What are the top ranked game design schools for 2021?
|Ranking||School||% of Schools Considered|
|1||University of Southern California||Top 1%|
|2||Carnegie Mellon University||Top 2%|
|3||New York University||Top 3%|
|4||University of Utah||Top 3%|
|5||University of Central Florida||Top 4%|
|6||Rochester Institute of Technology||Top 5%|
|7||DigiPen Institute of Technology||Top 5%|
|8||Savannah College of Art and Design||Top 6%|
|9||University of California, Santa Cruz||Top 7%|
|10||Full Sail University||Top 7%|
|11||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||Top 8%|
|12||Ringling College of Art and Design||Top 9%|
|13||Gnomon School of Visual Effects||Top 9%|
|14||Georgia Institute of Technology||Top 10%|
|15||DePaul University||Top 15%|
|16||Southern Methodist University||Top 15%|
|17||University of California, Los Angeles||Top 15%|
|18||Drexel University||Top 15%|
|19||Michigan State University||Top 15%|
|20||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Top 15%|
|21||University of California, Irvine||Top 15%|
|22||University of Texas at Austin||Top 20%|
|23||University of Washington||Top 20%|
|24||Texas A&M University, College Station||Top 20%|
|25||Columbia College Chicago||Top 20%|
|26||University of Texas at Dallas||Top 20%|
|27||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Top 20%|
|28||Champlain College||Top 20%|
|29||The New School/Parsons||Top 20%|
|30||The Ohio State University||Top 25%|
|31||Purdue University||Top 25%|
|32||Northeastern University||Top 25%|
|33||Becker College||Top 25%|
|34||Worcester Polytechnic Institute||Top 25%|
|35||Laguna College of Art and Design||Top 25%|
|36||Otis College of Art and Design||Top 25%|
|37||Academy of Art University||Top 30%|
|38||University of Florida||Top 30%|
|39||University of Pennsylvania||Top 30%|
|40||Clemson University||Top 30%|
|41||Indiana University||Top 30%|
|42||California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo||Top 30%|
|43||University of Wisconsin – Stout||Top 30%|
|44||Miami University||Top 35%|
|45||Maryland Institute College of Art||Top 35%|
|46||University of North Carolina at Charlotte||Top 35%|
|47||College for Creative Studies||Top 35%|
|48||ArtCenter College of Design||Top 35%|
|49||George Mason University||Top 35%|
|50||Ferris State University||Top 35%|
Our 2021 rankings 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. This private research university opened with just 53 students and 10 teachers. Today, the school serves 46,000 students and 4,000 full-time faculty. In addition to the Los Angeles campus, USC has programs and centers in Marina Del Rey, Orange County, Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Catalina Island, Alhambra, and around Southern California.
More than 200 undergraduate programs and over 400 graduate and professional programs are offered in 23 academic schools and units. Program options for aspiring game designers are offered through Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences’ Interactive Media & Games Division. Dornsife programs are offered in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts.
Viterbi School of Engineering offerings include a BS in Computer Science (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 PDP 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, an MFA in Interactive Media (Games and Health), and an MA in Cinematic Arts (Media Arts, Games and Health). The Division’s extensive list of minors includes 3D Computer Modeling and Graphics, Computer Science, Documentary, Game Animation, Game Audio, Game Design, Game Entrepreneurism, Game Studies, Game User Research, Immersive Media, Themed Entertainment, Video Game Design, and Management and Video Game Programming.
In addition to a range of program options for aspiring game designers, USC offers salaried or paid internship opportunities and the school 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.
Organizations that have recruited USC students for salaried or paid internships include 3Q Digital, Apple, Blackstone Gaming, CBS Interactive, Disney, Epic Games, ESPN, Heavy Iron Studios, NetEase Games, and Riot Games, to name a few.
2. Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (top 2% of schools considered)
Carnegie Mellon University (CMU or Carnegie Mellon) is a global university established in 1900 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. In addition to the main campus in Pittsburgh, the school has more than a dozen degree-granting locations including Silicon Valley, Africa, Qatar, and Australia, to name a few. Serving more than 14,500 students representing 100+ countries, CMU has produced 10 Academy Award winners, 50 Tony Award Winners, and 20 Nobel Laureates. The school is also the former home of Andy Warhol.
Carnegie Mellon offers 80 majors and over 90 minors within its six undergraduate schools, colleges, and inter-college degree programs. Game design programs are offered through multiple areas.
In collaboration with the School of Computer Science-Computer Science Department and the College of Fine Arts-Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe), CMU offers a Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA) with a Concentration in Game Design. The School of Art at CMU offers a BFA with a Concentration in Electronic and Time-Based Media.
The BFA curriculum “implicitly encourages cross-disciplinary study and as such, many students merge fine art and computer science based interests either within” the program “or through the unique BCSA degree program,” says the school. Areas of focus include animation, bioart, computational and interactive art, game arts, tactical media, tangible media, and video and performance.
The BFA also offers the opportunity to pursue an additional major in a technical field. “Particularly popular among students interested in interactive design and new media is the secondary major or the minor in Human-Computer Interaction.” The program “encompasses interdisciplinary work in design, computer science, and behavioral and social science, ideal for students who may wish to pursue a career in video game design, smartphone app design, or interactive robotics, or who are interested in gaining an understanding of human behavior to make interactive artworks.”
The Human-Computer Interaction Institute at CMU also offers an accelerated Master’s program, which allows undergraduate students to obtain a Master’s degree (MHCI) with an extra year of coursework. Students can customize their own path with electives from across the university.
The College of Fine Arts IDeATe Collaborative Studios include Game Engine Programming offered with the Robotics Institute, Research Issues in Game Development offered with the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at CMU, and Programming for Game Designers—also offered with the ETC. Students in all areas will gain skills in collaboration and the iterative design process, game programming, game systems and mechanics design, interactive narrative and character development, interface design and user testing, and visual and audio asset creation.
Two additional game design options are offered through the ETC at CMU. Founded in 1998, the Center offers a Game Design Minor (in collaboration with IDeATe) and a Masters of Entertainment Technology (MET). The MET is jointly conferred by CMU’s School of Computer Science and the College of Fine Arts. The MET is currently considered a terminal degree.
3. New York University, New York, New York (top 3% of schools considered)
Founded in 1831 and serving more than 60,500 students, New York University (NYU) is the largest private university in the U.S. The school has the highest number of international students in America, with degree-granting campuses in New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, along with nearly a dozen global academic centers and research programs in more than 25 countries. With more than 19,000 employees, NYU is also one New York’s largest employers.
Founded in 1965, Tisch School of the Arts is part of NYU and home to the NYU Game Center, Department of Game Design. Also known as Tisch or TSOA, the school serves more than 3,000 students from 48 states and 39 countries. Tisch students are enrolled in acting, animation, dance, design, film, games, interactive media, performance, photography, preservation, public policy, recorded music, and writing for musical theatre, stage, screen & television programs at the BA, BFA, MA, MFA, MPS and PhD levels.
The NYU Game Center, Department of Design offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BFA, MFA and Minor in Game Design. The BFA program is organized in three primary areas including Game Design, Game Development, and Game Studies and four production areas including Audio Design, Game Business, Programming, and Visual Design. A Capstone is also part of the program.
The Game Center MFA is a two-year degree that includes classes in Game Design, Game History, Game Production, and Game Studies. Students in the program gain hands-on experience by taking studio courses and participating in play labs, and electives offer the opportunity to “explore everything from Game Journalism to Games and Players (a class on the psychology and emotions of game play),” says the school.
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," says the school.
In 2019, NYU Tisch School of the Arts and NYU Shanghai launched a Master of Arts in Interactive Media Arts. “The yearlong degree program pairs two online semesters with three immersive residencies at locations in NYU’s global network,” including New York, Berlin, and Shanghai. A collaboration between the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU Tisch and the Interactive Media Arts Program (IMA) at NYU Shanghai, the MA “is focused on the production, application and understanding of interactive media for creative expression and critical engagement.”
Students in this new program benefit from full access to IMA’s communal makerspace for production, prototyping and user-testing, immersion in both the commercial and cultural activities of Shanghai and surrounding areas, the local dialogue series, artist talks, industry visits, workshops and communal programming, and visits to Shenzhen—“an epicenter of design, manufacturing and innovation.”
Course highlights include Creative Coding, Design for Communication (includes hands-on experience in 2D and 3D), Designing Change, Interface Lab (VR/AR), and Virtual Worlds. The program also covers entrepreneurship and a thesis is required to graduate.
4. University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah (top 3% of schools considered)
Founded in 1850, University of Utah (The U) serves nearly 33,000 students from across the U.S. and around the world. The school offers over 100 undergraduate and more than 90 graduate programs across 17 colleges and schools, and nearly 100 departments. The College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts are home to 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 EAE Interdisciplinary Teaching Program now offers a BS in Games (BSG) designed “specifically for students who aspire to hold careers within the professional games industry or a related field, such as simulation, edutainment, or visualization.” The new program “provides a technical grounding in mathematics and computational skills, core knowledge in the design and production of digital playable experiences, and specialization options that prepare students for technical supervision, tools development and overall game design.” A Minor in Games is also available.
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 BS, five-year BS/MS, and Minor in Computer Science and a BA in Film and Media Arts. The BS in Computer Science and the BA in Film and Media Arts 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 offered through the School of Computing.
5. University of Central Florida + Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy, Orlando, Florida (top 4% of schools considered)
University of Central Florida (UCF) opened its doors in 1968 as Florida Technological University with 1,948 students. The first graduating class consisted of 423 students, and the school granted its first doctoral degree in 1977. Today, UCF leads all universities in Florida in conferring more than 17,000 degrees a year. Serving nearly 72,000 students, the school is also the largest university by enrollment in Florida and one of the largest universities in the nation.
UCF offers 103 bachelors and 91 master’s degrees, 31 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degree programs in 13 colleges.
UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication & Media, Games & Interactive Media Department offers a BA in Digital Media with a Specialization in Game Design that, “allows students to integrate the multiple domains of art, storytelling, and technology," says the school. In the Game Design Track, students "learn the history, design cultural impact and implementation of video games and video game technologies." Students will complete courses that will allow them to "build a series of prototype, casual and longer form games throughout the semester as individuals and in teams."
Other program highlights include the opportunity to participate in game jams and meet-ups, which offer networking opportunities and possible job placement.
UCF’s Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA) offers an MS in Interactive Entertainment. This graduate video game design school opened its doors to “a select group of future game developers and creators” in August of 2005. Today, FIEA serves dozens of students enrolled in a 16-month MS in Interactive Entertainment program with three Tracks including Art, Production, and Programming.
Each specialization requires nine credit hours of study. Students in all specializations will complete a three credit hour capstone that will allow them to complete a large-scale project. A six credit hour practicum allows students to engage in supervised training with a research team, through an on-site internship, by developing a start-up, or with a faculty member on research in an area of interest.
The base curriculum teaches specific skills in the areas of 3D artistry, game design, and programming as well as essential skills such as problem solving, project management, and teamwork.
“Student production teams are mentored by industry trained faculty who provide instruction in” 3D animation and modeling, game design, level design, motion capture, postmortems, preproduction, rapid prototyping, software engineering, and technical design. The program also covers creative collaboration and legal and technical issues.
Graduates of all programs have access to internship and venture opportunities as well as job interviews with media and game companies from across the country.
UCF also offers an MA in Digital Media - Visual Language and Interactive Media through the Nicholson School of Communication & Media. Students in this program may pursue a non-thesis option and portfolios might include works of art, software or games. Active areas of work at UCF include Digital Media and Instructional Applications, Interactive Performance, and Serious Games for Training and Education, to name a few. Digital Media faculty have extensive professional and academic experience in animation, digital storytelling, game development, immersive design environments, motion graphics, multimedia, and more.
6. Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York (top 5% of schools considered)
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) began with the merging of the Rochester Athenaeum (est. 1829) and a technical training school known as Mechanics Institute (est. 1885). The Institute adopted the name Rochester Institute of Technology in 1944 and awarded its first Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. Today, RIT has campuses in Rochester, New York, Dubai, Croatia, Kosovo, and China and it serves nearly 19,000 students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Urban Community Studies.
RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences (GCCIS) houses the School of Interactive Games & Media (IGM), which offers BS and MS degrees in Game Design and Development and a BS in New Media Interactive Development. Minors in Game Design & Development (GAMEDD-MN) and Game Design (GAMED-MN) are also available as well as an accelerated BA/MS that takes five years to complete.
The MS and BS/MS offer unique advanced electives such as Board and Card Game Design and Development, Game Balance, Game Design and Development for Casual and Mobile Platforms, IGM Production Studio, Innovation & Invention, Interactive Game & Audio, Table Top Role-Playing Game Design and Development, and Theory and Design of Role Play and Interactive Narrative.
The GCCIS IGM Game Design and Development Program (all levels) emphasizes game programming and cooperative education (co-op). The co-op is a required, full-time paid work experience that provides students with an opportunity to learn on the job in real-world industry settings. Students must complete two semesters, full-time, which amounts to a minimum 35-hour workweek over the course of an academic semester. Past co-op companies include Microsoft, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Sapient-Razorfish, Google, EA, Epic Games, Cartoon Network, Seagate, Hi-Rez Studios, and many others.
In addition to the co-op experience, students in the BS in New Media Interactive Development program will explore casual games, physical computing, production, web, mobile, and more. All GCCIS IGM students have the opportunity to take any minor or enroll in a double major.
Graduates of the Game Design programs at RIT are prepared for careers within the professional games industry or a related field such as edutainment, simulation, or visualization. At present, the school has a 95.2% employment rate for undergraduates and a 97.4% employment rate for graduates.
7. DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington (top 5% of schools considered)
Founded in 1988, DigiPen Institute of Technology was the first school in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in Video Game Technology and Development. More than 550 companies have hired DigiPen graduates and the school is located near more than 400 interactive media companies in one of the largest video game centers in the world.
Serving around 1,175 students from across the U.S. and nearly 50 countries around the world, DigiPen has international campuses in Singapore and Spain as well as educational partnerships with Keimyung University in South Korea and Thammasat University in Thailand.
DigiPen offers nine undergraduate and two graduate program options in five categories: Computer Science, Digital Art and Animation, Engineering, Game Design and Development, and Music and Audio.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the Department of Game Software Design and Production. Pathways 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, an MFA in Digital Arts, and a Minor in Mathematics.
The BA in Game Design includes extensive design coursework coupled with a deep dive into communications, psychology, and user experience. Students in the program will design original games and applications, they will learn how to rapidly prototype ideas, and they sill study human behavior from a “variety of lenses,” says the school. Focused subjects include Game Design and Development, Foundational Math and Science, and Humanities and Arts.
The BA also has six specialization tracks including Level Design, Narrative Design, Systems Design, Technical Design, User Experience (UX) Design, and User Research.
The BS in RTIS offers “extensive training in mathematics and physics,” and students will “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.”
DigiPen’s MFA in Digital Arts highlights courses such as 3D Concepts and Production, Character Design, Cinematography and The Art of the Story, Game Design, Development and Production, Facial Rigging and Animation, Organic and Hard Surface Modeling, Physics for Animation and Modeling, Scripting for Games, Storyboarding, and Texturing for 3D. A Team Project is part of the program as well as an Internship.
DigiPen student games have won more than 50 Independent Games Festival awards (more than any other school) and DigiPen alumni have been credited on more than 1,000 commercial game titles. Additionally, more than 550 companies around the world have hired DigiPen graduates. Program alumni have gone on to land job titles such as Content Designer, Director, Game Designer, Game Scripter, Level Designer, Technical Artist, Technical Designer, UX Designer, and many others.
8. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 6% of schools considered)
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) began in a renovated armory, serving as the first classroom and administration building. Since then, the school has grown into a multi-campus art college with locations in Savannah and Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. The school, which serves more than 15,000 students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, offers 40+ majors and over 75 minors—more degree programs and specializations than any other art and design college.
The School of Digital Media at SCAD offers a BA in Digital Media with a Concentration in Game Development or Interactive Design, and BFA, MA and MFA degrees in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD). Minors in Concept Art for Games, Concept Design for Animation and Games, Games UX, Interactive Design and Game Development, and Mobile and Interactive Design are also available.
The 180 credit hour BA is available at the Atlanta, Savannah, and eLearning campuses. This program requires 45 credit hours in the concentration. Game Development course highlights include Applied Principles: Game Art and Game Design, Core Principles: Programming, Digital Communication, Digital Design Aesthetics, and Introduction to Interactive Design and Game Development.
Interactive Design course highlights include Anatomy, Form, and Space, Digital Design Aesthetics, Interactive Design and Game Development, Interactive Web Design, Programming, and Social Media Applications. Students may choose additional game design courses thanks to 20 hours of free electives. Both concentrations offer internship opportunities.
The 180 credit hour BFA is offered in Atlanta and Savannah. The program requires 75 hours in the major including courses such as Interactive Design and Game Development Postproduction, Interactive Design and Game Development Studio I & II, and Programming. Students in the BFA program will choose between two concentrations: Game Development or Interactive Design and Physical Computing. Course highlights include Game Art, Game Tech, User-Centered Design, and Visual Design for Interactive Media.
Offered at the Savannah campus and via eLearning, the MA consists of 45 credit hours of study and the opportunity to select a concentration. Options include Game Development and Interactive Design. Sample Game Development courses include Game Art: Art Direction and Look Development, Game Art: Character Creation and Digital Sculpting, Game Art: Engine Pipeline and Practices, Game Design: Professional Production Pipeline, Game Tech: Real-time Materials and Shaders, and Game Art: Virtual World Building. Students in this program will also complete an Interactive Design and Game Development MA Final Project.
The Interactive Design Concentration includes courses such as Human Experience Prototyping, Human-centered Interactive Design, Physical Computing for Immersive Environments, Physical Computing for Tangible Interfaces, and Visual Hierarchies and Digital Affordances. Note that up to five additional graduate-level intensive courses may be assigned, bringing the student's required course of study to a total of 50 to 70 hours.
The MFA program consists of 45 credit hours of study including courses such as Character Development, Environment for Games, Game Design Documentation, and Scripting for Interactivity. Students will also take Thesis Studio I & II, and complete a Graduate Internship. The MFA program is offered at the Savannah campus and through eLearning.
At SCAD, professionals visit with students every quarter, interviewing for positions and reviewing portfolios. Recent visitors include representatives from Activision, Blizzard Entertainment, Crystal Dynamics, Electronic Arts, and Zynga. Graduates have been recruited by Epic Games, Firaxis Games, Sucker Punch Productions, and many others.
9. University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (top 7% of schools considered)
The University of California - Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz or UCSC) opened in 1965. The school serves more than 19,000 students enrolled in 130 undergraduate majors and graduate studies programs in 10 colleges. The Jack Baskin School of Engineering (BSOE) at UCSC started the first undergraduate game major in the University of California System. Offered through BSOE’s Department of Computer Science (CS) and Computational Media (CMPM), options include a BS in Computer Science: Computer Game Design, an MS in Games & Playable Media, and MS and PhD degrees in Computational Media or CS with a Games Focus.
The Computer Game Design Program focuses on the construction and design of interactive computer games. Per the school, “the degree features a freshman year introduction to game design, a sophomore year game programming experience, two upper-division digital media electives, and an intensive senior-year game design studio where students work in teams to develop a substantial video game.”
MS in Games and Playable Media students will learn game art pipeline and integration, game audio design, game mechanics, game programming, and more, while MS and PhD in Computational Media or CS with a Games Focus student’s will immerse in computer game design, history of computational media, media research and methods, and theory of computational media. A thesis is required and graduate assistantships are available.
The UCSC Art Department houses the Arts Division, which offers an interdisciplinary BA in Art & Design: Games & Playable Media (AGPM) and an MFA in Digital Arts and New Media (DANM) with a Playable Media Research Option.
UC Santa Cruz is also home to The Center for Games and Playable Media (CGPM). Established in 2010, CGPM houses the schools five games-related research labs including the Expressive Intelligence Studio — one of the largest technical game research groups in the world. CGPM partners include EA, eBay, Google, Microsoft Studios, Sony, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the MacArthur Foundation, and many others.
10. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (top 7% of schools considered)
Full Sail University was established in 1979. The school offers AS, BS, BFA, MS and MFA programs in Entertainment, Media, and the Arts. Graduate certificates are also available. Located just 35 minutes from downtown Orlando and Universal Studios, the school also offers unique internship opportunities to a population of 15,000 students.
The Game School at Full Sail offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development, Simulation & Visualization, and Mobile Development. A Game Design Certificate is also available.
Graduate degrees include an MS in Game Design or Mobile Gaming (online). In the Game Art BS students will create 3D content and “take traditional art and animation principles and apply them to models that look, move and articulate artistically,” says the school. Course highlights for the program include Game Animation, Motion Capture, and Level Assembly & Lighting.
The Game Design BS is designed to enhance the students “ability to work in a game studio environment.” The program “is comprised of high-level game design and production courses that will take” students “deep into the game development pipeline.” The program covers key industry concepts influencing both systems and level designs that will prepare students to prototype and evaluate their game projects. Course highlights include Game Balancing, Game Mechanics, and Prototyping.
The BS in Game Development guides students through the entire game development cycle, from pre-production to finished product. Course highlights include Artificial Intelligence, Engine Development, and Data Structure and Algorithms. Graduates will have the ability to create program code for 3D graphic display, multiplayer gaming, artificially intelligent opponents, and real-time virtual environments.
The BS in Simulation & Visualization equips students with the programming and critical-thinking skills needed to study and design virtual systems. Course highlights include Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Computer Graphics. Through hands-on experience, students will develop their “tech savvy in order to keep pace with an ever-evolving industry.”
The Game Design Certificate “gives students foundational knowledge in the structure and rules of gameplay, workflows, and game design theory.” Students in the program will gain basic skills in analyzing decision-making in gameplay, scripting testable algorithms, and using digital tools. “With curriculum in C# programming, logic, and functions,” this seven-month campus or online certificate “equips students to pursue roles in creating and testing interactive designs in the game design industry.”
MS in Game Design coursework focuses on user experience research, production, and design. Course highlights include Methods and the User Experience, Prototyping and Content Creation, and Game Usability and Testing. The program, which allows students to choose a track that allows them to focus on a chosen area of expertise, culminates in a Game Capstone Experience.
The Mobile Gaming MS consists of graduate level mobile gaming research, emerging technologies, and the application of theoretical concepts to game design and development. Course highlights include Computer Science for Engineers, Game Development Frameworks, and Mobile Gaming Business. The program culminates in a thesis, which allows students to complete a fully playable mobile game of their own design.
The Game Art and Game Design BS degrees are available on campus and online, while the MS in Mobile Gaming is available entirely online.
11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Massachusetts (top 8% of schools considered)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was founded 1861. The school serves approximately 11,520 students enrolled in more than 100 programs in 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 MIT Game Lab, MIT Education Arcade, and Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab.
Together, the labs provide the opportunity to study, design, and develop games as a supplement to several degree programs, so anyone interested in games can create their own program of study. “By their nature,” says the school, “games require an interdisciplinary approach to their study.”
Students may choose the BS or MS in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) with a Games and Interactive Media “Cluster.” BS and MS degrees in Computer Science and Engineering are also available.
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.” Minors in CMS with Games and Interactive Media and Computer Science are also available. The CMS programs are available through the HASS Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing.
Other unique degree pathways include a BS in Brain & Cognitive Science for those interested in psychological games and behavioral change, and a BS in Business for those interested in studying business practices required for creating their own game company. The BS in Brain & Cognitive Science is offered through the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the BS in Business is offered through MIT Sloan School of Management.
12. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida (top 9% of schools considered)
Founded by Dr. Ludd M. Spivey, president of Southern College (now Florida Southern College) and circus baron, John Ringling, Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) opened in 1931 with just 75 students and 111 course offerings. Today, the school serves more than 1,600 students from 45 states, 60 countries, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico.
A private, not-for-profit college, RCAD offers BFA degrees in eleven disciplines and BA degrees in two. Students in all programs benefit from the school’s “rigorous curriculum” that “employs the studio model of teaching,” says the school, and “immediately engages students through a comprehensive program that is both specific to the major of study and focused on the liberal arts.” Students also benefit from visiting artists from major studios such as DreamWorks and Blue Sky Studios, focused internship opportunities, and the chance to work with local businesses on real-world projects.
