to more than 25,000 students enrolled in over 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors. Offerings for aspiring game designers are available through GeorgiaTech’s College of Computing.
Known as Games@GT, this “institute-wide initiative” was “designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations.” Degree options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Game Studies Focus, an MS degree in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology), an MS in Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. The BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Game Studies Focus is also supported by the School of Literature Communication and Culture within the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
All Games@GT students have access to resources offered by the GVU Center at Georgia Tech and the Institute for People and Technology.
15. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (top 10% of schools considered)
Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) was established in 1931 by circus baron John Ringling. This visual arts and design school opened with 111 course offerings and just 75 students. Today, RCAD is home to 1,300 degree-seeking students enrolled in 13 majors and five minors across several departments. Programs for game designers are part of the Computer Animation Department.
Options include a BFA in Game Art. Students in the program will study “the basics of game design mechanics, meaningful play, interactivity, and options for creating and refining game content.” The technical aspects of 3D animation software and game engines will also be explored and students have access to eight state-of-the-art computer labs in addition to three open labs. Per the school, “Game Art students are also experimenting with VR technology using the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.”