The Game Option is offered in the Computer Animation Department, which serves around 20% of the student population. The Department also houses eight state-of-the-art computer labs in addition to three open labs. Students in the Department are also experimenting with virtual reality (VR) technology using the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.
The BFA with a Game Art Major is one of the few programs available that focuses on visual art for computer games. Students in the program will study “the basics of game design mechanics, meaningful play, interactivity, and options for creating and refining game content,” says the school. The technical aspects of 3D animation software and game engines will also be explored.
Other program highlights include visiting artists from major game studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, and Riot Games, and internships at these studios and others such as Electronic Arts, Insomniac Games, and Sony Online Entertainment. Graduates of RCAD enjoy a high professional placement rate at Activision, Blizzard, Cartoon Network Game Studios, Disney Interactive Studios, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Gameloft, Hasbro, Intel corporation, LucasArts, Microsoft Game Studios, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Riot Games, Sony Imageworks Interactive, Zynga and many others.
13. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California (top 9% of schools considered)
Established in 1997, Gnomon School of Visual Effects is located in Hollywood, California, within the historic Television Center Studio Lot. Classrooms in this 30,000 square foot facility mimic the environments of real production studios, with access to nine state-of-the-art computer labs, a green screen stage, two cycloramas, dedicated sculpture labs, a drawing studio, lecture spaces, student lounges, a student store, and the Gnomon Gallery.
Both degree and vocational certificate programs are available to students looking to break into the entertainment industry. Individual 10-week courses are available as well, allowing students to mix and match courses to meet their goals. Course examples include Anatomy of Games, Animation for Games, Character Creation for Games, Creature Design, Digital Sculpting, Game Creation, Game Design, Hard Surface Modeling, Introduction to 3D with Maya, Photoshop for Digital Production, Props and Weapons for Games, Texturing and Shading for Games, and Visual Effects for Games.
Formal programs include a BFA or Certificate in Digital Production. A one-year preparatory program, Foundation in Art & Design, is also available.
The BFA in Digital Production is a full-time program that may be completed in three or four years. The curriculum for this baccalaureate program “covers all aspects of a 3D generalist skillset, providing an in-depth understanding of the 3D production pipeline, visual arts, and general education studies,” says the school. Through electives, students can enhance particular skills in specific areas of digital production.
The BFA program, which culminates in the creation of a professional demo reel, prepares students to work as digital artists within the animation, games, and VFX industries.
The Certificate in Digital Production is a full-time, two-year program offering emphasized studies in character or creature animation, games, modeling and texturing, or visual effects. Building on the 3D generalist foundation, this intensive program is “geared towards students with a background in art and who desire a career as a digital artist” in the animation, film, games, or visual effects industries.
With a 97% employment rate, Gnomon has helped graduates of both programs land positions at major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Digital Domain, DreamWorks, Electronic Arts, Industrial Light & Magic, Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon Animation, Playstation, Reel FX, Rhythm & Hues, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
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 serves more than 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in over 80 degree programs and 50-plus minors in six colleges and 28 schools.
Degrees are offered through the colleges of Design, Computing, Engineering, Sciences, the Scheller College of Business, and the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Programs for aspiring game designers are available through GeorgiaTech’s College of Computing in collaboration with the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts’ School of Literature, Media, and Communication.
Degree options include a BS in Computational Media (BSCM) with a Games Studies or Interaction Focus, an MS degree in Digital Media (formerly Information Design and Technology), an MS in Digital Media – HCI, and a PhD in Digital Media. A BS/MS in Computational Media/Digital Media and an Accelerated 5-Year Bachelor's/Master's are also available.
The game programs are part of an institute-wide initiative designed to advance the game community through interdisciplinary research, funding opportunities, tech transfer and expansion of industry collaborations. Course highlights include Computer Animation, Constructing the Moving Image, Experimental Media, Game Design as a Cultural Practice, Principles of Interaction Design, and Video Game Design.
Graduates of the Game Programs at GeorgiaTech are prepared to seek careers in 3D Modeling, Animation, Interactive Game Design and Simulation, Robotics, Robotics, Special Effects Creation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Web Design. Many have been hired at major video game studios and interactive media firms. Others are now pursuing graduate degrees in digital media, human-computer interaction, and even film studies.
15. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois (top 15% of schools considered)
DePaul University was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (of Vincentian) religious community. Serving nearly 22,500 students, DePaul is the largest Catholic university in the United States, the 13th-largest private, not-for-profit university in the nation, and the largest private, not-for-profit college in the Midwest.
The school offers more than 300 programs of study in 10 colleges and schools and across two campuses in Chicago. One of the first universities to offer a game development course for smartphones, DePaul offers game design programs at all levels through the College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM).
The CDM is organized into three schools including the School of Cinematic Arts (SCA), the School of Computing (SoC), and the School of Design (SoD). Degree options include BS degrees in Game Design and Game Programming, a BS in Computer Science with a Game Systems Concentration, an MFA in Game Design and MS in Game Programming that covers real time computing, computer graphics, and professional retooling for the game industry. Students in this program will learn about software engineering, computer graphics, artificial intelligence, animation, software architecture, and networking. Minors in Game Design and Programming are also available and jointly offered by the CDM’s SoC 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 (DGE) 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.
Students in all Game Design programs have access to the Deep Games Laboratory and all CDM labs, including several that intersect with the program specifically, including game development and research, gameplay, virtual reality, and playtest and usability labs. The Deep Games Laboratory is a cross-disciplinary design, research, development, and assessment game lab housed in CDM that focuses on games exploring the human experience.
Recent DePaul Game Program graduates have gone on to work at Carbine Studios, Disney Interactive Studios, Firaxis, NeatherRealm Studios, Owlchemy Labs, Phosphor Games, Scientific Games, Wargaming, and many others. Several graduates have gone on to form their own gaming companies, including Young Horses, whose indie hit Octodad was developed at DePaul.
16. Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas (top 15% of schools considered)
Southern Methodist University (SMU) was founded in 1911 by what is now The United Methodist Church. The school serves nearly 12,400 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in seven schools. Programs for aspiring game designers are offered in Lyle School of Engineering and Meadows School of the Arts.
Lyle School of Engineering offers a BS in Computer Science with a Game Development Track. Students interested in this track must be admitted to the Professional Certificate Program in Digital Game Development at The Guildhall—SMU’s School of Video Game Development (est. 2003). The Certificate is “tailored to students who wish to become actively involved in the game development industry as designers or artists,” says the school.
Specializations for the program include Art Creation, Level Design, Production, and Software Development. Course highlights include Digital Computer Design, Graphical User Interface Design and Implementation, Programming for Commercial Game Engines, Software Development for Games, and Team Game Production.
Students will also complete a Gaming Design Project, Senior Design I&II, and six credit hours of advanced electives in the Lyle School of Engineering. An internship is also part of the program.
Meadows School of the Arts offers a BFA in Art/Masters of Interactive Technology (BFA/M.I.T) in Digital Game Development. Supported by the Guildhall, the program “provides the breadth and rigor of a BFA degree, which will develop skills supportive of the in-depth investigation of digital game development fundamentals through the curriculum of the Master of Interactive Technology.” BFA/M.I.T and M.I.T Specializations include Art, Design, Production, or Programming for Games.
Graduates of the games programs at SMU will be prepared to seek positions in the video game design industry, multimedia and design, visual effects, game-based learning, and more.
17. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (top 15% of schools considered)
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. Considered one of the leading arts and cultural centers in the western United States, UCLA hosts more than 1,000 visual and performing arts events each year that attract more than 500,000 patrons. The school, which serves nearly 45,000 students, offers more than 125 undergraduate majors in 109 academic departments, and master’s degrees in over 80 academic and professional fields. Programs are offered in eight colleges and schools.
The School of Arts and Architecture houses the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers both BA and MFA degrees in Design Media Arts (BA DMA and MFA DMA). UCLA Extension offers a Game Design Specialization as well. DMA program courses are taught as studios of no more than 22 students. The program highlights game design study, interactivity and games, video and animation, visual communication, and more. Sample courses include 3D Modeling and Motion, Game Design, Tangible Media, Word + Image, and Video.
The Game Design Specialization consists of four courses including User Experience for Games, AR/MR/VR for Immersive Content: Experience, Game & Media, Introduction to Game Design and 3D Game Design and Game Engines: Unity.
With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab. The primary function of the Lab is as “a research and production space for collaborative teams to pursue focused work on gaming projects,” says the school. It supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres, while emphasizing the “conceptual risk-taking and development of new modes of expression and form through gaming.”
In addition to producing games and research, the lab functions as a center that develops public programming around critical issues in gaming. Programming includes an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum, a visiting artist program, exhibitions, public lectures, and workshops.
18. Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1891 as Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, Drexel University introduced a cooperative education program, which became one of the first models of its kind in the U.S. Today, Drexel’s cooperative education program remains the oldest, largest, and best-known program in the nation and it is a degree requirement for most majors. This enables undergraduate students, including game design students, to balance classroom theory with practical, hands-on experience prior to graduation. Students have had co-op experiences in Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, London, Spain, and many other places.
Drexel University has a total enrollment of 24,205 students. Over 200 degree programs are offered in 15 colleges and schools, including the College of Computing & Informatics and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, which offer several programs for aspiring game designers.
Westphal College of Media Arts & Design houses the Digital Media Department (DMD), which offers BS degrees in Game Art & Production and Game Design & Production, and MS and PhD degrees in Digital Media. The two-year MS program features comprehensive studies in 3D Modeling, Animation, Gaming and Digital Media History, Interactivity, and Theory and Methods.
The College of Computing & Informatics offers 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 school also lists other concentrations such as Game Development and Design and Artificial Intelligence. A Minor in Interactive Digital Media is also available.
For students interested in teaching game design, the School of Education offers a Graduate Certificate in Learning in Game Based Environments. Students in all programs have access to Drexel Game Design (DGD) and the RePlay Lab.
DGD and RePlay are collaborative efforts between the Digital Media and Computer Science Departments.
19. Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1855, Michigan State University (MSU) serves around 47,000 students enrolled in more than 200 programs in 17 degree-granting colleges. The College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Media and Information (MI) Department, home of the Game Design and Development Program.
Founded in 2005, the Program offers BA and BS degrees in Media and Information with a Games and Interactive Design 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,” says the school. An interdisciplinary Game Design and Development Minor is also available.
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 Media and Information with a Focus in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) + Serious Game Design & Research Certificate and a PhD in Information and Media. The PhD program offers a range of research areas including Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Games and Meaningful Play, Game Design and Development, Human-Centered Technology Design, Computational Communication, Media Innovation, and Design and Entrepreneurship, to name a few.
MSU offers another program option for students interested in majoring in computer science. The BS in Computer Science, offered in the College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, provides the option to add the Game Design and Development Minor. Students in the program “will learn the foundations, and develop core competencies in their primary area of study and broaden their horizons as interdisciplinary team members, learning game design theories and principles, collaborating on the design and development of game projects, and engaging in active learning and authentic, situated creative problem-solving.”
Course highlights for the Game Design Programs at MSU include Advanced 3D Modeling, Building Virtual Worlds, Collaborative Game Design, Compositing and Special Effects, Computer Graphics, Experiments in Digital Video, Figure Modeling, Game Design and Development, Game Design Studio, Interaction Design, Interactive Environments and Digital Fabrication, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, Sound Design for Cinema, Television, and Games, and Spatial Design.
Besides offering a variety of courses and programs for game designers, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences houses the Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. 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.”
20. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is a designated New York State Center of Excellence in Digital Game Development, which works to support and grow New York state’s digital gaming sector. Serving 7,900 students, RPI offers more than 100 degree programs in five schools, including the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), which houses the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Department and the Department of Art.
GSAS pathways include BS degrees in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences (BS GSAS) and Electronic Media, Arts, & Communication (EMAC), MS and PhD degrees in Critical Game Design, a Co-terminal Critical Game Design MS, and a BS, PhD, and Minor in Electronic Arts (EART).
BS GSAS students may choose a concentration or dual BS degree from the following options: Arts (Electronic Arts), Cognitive Science, Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Management/Entrepreneurship, or Writing for Games. Students will explore 3D Animation and Digital Arts, Artificial Intelligence in Games, Experimental Game Design, Game Audio and Music Composition, Game Programming and Software Engineering, Interactive Narrative and Game Storytelling, and Virtual and Augmented Reality.
Established in 1996, the BS in EMAC program is an interdisciplinary program that includes courses in communication as well as in digital art and animation, video, electronic music, and graphic design, supported by RPI’s strong technological infrastructure. The EMAC curriculum offers concentrations in Digital Storytelling (Animation, Game Design, Video), Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Marketing Communication and Design, Popular Culture, and Sound Design.
The Department of Arts offers MFA and PhD degrees in Electronic Arts (EART). Both programs allow students to explore everything from Animation and Gaming to Communication Technologies.
Students in all programs may enhance their education by adding a minor, dual major, study abroad, internship, or the co-terminal graduate program.
21. University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1965, the University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) UCI is one of 65 universities in the U.S. and Canada elected to membership in the prestigious Association of American Universities. The school serves around 37,630 students enrolled 220 degree programs in more than a dozen academic units, including the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences—the only computing-focused school in the University of California System. The School’s Department of Computer Science offers a BS in Game Design and Interactive Media (GDIM).
Formerly known as “Computer Game Science (CGS)” the BS in GDIM “explores both established and emerging platforms, including AR/VR, tabletop, and mobile,” says the school. Hands-on courses are taught by “internationally recognized faculty and industry experts,” and include titles such as Children’s Learning Media, Computer Game Development, Design and Analysis for Algorithms, Game Engine Lab, Game Systems and Design, Game Technologies and Interactive Media, Mobile and Ubiquitous Games, Modeling and World Building, and Multiplayer Game Systems. Capstone Game Project and Capstone Project and Portfolio are also part of the program.
Students in the program benefit from UCI’s location, known as “Silicon Beach,” which offers access to industry partners such as Blizzard, Cartoon Network, Disney, Electronic Arts, Obsidian Entertainment, Riot, Tencent, and more.
Graduates of the BS in GDIM Program “find employment in the industry, whether at a major publisher, smaller studio or as self-employed freelancers.” Some focus in entertainment, while “others succeed in bringing their skills to the design and development of serious games in a variety of domains, including healthcare and education.” Many students “also pursue a career or graduate school in game design, interactive media, computer science, or informatics after they complete the major.”
22. University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Founded in 1883, the University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) serves nearly 52,000 students enrolled in 156 undergraduate degree programs with more than 170 fields of study, 139 graduate degree programs, and nearly 100 doctoral programs. Degrees are offered in 18 colleges and schools.
UT Austin’s Game Design and Development Program is a partnership between the Department of Arts and Entertainment Technologies (AET) in the College of Fine Arts’ School of Design and Creative Technologies, the Department of Computer Science (CS) in the College of Natural Sciences, and the Department of Radio-Television-Film (RTF) in Moody College of Communication.
“Newly offered classes focused specifically on game design are offered by AET, coursework in coding for games and visualization are offered by CS, and courses offered by RTF center on narrative design, cinematic arts, and emergent media,” says the school. Complementary minor programs and concentrations are “exclusively offered by all three departments to provide a broad and comprehensive curriculum that blends instruction in computer science, media, and design.”
The program highlights the 2D and 3D Capstone courses, where teams of 5-8 students assemble to create 2D games to show prospective employers and learn how to make 3D games (including virtual reality games), while learning the common practices and processes of game studios. Game students also have the opportunity to work “alongside organizations such as UT’s EGaDS! and IGDA Austin,” and with local game and mobile studios, and industry professionals.
UT Austin’s College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Computer Sciences has several additional programs for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Computer Science with a Concentration in Game Development (BS CS), an MS in Computer Science (MS CS), and a Five-Year BS/MS Integrated Program in Computer Science. Programs include elective options that allow students to study game design and because Texas has the second largest concentration of game studios in the U.S., all CS programs offer local internship opportunities that often lead to permanent employment in game development or interactive entertainment.
Graduates of the Game Programs at UT Austin are “ready to design, develop, and provide leadership for the exploding growth in AR/VR, game, mobile app, and creative media agencies and studios in Texas and around the world.”
23. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1861, the University of Washington (UW) serves more than 54,000 students annually across three campuses in Seattle, Tacoma, and Bothell. The school’s 18 colleges and schools offer more than 570 degree options across 300+ programs, with more than 1,800 undergraduate courses alone each quarter.
Serving more than 1,500 undergraduates, the Paul G. Allen School Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) offers a Computer Science Program that allows students to tailor their course of study to their specific interests. The program is also highly interdisciplinary and collaborative, and it allows students to get hands-on experience building software and hardware and choose advanced courses such as Artificial Intelligence, Computational Biology, Computer Graphics and Animation, Computer Networking, Computer Security and Privacy, Data Science, Human-Computer Interaction, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Robotics, and much more.
Allen School degree options include BS degrees in Computer Science and Computer Engineering, a Combined BS/MS, and a PhD or Professional Master’s Program (PMP) in Computer Science & Engineering (CSE). All programs offer the opportunity to focus in Graphics, Vision, Games, and Animation or add a Certificate in Game Design offered through UW’s Professional & Continuing Education Division.
Students in the BS programs work with faculty and graduate students on research; collaborate with industry partners; tackle complex design and implementation projects in capstone courses; and tailor their degree to meet their interests and goals. Course highlights include Advanced Digital Design, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Data Visualization, and Digital Sound.
Students in all programs have access to three main labs at UW CSE. All are engaged in research spanning the areas of animation, computer game science, graphics, vision, and visualization. Labs include the Graphics and Imaging Lab (GRAIL), the Center for Game Science, and the Animation Research Labs. The GRAIL group is known for “groundbreaking” research in computational photography, says the school, as well as games for science and education, 3-D reconstruction, Internet photo collections, object recognition, human shape and motion analysis, information visualization, and animation.
Researchers at the Center for Game Science use gaming to solve grand challenges, crowdsource human problem-solving to aid scientific discovery, and improve student interest and achievement in mathematics.
The Animation Research Labs is a multi-disciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students from UW CSE, the Department of Architecture, and the Schools of Art, DXARTS, Drama, and Music. The ARL is focused on advancing the state-of-the-art in animation through teaching, research, and computer-animated production in collaboration with experts from Disney Animation Studios, Bungie, Industrial Light & Magic, Microsoft Game Studios, Pixar, and many others.
In addition to the Computer Science and Engineering Programs, University of Washington offers a BFA with a Major in Digital Arts and Experimental Arts (BFA DXARTS) and a PhD in DXARTS. Students in both programs have the opportunity to focus their work in a particular area of experimental arts (computer animation, digital video, digital media art, computer music and sound art, design computing, mechatronics, and so on). Whatever the chosen area, “artists and scholars working at DXARTS engage in teaching, learning, and research within the synergistic, multidisciplinary setting of the center's labs, studios, and classrooms.”
Additional programs include a Certificate in Game Design and nine-week courses including Game Studio Roles & Development and Game Mechanics & Systems Design.
24. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1876, Texas A&M University (TAMU) is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Consisting of more than 5,200 acres at the College Station campus alone and serving more than 69,000 students, Texas A&M is also one of the nation’s largest universities.
The school offers 133 undergraduate degree programs, 175 master's degree programs, 92 doctoral degree programs and five first professional degrees in 17 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture houses the Visualization Program, which was established in 1988. The program offers gaming-oriented study options in the MS and MFA degrees as well as enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level. Degree options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization. A Minor in Game Design and Development is also available.
The BS in Visualization is a 120 credit hour studio-based program that integrates aspects of fine arts, 3D design, and digital technology into the studio experience. The program focuses on “the processes of creation, design and development of the visual experiences” says the school.
Another highlight of the program is the required semester away during the Junior year followed by a capstone proposal and studio during the Senior year. “A broad range of directed electives allows the student to gain an in-depth understanding in an area of specialization.” Graduates of the program are prepared for employment in such fields as user interface and web design, the entertainment industry (game design and development, animation and visual effects), and fields such as modeling and simulation, data analytics, and other areas where visualization contributes to understanding. Graduates may also “enter graduate programs that emphasize digital media in either computer science or art/design.”
The MS in Visualization is “designed to prepare students for a range of long-term careers in visualization. The program helps students develop the focused expertise and broad foundation knowledge needed in this rapidly developing field.” The program’s core curriculum will give students a “basic grasp of the artistic, scientific, cognitive, and technical foundations of the discipline. Beyond this broad training, the program requires students to develop a strong focus area of advanced expertise, and to complete a research thesis in this focus area.”
The MFA in Visualization (MFA-V) is the only program of its kind in Texas and one of only a handful of its kind in the U.S. The program is designed for students “seeking a computing technology-infused terminal degree in the visual arts applicable to employment in digital media fields, working as a contemporary artist, and teaching in post-secondary digital arts programs.” This non-thesis degree requires the completion of 60 hours of coursework and a satisfactory presentation of a body of work by the candidate. “A written document addressing issues pertinent to the final study is also required.”
All Visualization students have access to the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab. Established in 2014, the Lab “provides space for graduate and undergraduate students to create game prototypes while learning about game theory, the art and science of the visual image and game history. In the lab, through research and rigorous scientific process, students collaborate with specialists from visualization, educational psychology, computer science and engineering to create innovative, interactive software.”
Visualization program alumni can be found working as creative talent for Hollywood’s leading animation and special effects studios including Pixar, Blue Sky, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Rhythm & Hues Studios and Reel FX.
25. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 20% of schools considered)
Columbia College Chicago (Columbia) was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The school serves nearly 7,000 students enrolled in 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs in the Schools of Media Arts, Fine and Performing Arts, and Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Media Arts houses the Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department, which offers a number of programs for aspiring game designers.
Options include BA degrees in Game Art and Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development and Game Sound Design, BA/BS degrees in Programming with a Concentration in Game Programming, and Minors in Game Art and Game Design Minor.
Game Design students will have the opportunity to create games right away in their first semester and create many more throughout their time at Columbia. The software tools used in class are the same tools students will use as professional game artists. “The curriculum mirrors the collaborative environment of the game industry,” says the school. Students will work in collaborative teams formed from seniors in Game Art, Game Design, Game Programming, and Game Sound.
The Senior Game Studio Capstone provides the opportunity to work in small (Indie Game Studio) or large (Large Team Game Studio) groups to develop a game. Students will also have the opportunity to show their work at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, the Chicago Toy and Game Fair, South by Southwest (SXSW), and Industry Night at Columbia College.
Students in all programs have access to The Game Lab. This “center for student-led game research includes PC- and console-gaming hardware, including both current generation consoles as well as an archived collection, a high-definition AV system, and a library of several hundred video game titles,” says the school.
Graduates of the Game Programs at Columbia College have landed positions at studios and companies such as Bungie, High Voltage Software, Incredible Technologies, Iron Galaxy, Jellyvision, NetherRealm Studios, Pixar, Raven Software, Raw Thrills, Robomondo, Skywalker Sound, Sony, and Weta Digital. Some alumni even build simulations for major companies such as John Deere and Walmart.
26. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) was established as the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest (GRCSW) in 1961 by the founders of technology company Texas Instruments. The school became an official member of the University of Texas System in 1969. Today, UT Dallas serves more than 28,000 students enrolled in over 140 academic degrees in eight schools, including the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC).
Created in 2015, ATEC merged two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. Serving more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students, ATEC offers programs that blend Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Management (STEAM).
Degree pathways include a BA in Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (BA ATEC), an MA in ATEC, an MFA in ATEC with Gaming Studies, and a PhD in ATEC. Undergraduates may choose between several pathways such as Game Design or Animation. BA ATEC students may also choose electives in more than one area. Elective highlights include Educational Games, Game Design, Game Pipeline Methodologies, Game Production Lab, Interaction Design, Interactive Narrative, Level Design, Modeling and Texturing, Serious Games, User Experience Design for Games, and Virtual Environments.
Research area options for all graduate students include Computer Animation, Game Development, Game Studies, and Interaction Design, to name a few. The program is a good pathway whether students are interested in teaching arts- and technology-related courses in colleges and universities or working in a professional studio or design practice. Graduate students may choose to pursue additional research opportunities.
ATEC students have access to a number of studios and labs housed in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building. Spaces include the 3D Studio, CG Animation Lab, experimenta.l. Animation Lab, Game Lab, Games Research Lab, Mixed Media Lab, Motion Capture Studio, Narrative Systems Research Lab, Render Farm, Surround Studio, and The Studio for Mediating Play. The building also houses a Games and Media Library and the Lecture Hall.
Speakers such as “Father of the Internet” Dr. Vinton Cerf, and others from Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar, have been featured in the Lecture Hall.
27. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina (top 20% of schools considered)
North Carolina State University (NC State) began as a land-grant institution in 1887 focusing in agriculture and research. Today, the school is a leader in agriculture, business, education, natural resources, and textiles. Serving more than 36,000 students, NC State is also one of the nation’s largest schools, offering more than 300 degree programs in 12 colleges and over 60 academic departments.
The College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science houses the game program. Degree options include a BS in Computer Science (CSC) with a Game Development Concentration and an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) degree.
The BS program “allows the student to develop an understanding of the scientific and technological principles associated with the design and development of computer and console games for both entertainment and serious applications,” says the school. Students will take all of the courses required for the computer science degree, as well as courses such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Building Game AI, Computer Graphics, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, Game Design and Development, and Human-Computer Interaction.
Students are also required to take Advanced Graphics Projects and Advanced Game Development Projects. Internships and study abroad opportunities are also available, and electives run the gamut from Game Studies and Fiction Writing to Fantasy, Film and Science Fiction.
The ABM program allows students to complete the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree and a non-thesis Master’s in the same field within 18 months of completing the Bachelor’s degree.
Students in all programs will benefit from The Digital Games Research center (DGRc). Created in May of 2007, the center was designed to “undertake an ambitious agenda of research, education and outreach activities in the area of games and games technologies.”
“Housed in the Department of Computer Science, the center’s faculty include colleagues from the colleges of Education, Engineering, Design, Management and Humanities and Social Sciences that collaborate on a wide range of research and educational initiatives which focus on new modes of entertainment and interaction in digital worlds.”
Students interested in multiple areas of art and design as well as game design might consider two other degree pathways offered at NC State—the Bachelor of Art and Design and the Master of Art and Design (MAD). Offered in the College of Design, Department of Art and Design, the undergraduate program allows students to develop “creative portfolios through a wide-range of 2D and 3D hand-based and computer-based processes.”
In addition to game design, these processes include 3D modeling, animation, digital fabrication, drawing and illustration, fibers, graphic and interactive narratives, interactive and computational media, motion graphics, soft materials construction, virtual and augmented reality, visual composition, visual effects, web design, and more. Students will gain additional skills through the required International Experience.
MAD students will have the opportunity to explore Computer Gaming Serious Games, which focuses on “the creation and application of training models and simulations to balance adaptive learning with natural learning environments used with commercial game companies, simulation developers, and technologies that create immersive learning environments.” Animation and Digital Storytelling, Kinetic Interaction Design, and Mechatronics and Electronic Art are other areas MAD students will explore. A final project is also part of the program.
28. Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1878, Champlain College serves more than 2,000 students from 40 states and 18 countries. The school offers more than 90 subject areas, including undergraduate majors, minors and specializations as well as online and on-campus graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain has four academic divisions including the Division of Communication & Creative Media, Robert P. Stiller School of Business, the Division of Education & Human Studies (EHS), and the Division of Information Technology & Sciences.
The Division of Communication & Creative Media offers BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design (with an optional Specialization in Sonic Arts), Game Production Management, Game Programming, and Game Sound Design. A BFA in Creative Media is also available, as well as a Game Programming Minor. The BFA has Game Media and Interaction Design Specializations and students have the option to choose one primary and two complementary specializations to enhance their degree.
Through the game programs’ “Upside-Down Curriculum,” students will take relevant courses, including Game History & Development and Introduction to Game Design, in their first year at Champlain. This gives them the advantage of gaining hands-on knowledge about the major from the start. Students will have the opportunity to build their portfolios using state-of-the-art technology resources at the school’s new cutting-edge multimedia, 3D art and game production labs.
Another important aspect of the Game program is the collaborative environment of the school’s Game Studio. Here, Game Programming majors work with their counterparts in Game Art and Game Design as well as Game Production Management to build games from start to finish. The Game Studio replicates a professional game development setting to give students a firsthand understanding of how creative teams collaborate to develop individual game assets and coordinate them into a functional product.
All students have the opportunity to study abroad in Montreal, Canada, with internship opportunities at the Montreal Game Summit and the Montreal International Game Developers Association. Recent internship opportunities (outside of the Canada options) include Microsoft Game Studios and Wired Magazine.
Students may also participate in the Game Development Senior Show where they will present games they create with their Game Studio team to recruiters from all over the East and Canada, including Activision/Vicarious Visions, Behaviour, Gameloft, Square Enix/Eidos, and Warner Bros./Turbine. Facilitated by the Game Studio Career Coach, students have additional opportunities to network with top recruiters from companies such as Activision, ArenaNet, Crystal Dynamics, Insomniac, Rockstar, Sony, Survios, Ubisoft, and many others.
29. The New School's Parsons School of Design, New York, New York (top 20% of schools considered)
The New School was founded in 1896 as “The Chase School” by American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. In 1904, Arts Educator Frank Alvah Parsons joined the school, later becoming its sole director. Between 1904 and 1910, Parsons launched Advertising, Costume Design and Interior Decoration programs. Today, known as The New School's Parsons School of Design, this art and design college serves 5,100 students enrolled in 130 degree and diploma programs across five schools including the Schools of Art and Design History and Theory; Art, Media, and Technology (AMT); Constructed Environments; Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT). Options include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology (DT). The BFA in DT, which has both Game Design and Creative Technology Pathways, teaches students to code and “develop a sustainable process for researching, experimenting, designing, prototyping, iterating, and producing projects that keeps pace with evolving technology,” says the school. Program highlights include access to university’s extensive libraries, galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities and visits to industry leaders such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and Curious Pictures. Other industry partners include Apple, Atari, Human Rights Watch, MTV, Siemens, and UNESCO.
The MFA in DT is a studio-based program that consists of collaborative studios and the thesis studios. "In Collaboration Studio courses, students work on real-world projects with industry firms and nonprofits." Past partners include American Red Cross, Apple, Eyebeam, gameLab, Human Rights Watch, Intel, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mozilla, NASA, Red Bull, Samsung, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Students also have the opportunity to work with peers in related programs including Communication Design, Fine Arts, Illustration, and Photography, and they have many elective options to choose from in order to create their own “coherent” study plan. Areas of practice include critical design, data visualization, digital fabrication, game design, interaction design, new media art, and physical computing.
Two additional programs—the BFA in Art, Media, and Technology, offered at Parsons Paris (est. 1921), and the BFA in Design and Technology (New York campus)—offer opportunities to learn game design.
These interdisciplinary programs explore art, design, media, and technology, preparing graduates to pursue careers in Animation, Computer Software and Hardware Design, Game Design, Interactive Design, Motion Design, and more.
30. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio (top 25% of schools considered)
The Ohio State University (OSU) is a land-, sea- and space-grant university established in 1870. The school houses more than 200 academic centers and institutes, where research, policy-making, knowledge creation, and student engagement happen daily across many disciplines.
Serving more than 68,000 students, OSU offers over 200 majors, minors and specializations in 18 colleges and schools. The school’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) in the College of Engineering offers BS, MS and PhD degrees in Computer Science with a Specialization in Computer Graphics and Game Design. Ohio State also introduced an interdisciplinary BA program in Moving Image Production in Autumn, 2017.
OSU's Department of Art in the College of Arts and Sciences offers a BFA in Art and Technology that allows students to “focus on the creative use, misuse, and investigation of technology in an art-making practice,” says the school. Students in the program will “engage the meaning and material of science and technology through the production of interactive installations, electronic objects and interfaces, moving images, 3D modeling and animation, art games, tactical media, bio-art, performance, digital imaging, rapid prototyping, holography, Internet art, sound, and emerging forms.”
Also in the College of Arts and Sciences is Department of Design, which offers an MFA with a Digital Animation and Interactive Media (DAIM) Track. The program requires 60 credit hours of study including core design courses (18 credits), thesis project and writing development (15 credits), and open electives in the themes of studio/lab (12 credits), history/theory/criticism (9 credits), and collaborative/interdisciplinary studio (6 credits). “Students work closely with a three-person thesis committee to develop their thesis topics and the vehicles best used for their development.”
Most students complete the program within a period of six semesters. Course highlights include Digital Image Manipulation, Podcasting, Internet Art, 3D Modeling, Holography I and Holography II, Moving Image Art, New Media Art, Computer Animation, and Video Art I and Video Art II.
Students in all programs utilize state of the art facilities, equipment, and interdisciplinary expertise in the school’s many special labs, including the world class Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD).
31. Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana (top 25% of schools considered)
Established in 1869, Purdue University is Indiana’s land-grant university. In existence since 1964, Purdue Polytechnic Institute is one of the 10 academic colleges at Purdue. The Institute, which began as the university’s School of Technology, enrolls around 12% of Purdue’s students (nearly 5,000) at the West Lafayette campus. Seventy academic options are available in six subject areas in seven departments. The Department of Computer Graphics Technology (CGT) houses the Computer Graphics Technology Program, which offers game design programs at all degree levels.
At the undergraduate level, a BS in CGT with a Game Development and Design Major is available. The CGT program provides STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and games. Studies include trigonometry, calculus, and physics, as well classes in video game design and development, animation, visualization, rendering and programming. Students will also have the opportunity to complete a unique research project.
Projects open to undergraduate students have focused on the use of games for sustainable energy, therapy and medicine, entertainment, information visualization and more.
Graduate offerings include an MS in CGT and a PhD in Technology offered through the Department of Computer and Information Technology (CIT). The MS offers several focus areas including Computational Art, Computer Graphics Programming, Game Studies, and Virtual and Augmented Reality. The PhD Program offers a CGT Specialization that covers Animation, Game Studies, Human Centered Design and Development, Virtual Product Integration, and Web Programming and Design.
Students may also earn a BS CGT/MS Technology with a Specialization in CGT, which may be completed in just five years instead of six or more years if pursued separately. Graduates of the game design programs at Purdue Polytechnic Institute have gone on to work for EA Games, Riot Games, Volition, Zynga, and many others.
32. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts (top 25% of schools considered)
Founded in 1898 as an Evening Institute of the Boston Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Northeastern University began with less than two dozen students. Today, according to the school’s most recent enrollment figures, it serves nearly 38,000 students at locations in Boston; Charlotte, North Carolina; Seattle; Silicon Valley; San Francisco; Toronto; Vancouver; London; Portland, Maine and the Massachusetts communities of Burlington and Nahant.
Northeastern University offers 150 undergraduate majors and concentrations and over 125 graduate programs in nine colleges and schools. Programs for game designers are offered through the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD), which serves nearly 6,000 students, and the College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS) - Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Undergraduate programs include BFAs in Game Art and Animation and Game Design, a BS in Computer Science and Game Development, and a Game Design and Music BS with a Concentration in Music Technology. Minors include Game Art, Game Design, Experience Design, and Interaction Design.
Graduate options include an MS in Game Science, jointly offered through CAMD and CCIS - Khoury, and Graduate Certificates in Game Design and Game Analytics. The Game Design Certificate consists of five 12-week courses, and the Game Analytics Certificate requires 20 credit hours of study. The interdisciplinary MS requires 34 credit hours of study and it offers three concentrations: Game Analytics, Game User Research and Game Design and Development. The program highlights paid co-op work, research opportunities in the schools more than30 federally funded research centers, and in-class case studies and exercises. The MS can be completed in two years.
The 130 credit hour BFA in Game Art and Animation allows students to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams and with students in the BS in Computer Science and Game Development and BFA in Games majors. Students in the program will also gain practical and technical experiential training via Northeastern’s co-op program. Each student will take at least two co-ops. The BFA in Game Art and Animation culminates in a two-semester Senior Capstone.
The BFA in Games requires 128-129 credit hours of study covering Art and Design, Art History, Games, Entrepreneurship, Critical Making, Creative Making, and Game Electives. While the program does not require a co-op, the school says that students “are exposed to a wide variety of genres and contexts, as well as different ways of thinking about games content, platforms, and production.” Students will have “a minimum of four games courses in which they interact with and collaborate with students in the BS in computer science and game development major.” The program culminates in a Game Design Capstone.
The 138 credit hour Game Design and Music BS with a Concentration in Music Technology is a unique program that “focuses on the creative application of digital sound technologies to a broad range of artistic, social, and industrial purposes, including experimental composition, film, video, theatre, game design, mobile applications, sound design for urban environments, and beyond.”
In addition to plenty of co-op opportunities, the program offers a diverse set of courses ranging from Programming Basics and Game Interface Design to Hip Hop in the Music Industry and Interactive Music Programming. Students in this program will complete a Music Technology Capstone/Senior Recital or a Game Design Capstone.
The CCIS BS in Computer Science and Game Development is a combined major, which focuses on “building and developing games and playable media experiences” along with “courses in computer science and specialized game technology and design.”
“Interdisciplinary courses enable students to develop their creative and entrepreneurial abilities, as well as create a strong portfolio of game pieces.” The program requires 133 credit hours to graduate.
33. Becker College, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 25% of schools considered)
Established in 1784, Becker College is one of the 25 oldest institutions in the U.S. The schools founding charter was signed by John Hancock and Samuel Adams and notable graduates and students include Eli Whitney (1788), William Morton (1836), and Elliott P. Joslin. The school, which enrolls 1,675 students, offers 29 areas of study across six academic divisions including Animal Studies, Business, Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, Design, Education and Psychology, and Nursing and Health Sciences.
The School of Design & Technology houses the Design Division, home to the Interactive Media Design Program, which offers a BA in Interactive Media Design with Concentrations in Game Arts, Game Development and Programming, Game Production and Management, Game Design, and Game Audio. A rigorous 60-credit MFA in Interactive Media is also available as well as a BA in Interactive Media Design/MFA Fine Arts 4+1 (Game+) Program, and a BS in Applied Computer Science with a Game Programming Specialization. A Minor in Interactive Media Management is also available.
Established in 2006, Becker’s Interactive Media Program began with just 12 students. Today, the program has around 600 students, which led to expanded academic offerings and resources, such as the MFA in Interactive Media and the $7.3 million Colleen C. Barrett Center for Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which provides student’s access to Game Studio and an Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality lab.
Besides a variety of game programs and resources, Becker College houses the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute (MassDiGI). Established in 2011, “MassDiGI is the result of creative collaboration among academia, industry and government, aimed at fostering the growth of the game industry and innovation economy.” It is a statewide center, “designated by the Commonwealth, for entrepreneurship, academic cooperation and economic development across the Massachusetts digital and video games ecosystem.”
That the school says, “are making a difference in people’s lives.” Students participate in internships and externships, and are exposed to networking opportunities with industry professionals at conferences such as the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and Boston’s PAX East, where they debut the games they created.
Becker students have produced digital technology applications for the Internal Revenue Service, John Hancock, Meditech, Oracle, UMass Medical School, and the U.S. Army, to name a few.
34. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 25% of schools considered)
Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) provides Global Scholarships to 100% of its students to complete "life-changing" project work. The school, which serves 6,870 students from more than 60 countries and 45 states, consists of 14 academic departments that offer more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business, engineering, humanities and arts, social sciences, and technology, leading to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
The Division of Arts & Sciences has several pathways for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include BA and BS degrees in Interactive Media & Game Development (BA IMGD and BS IMGD) and a BS in Computer Science. Minors in IMGD and Computer Science are also available. Graduate offerings include an MS in IMGD and a PhD and Graduate Certificate in Computer Science.
One of the earliest gaming programs in the U.S., WPI’s IMGD program “blends the artistic and technical aspects of game development and interactive media,” says the school. Students will explore diverse topics such as Writing for Games, Game Audio, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Virtual Reality, and 3D Modeling. As part of WPI’s project-based learning model, every student will complete a Major Qualifying Project (MQP). This culminating experience “enables students to synthesize their learning and tackle real-world problems in their fields of study.”
The MQP provides the opportunity for IMGD students to “showcase their talents and immerse themselves in creating something they are passionate about.” The project “also adds another impressive piece to student portfolios and, in some cases, give students their very first game credits.”
Some students build game prototypes, while others create game development tools, interactive art exhibits, and other forms of media.
Graduates of the IMGD program at WPI are prepared to work in the gaming industry, and apply their technical and creative skills in areas such as education, healthcare, art, and social sciences.
35. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (top 25% of schools considered)
Established in 1961, Laguna Beach College of Art and Design (LCAD) began as Laguna Beach School of Art (LBSA). The school was inspired by “pioneering cultural ventures” of the early 1900s such as the Festival of Arts, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach Art Association, Laguna Playhouse, and Pageant of the Masters. Today, LCAD serves more than 700 full-time students enrolled in around 30 degree programs, minors, and specialized minors in areas such as animation, experimental animation, game design, illustration, and painting.
With 168 students, Game Art is the second largest program at LCAD. Degree options include a Game Art BFA and a Game Design MFA.
The project-based BFA program highlights a collaborative environment, partnerships with USC’s graduate program (GamePipe), among others, and exclusive access to teachers and mentors that come from Blizzard Entertainment, Double Helix, Insomniac Games, Obsidian Entertainment, Riot Games, Sony Online Entertainment, and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The school says that students may choose to further develop and perfect their skills through industry internships that apply theory to real world situations. Additionally, the Game Art program hosts workshops that have featured such inspirational giants as Nathan Fowkes and Steven Huston.
The Game Design MFA is an online two-year terminal degree that explores the design and development of games as a creative practice. The program offers a “unique, multidisciplinary approach that bridges the gap between theory and practice in game design,” says the school. Course highlights include Game Audio, Game Narrative, Game Production, Management Psychology, Mechanics Based Game Analysis, Prototyping, and Specialized Programming. Worth six credit hours, a Meaningful Games Summer Session is also part of the program.
Select MFA program candidates “will create a graduate level game development environment, replicating that which reflects the current industry model, nurturing advanced skills in design, research and development, leadership and marketing in the creative art of game design.”
36. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (top 25% of schools considered)
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the 47-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times—General Harrison Gray Otis. The school, which serves approximately 1,100 full-time students, says its alumni and faculty are “Fulbright, MacArthur, and Guggenheim grant recipients, Oscar awardees, legendary costume designers, leaders of contemporary art movements, entrepreneurs, and design stars at Apple, Abercrombie & Fitch, Pixar, DreamWorks, Mattel, Nike, and Disney.”
OTIS offers BFA degree programs including Architecture/Landscape/Interiors, Communication Arts (Graphic Design, and Illustration), Digital Media (Animation, Game and Entertainment Design, and Motion Design), Fashion Design, Fine Arts (Painting, Photography, and Sculpture/New Genres), Product Design, and Toy Design. Otis awards MFA degrees in Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Public Practice, and Writing and a variety of minors and certificate programs are available.
Programs for aspiring game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game and Entertainment Design Emphasis, a Minor in Digital Media, and the recently launched Game Level Design Certificate.
Students in the 16 credit hour Minor will take courses such as Basic 3D for Storytellers, Game Design Basics, and Motion Design Basics. In addition, students will take Senior Business Seminar I & II. The Minor can be added to undergraduate majors such as Graphic Design, Illustration, and Photography, and to MFA programs in areas such as Graphic Design or Fine Arts.
The Game Level Design Certificate is an 8-course program that “provides the essential knowledge about the gaming industry, its workflows and production environments.” Course highlights include 3D Modeling: Game Design, Concept/Storytelling for Game Design, Game Development Teams, and Scripting for Game Design. Upon completion of the program,” students will have created portfolio-ready product that can be used towards applying to entry-level jobs within the game design profession.”
Offered through the Digital Media Department, the BA program consists of unique courses such as Basic 3D for Storytellers, CG for Digital Artists, Connections Through Color, Creative Action Studio, Game and Entertainment Basics, Games and Design, and The Visual Language of Film. Students will also take a number of studio electives, practicums, and seminars, and complete a senior project and capstone.
Through the curriculum, Game and Entertainment Design students “will learn to create visual elements for games, apps, films, and other platforms.” Students will also acquire the skills to “design the gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters of interactive games, apps, and websites. Using the most advanced CGI technologies, students acquire the techniques to create stunning visual effects for films, commercials, and videos.” Students will have access to nine state-of-the-art labs and shops to complete their projects.
OTIS alumni have landed positions at major studios such as Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Nickelodeon, Pixar, and many others.
37. Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California (top 30% of schools considered)
Established in 1929, and serving more than 7,200 students from 112 countries, Academy of Art University is one of the oldest and largest private, accredited art and design schools in the nation. Family-owned, the school offers programs from acting, animation and architecture to visual development, web design, and writing for film and television. Degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and many programs are available entirely online.
The School of Game Development at Academy of Art University offers a variety of degree programs for aspiring game designers. Options include AA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Game Development and a BS in Game Programming. These multidisciplinary programs provide a “well-rounded education in the arts with an emphasis on understanding and applying techniques including 3D modeling, animation and lighting in video game production,” says the school.
Courses for the Game Development programs are production-based and collaborative, and cover techniques in 3D modeling, animation, concept art, game design, and game programming, among others. Course highlights include 3D Character Artist, 3D Environment Modeling, Environment Concept, Game/Level Design, History of Comics: International and Alternative Comics, The Power of Signs: Semiotics & The Visual Arts, and UX/UI. The programs include collaborative projects, Games Portfolio Preparation, and internship opportunities. The MFA program requires a thesis, as well as Directed Study.
The BS teaches “specialized aspects of design such as monetization, unique control types, rapid development via iteration, and production methods working in teams.” Course highlights include AAA Game Engine Architecture, Vector, Matrices, & Transformations, Artificial Intelligence, Data Structures & Algorithms, Indie Game Programming, Network Programming, Programming for Games, Scripting for Mobile Games, and Systems Design.
Students will graduate from the program with a solid grasp of the fundamental game art principles, including knowledge of game engine technology and pre-production and production environments.
The Game Development programs at Academy of Art prepare students for positions such as 3D Modeler, Concept Artist, Game Designer, UI/UX Designer, and many others.
38. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida (top 30% of schools considered)
The University of Florida (UF) was founded as Gainesville Academy in 1858 by educator and senator James Henry Roper. The small school opened with just a few students. Today, UF sits on a 2,000-acre campus with more than 900 buildings, including the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum-certified building in the state of Florida. UF also serves 56,570 students, making it one of the largest schools in the U.S. Programs include 30 certificates, 100 undergraduate majors, and 200 graduate programs in 14 colleges and schools.
Established in 1925, the UF College of the Arts offers fully accredited schools of Art and Art History, Music, Theatre and Dance along with the Center for Arts in Medicine and the Digital Worlds Institute. At the Institute, aspiring game designers can earn a BA in Digital Arts & Sciences (BADAS), a DAS Minor or a Masters in Digital Arts and Sciences (MiDAS).
BADAS students may choose elective courses from current offerings in Animation, Digital Production, and Game Design. Course highlights include 3D Digital Animation, Design Production Studio, Digital Storytelling, Entrepreneurship in New Media, Game Design Practices, Game Development, Wearable & Mobile Apps, and Writing for Interactive Media. Undergraduate Research Forum and a Senior Project are also part of the program.
Other BADAS highlights include the opportunity to gain experience working on team projects, access to high-tech facilities such as the UF Reality Lab, and a 5-screen Polymodal Immersive Classroom Theater (PICT) and a Virtual Production Studio (VPS). In addition, a cohort experience allows a select group of students to “join a community of learners in taking a set sequence of courses together.” Students will network and build relationships with their classmates, work one-on-one with faculty, and participate in discussions.
Graduates of the BADAS program have gone on to form their own successful startups or work for companies such as DreamWorks and Microsoft.
MiDAS is a one-year accelerated program for individuals “seeking to further their professional career goals at the intersection of interactive media, innovation, and emerging technologies.” MiDAS students will have the opportunity to work in a collaborative environment with “personal attention from faculty and content area experts.”
The program covers digital storytelling, game engines and development, software and hardware integration, UI/UX, Audio, and Digital Compositing, and Visual Design Tolls/Technology/3D for virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR). The program also covers project proposals, production pipelines, and project management.
Course highlights include Applied 3D Modeling, Digital Arts & Sciences Convergence, Digital Design and Visualization, Entertainment Technology, Interaction Design, Movement, Media and Machines, Project Methodologies, and Protocols for Multimedia Interfaces. Students will have access to the UF Reality Lab and a Capstone Project is part of the program.
39. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 30% of schools considered)
Established in 1740, University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is one of the nation’s oldest universities. A member of the Ivy league with deep ties to Benjamin Franklin, the school has 189 research centers and institutes and it has employed 10 MacArthur Award recipients, four Pulitzer Prize recipients, one Nobel Prize winner, and a National Medal of Science recipient.
UPenn serves 26,675 students enrolled in more than 400 programs in four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools. The School of Engineering and Applied Science, houses the Department of Computer and Information Science and the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS)—home of the Computer Graphics and Game Technology Program (CGGT.)
The Center for HMS established the CGGT program in 2004 with a goal to expose recent graduates, as well as individuals returning from industry, to state-of-the-art graphics and animation technologies, as well as interactive media design principles, product development methodologies and engineering entrepreneurship.
Leading to the Master of Science in Engineering (MSE), the CGGT program prepares students for positions requiring multidisciplinary skills such as game programmers, designers, technical animators, and technical directors. Students in the CGGT program use the equipment and resources available through the SIG Center for Computer Graphics. Opportunities for specialization are provided in such core areas as human/computer interfaces and production management, creative design, animation and simulation technology, and art and animation.
Graduates of the MSE in CGGT program can be found in major game, film, and video companies such as Disney, DreamWorks Animation, and Electronic Arts.
Also housed within the School of Engineering and Applied Science is the Digital Media Design Program, which leads to a Bachelor’s in Engineering and Science (BSE) with a Digital Media Design Major (DMD). Created in 1998, the interdisciplinary BSE DMD program was designed for students who have an interest in computer graphics, animation, games, and the design of virtual reality environments and interactive technologies. A Digital Media Design (DMD) Minor, and a PhD in Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS PhD) are also available.
BSE DMD graduates go on the work at major studios such as DreamWorks Animation, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Pixar, and Zynga Games. These are the largest employers of UPenn DMD graduates.
40. Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina (top 30% of schools considered)
Clemson University began as Clemson Agricultural College in 1893. On the day it opened, the school welcomed 446 male students. Today, the Clemson serves a coeducational population of nearly 26,000 students enrolled in more than 290 majors, minors, and graduate degree programs in more than a dozen colleges and schools.
The College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences houses the School of Computing, which offers 10 degree programs and two minors. Among these programs are BA and BS degrees in Computer Science, an MFA and MS in Digital Production Arts (MFA DPA or MS DPA), and a fast-track Bachelor’s/Master’s (BS/MS) in Computer Science.
In addition to Game Design, students in the Computer Science programs will take courses such as Algorithms and Data Structures, Computer Graphics, Computer Security, Network Programming, and Software Engineering.
Launched in 2017, the MS DPA is offered within the Division of Visual Computing in the School of Computing. The MFA DPA is offered through the Division as well. Both programs offer significant collaboration with the departments of Art and Performing Arts. The MFA requires 60 credit hours, including an MFA thesis, and the MS requires 30 credits. The MS has both thesis and non-thesis options. Students in either program can study at the main campus in Clemson or Charleston, South Carolina.
All students have the opportunity to Minor in DPA, which emphasizes Computer Animation, Games, and Visual Effects.
Graduates of the Computer Science and DPA Programs at Clemson can pursue employment in 3D graphics programming, animation, commercial virtual reality, game design, software engineering, technical direction in the digital production entertainment industry, tool building, visualization, and more.
41. Indiana University, Bloomington, Bloomington, Indiana (top 30% of schools considered)
Founded in 1820 as The Seminary, Indiana University Bloomington (IU Bloomington) became Indiana College in 1828 and Indiana University in 1838. Today, the school is the largest and oldest Indiana University campus, serving more than 40,000 students of the systems 90,090 students.
IU Bloomington has more than 200 undergraduate majors divided among 12 schools and 400+ graduate degrees in The University Graduate School. The College of Arts + Sciences is home to The Media School, which has several degree pathways for aspiring game designers. Options include a BS in Game Design with a Specialization in Game Art, Game Audio, or Game Production; a BA in Media with a Concentration in Interactive and Digital Media: Specialization Game Art, Game Audio, or Game Production, and an MS in Media with a Concentration in Design and Production. A Minor in Game Design and a Certificate in New Media and Interactive Storytelling are also available.
Students in all programs will study all aspects of art, design, programming, project management, and sound. Courses are a mix of hands-on production and professional learning classes, practicums, internships, and seminars in theoretical foundations. Game theory and system strategies is highlighted as well as the production and publication of a finished game developed as part of a team. This original game will be produced through three workshops taken three semesters: Prototype, Demo, and Publish.
All students will have the opportunity to select up to 15 elective credits to enhance their major. Courses may come from the Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, Jacobs School of Music, and Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering. In addition, BS students may take Human Computer Interaction courses in the Luddy School along with study abroad courses such as Game Development Lab, Game Development: Programming and Practice, and Rhetoric of Gaming in Copenhagen, Denmark.
42. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California (top 30% of schools considered)
Founded in 1901, California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) is part of the 23-campus California State University System. The school, which houses more than 25 centers and institutes, sits on 9,000 acres, making it the second largest campus in California and one of the largest in the nation.
Cal Poly serves close to 22,000 students enrolled in more than 100 degree programs. Pathways are offered in six colleges that focus on hands-on learning. The College of Engineering (CENG) provides a project- and design-centered curriculum that “stresses teamwork and collaboration across disciplines,” says the school. Majors range from Aerospace Engineering to Software Engineering.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through the school’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. Options include BS and MS degrees in Computer Science and Minors in Computer Science. The Department offers an undergraduate Concentration in Interactive Entertainment (IE). Students in the Minor can focus in IE through electives, and MS students have the option to specialize in multiple areas, including IE. A Blended BS + MS is also available.
The Interactive Entertainment Concentration consists of 24 units of study. Course requirements and electives include Advanced Rendering Techniques, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Game Design, Interactive Entertainment Engineering, Introduction to Mixed Reality, Real-Time 3D Computer Graphics Software, and User-Centered Interface Design and Development.
All programs are designed to be flexible and “laboratory experiences ensure that students have both a theoretical and practical understanding of computer science. Individual and team projects, culminating in a capstone experience or a senior project, reinforce concepts and provide students the opportunity to apply and communicate their knowledge.” Students in all programs are provided with a “modern computing environment that includes the most current software tools running on a variety of workstations and servers.”
Another option for aspiring game designers is a program offered jointly by the Department of Art and Design and the Computer Science Department. The cross-disciplinary Computing for Interactive Arts Minor consists of 40 units of study including course options such as Collaborative Studio: Storyboarding, Modeling, Animation and Rendering, Digital 3D Modeling and Design, Game Design, Interactive Entertainment Engineering, Interaction Design, The Art of Mixed Reality, and Type in Motion.
The Minor “enables students from different disciplines to collaborate on projects requiring both a technical and a creative perspective.” All programs offer internship opportunities and study abroad experiences in 75 countries.
Graduates of the programs at Cal Poly enjoy a 93% employment rate within nine months of graduation.
43. University of Wisconsin – Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin (top 30% of schools considered)
University of Wisconsin – Stout (UW-Stout) was established in 1891 as The Stout Manual Training School. One of just 125 polytechnic universities in the U.S. and the only one in Wisconsin, UW-Stout serves nearly 8,000 students enrolled in 49 undergraduate and 22 graduate degrees, many of which are unique to Stout or are not offered elsewhere in the Midwest.
Programs are offered in three colleges and six schools, including the College of Arts, Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences (CACHSS), which houses the School of Art and Design. Serving more than 1,000 students, the School offers BFAs in Game Design and Development and Entertainment Design, and an MFA in Design.
The School of Art and Design says the undergraduate program is the “first and only BFA in Game Design in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.” Students in the program gain core skills in art and design such as 3D modeling, animation, and drawing. Program highlights include collaboration with computer science students, courses covering two- and three-dimensional models, animation and visual effects for video games, television, movies, and access to three labs with industry-standard hardware and software, AAA development kits, Intuos Cintiq Displays, HD and 3D projectors, and virtual reality headsets.
UW Stout’s cross-disciplinary MFA program consists of study in the areas of Entertainment Design, Game Design, Graphic Design, Interactive Media, Studio Art, and more. Courses for the program are delivered through a variety of methods including on-site courses, online, evening, weekend and intensive summer courses. Graduates of the program will be prepared to pursue roles in the academic community and as design professionals and leaders.
The College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management (CSTEMM), Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science with Game Design and Development (GDD) and Mobile Applications (MA) Concentrations, and a Computer Science Minor with nine hours of electives.
A charter member of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, the Game Design and Development Concentration prepares students to design and develop software programs that use digital imagery and physics to create games, simulations or other applications. The school says, these programs can improve healthcare delivery, transform education, strengthen national security, shape public policy and continue to create social networks.
Graduates of the game programs at UW-Stout have landed positions at companies such as Big John Games, Design Ready Controls, Find-It-Faster Online, Pixel Spill Games, and many others.
44. Miami University, Oxford, Ohio (top 35% of schools considered)
Founded in 1809, Miami University houses the oldest college newspaper west of the Alleghenies. Established in 1826, The Miami Student was named the "Best College Newspaper (Non-daily) in Ohio" by the Society of Professional Journalists.
Miami University serves around 24,600 students across one main campus (Oxford, Ohio), three regional campuses in Hamilton, Middletown, and West Chester, Ohio, and the European Center in Luxembourg. Miami offers bachelor's degrees in over 120 areas of study and graduate students choose from more than 70 master's and doctoral degree programs. Several associate's degrees and additional bachelor's degrees are offered through study at the regional locations.
The school consists of seven colleges, including the College of Creative Arts, which houses the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS). This cross-disciplinary institute “works with students and faculty from across Miami University,” says the school, and offers “undergraduate, graduate certificate and graduate programs exploring the intersection of technology, design business and how digital technology is transforming traditional areas of inquiry.” Program options for aspiring game designers here include a BA in Interactive Media Studies (IMS) and Minors in Digital Innovation, Games + Simulation, and Interactive Media Studies.
The College of Creative Arts also houses the Department of Emerging Technology in Business + Design, which offers a BS in Games + Simulation.
The interdisciplinary BA in IMS “sits at the intersection of Design, Technology, and Business.” The 124 credit hour program “exposes students to each of these three foundational areas, which provide a foundation for students to customize an advanced concentration, to focus their experience on a particular area of interactive media.” Sixty-four credits are in the IMS major. Course highlights include Game Programming, Game Studies, Game Development, Game Usability & Human Factors, The Business of Games, Research Methods in Games, Game Engine Scripting, Indie Game Development, and Game Prototyping, Pipeline, & Production. Students will also complete a Senior Degree Project and an internship.
The BS in Games + Simulation offers three concentrations: Game Art, Game Development (contains a Computer Science Minor), and Game Studies (contains the Interdisciplinary Studies Minor). The program “provides students with an interdisciplinary plan of study covering all aspects of creating and interpreting games. With a focus on making and praxis, the BS in Games + Simulation prepares students for a career or graduate study in game design, development, 3D modeling, creative development, writing or designing, esports, and games in other industries, all while encouraging students to take creative risks, to build things, and to think critically about audiences, narratives, and aesthetics.” Students will have the opportunity to complete an internship.
The internship component of both the BA and BS programs allows students to gain hands-on experience at a local game design studio or other company. Miami University’s location offers access to a number of studios such as Green Door Games, Max Gaming Technologies, SGM Games, Wraith Games, and many others.
45. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland (top 35% of schools considered)
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) was founded in 1826, making it the nation’s oldest independent, continuously degree-granting college of art and design. The school, which serves nearly 3,500, attracts more than 175 art historians, critics, designers, poets, visiting artists, and writers from around the world each year.
MICA offers around 80 programs leading to the BFA, MA, MFA, or MPS degree. Study areas include art education, design, electronic media, fine arts, liberal arts, and professional studies. A number of post-baccalaureate certificate programs are also offered.
Programs for aspiring game designers include BFA degrees in Game Design and Interactive Arts with Concentrations in Game Arts Studio or Interactive Arts Studio. A Game Art Concentration is also available.
BFA students will work in “a team-based, open lab model,” says the school. They will “learn to make games from prototype to finished form and are able to focus on individual areas of interest-including game design, narrative, programing, art production, animation, sound, and more-as they work on collaborative projects with a variety of external partners.” The BFA curriculum “expands upon MICA's successful concentration in game arts, and “reflects the multidisciplinary nature of game development and draws upon the College's renowned faculty in interactive arts, illustration, and animation so that students gain an outstanding technical and conceptual skillset in preparation for a career in game design.”
Students will have the opportunity to create and collaborate in the Dolphin Design Center—a 25,000 square-foot state-of-the-art space with a designated game lab, serving as a nexus of creative ideas and output. Created specifically for designers in the 21st century, the center provides students “with the materials and tools they need to design and make whatever they can imagine.”
Students in the Game Programs at MICA can expect to take courses such as 2D Level and Narrative Design, 3D Game Design, 3D Game Studio, 3D Worlds and Level Design, Advanced 2D Game Design, Art Matters, Drawing: Tradition and Innovation, Game Collaborative Studio, Game/Play: Introduction to Design, and Form & Space. For an additional six credits, students can earn an integrated degree in Humanistic Studies, which combines in-depth coursework in academics with studio practice. Graduates will leave the program with a polished portfolio, which will help them showcase their talents at Game Design companies, technology firms, and more.
MICA designers have been hired for paid positions or internships by Abercrombie & Fitch, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Google, Kate Spade, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Modern Art, National Public Radio, Under Armour, and many others.
46. University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina (top 35% of schools considered)
On September 23, 1946, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) opened as an evening college center for returning veterans. The school had just 278 students. Today, the school serves more than 30,000 students enrolled in 171 majors in 77 programs leading to bachelor's degrees, 65 master's degrees, and 24 doctoral degrees in seven professional colleges.
The College of Computing and Informatics houses the Department of Computer Science, which has a number of programs for aspiring game designers. Options include BA and BS degrees in Computer Science with a Concentration in AI, Robotics, and Gaming or Human-Computer Interaction (with optional game design electives), an MS in Computer Science with an optional AI, Robotics, and Gaming Concentration, and a PhD in Computing and Information Systems with a Computer Science Track.
The Department also offers undergraduate and graduate Game Design (GDD) Certificates and a Minor in Software and Information Systems. Sample courses for these non-degree programs include AI for Computer Games, Audio Processing for Entertainment Computing, and Game Engine Construction.
Course highlights for the undergraduate programs include Advanced 3D Computer Graphics, AI for Computer Games, Game Design and Development, Intelligent Robotics, Interactive Computer Graphics, Machine Learning, and Visualization and Visual Communication. The Capstone requirement for the program highlights Game Design and Development Studio or Intelligent and Interactive System Studio.
Students in the MS program must take the gaming core, which consists of Computer Vision, Computer Graphics, and Intelligent Systems. The concentration consists of nine credit hours with course options such as Game Design and Development Studio, Game Engine Construction, Natural Language Processing, Real-Time Rendering Engines, and Virtual and Augmented Reality. The MS program requires 30 credit hours to graduate.
47. College for Creative Studies, Detroit, Michigan (top 35% of schools considered)
The College for Creative Studies (CCS) was founded in 1906 as the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts by a group of local civic leaders inspired by the English Arts and Crafts movement. The Society members began teaching informal classes in basic design, drawing and woodcarving and in 1911, they opened a gallery where student and prominent modern artists could display and sell their work.
In 1926, as the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, the Society became one of the first arts and crafts organizations to offer a formal, four-year program in art, with an enrollment of 280 students. Today, CCS is a private, fully accredited college that offers BFA and MFA degrees to more than 1,400 students. Among the schools largest programs is Entertainment Arts.
Serving 329 students, The Entertainment Arts Department offers a BFA in Entertainment Arts with a Focus in Animation, Concept Design, Digital Film or Games.
The Games Concentration teaches students how to produce 2D and 3D images and concepts for video games. As a complement to the program, students may choose coursework from other areas or a Minor in Animation & Digital Media, Fine Arts, Illustration, or Visual Culture. All BFA students will take 126 credit hours including 84 in studio areas and 42 in general studies.
The school says that in addition to coursework in their chosen major, first-year students will take courses in the Foundation Department where they will study basic design, color theory and drawing. Students in all majors will also take courses in the Liberal Arts Department, which the school says is designed to provide them with an understanding of the larger social and cultural context in which they live.
In addition to Game Artists or Designer, graduates of the program are prepared to seek positions such as 3D Modeler, 3D Visualization Artist, AR/VR Developer, Character Artist, Compositor, Creative Director, Environment and Vehicle Designer, Level Designer, Rigger, Look Development Artist, Technical and VFX Artist, Video Game Specialist, and many others.
CCS Entertainment arts alumni have landed positions at places such as Bento Box Entertainment, Blur Studios, Disney ABC Television Group, DreamWorks, Lerner Film, Palace Sports & Entertainment, Pandemic Studios, Pixomondo, PopCap Games, Red 5 Studios, Smiley Face Productions, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Stardock Entertainment, Stargate Digital, and Tippett Studio.
48. ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, California (top 35% of schools considered)
ArtCenter College of Design sits on a hillside campus that consists of 165 wooded acres and a sprawling modernist steel-and-glass structure. Founded in 1930, the school also has campuses in downtown Pasadena and Los Angeles, along with satellite studios in Berlin, Germany, and Petersen Automotive Museum located on the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles.
Serving approximately 2,335 students, ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs in a variety of Applied Arts, Industrial Design, and Visual disciplines. For aspiring game designers, the school offers a BS in Entertainment Design with three tracks: Animation, Concept, and Game Design.
The Game Design Track welcomed its first class in Fall 2018. The goal of the program “is to produce game designers who can lead in a multidisciplinary setting and bring inventive experiences to life through storytelling, prototyping and problem solving,” says the school. Students “will focus on acquiring the technical skills necessary for competency in game design; gaining fluency in the phases of the production process; learning how to navigate between artistic expression, programming and design languages; and developing your ability to identify, understand and solve a client's complex design problems.”
Students will also learn “how to identify and understand various business models such as premium and free-to-play,” and how “monetization decisions affect a game’s design.” Course highlights for the program include Alternative Controls/Arcade Games, Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality, Design for Multiplayer Games, Game is Software, Games as Service, How Things Work, Storytelling for Games, Immersive Design and the Science of Feedback, Transmedia IP Creation, User Experience for Games, Visual Design Fundamentals, and World Building.
Students in this 132 credit hour program are required to take courses through the College’s Humanities and Sciences and Integrated Studies Departments, as well as Portfolio and Career Preparation. Individual and Advanced Game Projects courses are part of the program as well as a Grad Show Preparation.
Entertainment Design graduates are prepared for career opportunities as animators, game designers, lighters, modelers, and storyboard artists with companies such as 343, Blur, Disney, DreamWorks, ILM, Pixar, Riot, and Sony.
49. George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (top 35% of schools considered)
Founded as a branch of the University of Virginia in 1949, George Mason University (GMU) serves more than 39,000 students, including nearly 500 at GMU, Korea. The school is the largest public university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and offers 200 degree programs in 11 colleges and schools, including the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA), which houses the Computer Game Design Program.
Degree options include a BFA, MA or Minor in Computer Game Design and a Minor in Sport and Computer Game Design. The Computer Game Design Minor requires 15-16 credit hours of study. Offered jointly with CVPA and the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism, the Sport and Computer Game Minor requires 18 credit hours of study.
The 120 credit hour BFA Computer Game Design Program “enables students to focus on the artistic components of computer game design while providing them with the technical skills prerequisite to the field,” says the school. A charter member of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance, the BFA program is interdisciplinary, which allows students to specialize in one area while “learning the language of many areas.”
Program highlights include portfolio courses, a pre-internship seminar + internship, and a senior project as well as the opportunity to network with employers at the Senior Expo. Course highlights include 2D Design and Color (offered by the School of Art), Advanced Game Design Animation, Applied Coding for Game Designers, Computer Game Platform Analysis, Game Design Studio, Music for Film and Video, and Online and Mobile Gaming.
The curriculum for the 36 credit hour MA in Computer Game Design “has been modeled after the International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) most recent ‘Curriculum Framework’ for the Study of Games and Game Development.” It is “designed to reflect the games industry’s demand for an academically rigorous technical program coupled with an understanding of the artistic and creative elements of the evolving medium.”
Core courses for the program are “drawn from interactive design, creative writing for games, the business of games, game design and production, and electives from CVPA or other Mason graduate programs.” Course highlights include Advanced Game Art, Advanced Music and Sound for Games, Game Business, Entrepreneurship and Practice, Game Production, Interactive Game Systems Design, Research Methodologies in Game Design, and Special Topics in Games. Students will complete a graduate internship and teaching practicum as well as a game or written project OR the Game Thesis.
All BFA, MA, and Minor students have access to the Virginia Serious Game Institute based at GMU’s Science and Technology Campus. The institute offers Virginia schools, businesses, and universities hands-on training, certification, and research and development assistance by merging game company incubation and rapid prototype development.
The Virginia Serious Game Institute is the only one of its kind on the East Coast and one of only four global affiliated facilities established primarily to support early-entry entrepreneurship into the simulation and game design industry.
Graduates of the Games Programs at GMU are prepared to seek employment in the computer game design and development fields, which include the commercial, entertainment, serious games, and even federal sectors.
50. Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan (top 35% of schools considered)
Ferris State University (FSU or Ferris) dates back to 1884. On September 1, 1884, the Big Rapids Industrial School opened, and a year later, the institution became Ferris Industrial School. Around 1898, the name changed to Ferris Institute, and in 1963, it became Ferris State College. In 1987, FSU changed its name yet again to Ferris State University.
The school offers 180 undergraduate and graduate majors including 2-year degrees that "ladder" into 4-year, BA and BS degrees, eight master's degrees, and Doctorates of Education, Optometry, and Pharmacy. Some FSU majors are offered at no other university in Michigan or the United States.
Programs are offered in the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education and Human Services, Engineering Technology, and Health Professions, and Pharmacy, as well as Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and Michigan College of Optometry.
Established in 1928, Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) opened its doors in 1931 with just 35 art students. Today, the school serves more than 1,000 students enrolled in around 24 BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and Certificate programs. Aspiring game designers will find education pathways at Kendall College of Art and Design and in the College of Business’ School of Digital Media.
KCAD offers a BFA in Digital Art and Design. The program allows students to work in one of two focus areas including Entertainment Art (animation, digital 3D, visual development for games and animation, and sequential arts like comics and storyboards) or Multimedia Design (interaction design for the web, apps, virtual reality, the internet of things, and video and motion design animation).
Students in the program will gain knowledge and hands-on experience via high-end equipment and on-campus facilities such as Cintiq Studios and a wide range of cameras, microphones, and lighting equipment, and via access to The Dow Center FlexLab, and KCAD Library. Graduates will leave the program with the skills and experience needed to pursue career paths in areas such as 2D animation, 3D game art, visual development, interaction design, and motion design.
School of Digital Media programs include a BS in Digital Media Software Engineering (DMSE), a BAS in Digital Animation and Game Design (DAGD), and a Digital Media AS. The BS in DMSE is designed as an engineering degree focused on the methodologies, procedures, and technologies involved in the software development process. The program offers students the opportunity “to actively compete” in many growing industries such as Video Game Development, Information Technology, and Entertainment.
The BAS in DAGD Program is “focused on educating students in the latest tools and technology used to create digital and interactive content,” says the school. Aspiring game designers will learn how to animate and render 3D characters and scenes, author interactive applications and games, build content in industry leading game engines, create and manipulate 2D textures and images, and design and create 3D game level mods. They will learn to edit, manipulate, and develop digital video, model, rig, and light 3D characters and scenes, and prepare a professional portfolio and demo reel.
In addition to game design and asset creation, the program prepares students to pursue careers in growing industries such as architectural flythroughs, educational software, film, independent game and animation development, legal simulation, medical visualization, product design, web development, and more.
The AS program combines existing courses within the DAGD, DMSE, and Television and Digital Media Production (TDMP) programs into an introductory and exploratory degree within the School. It allows students to complete their general education requirements while enrolling in courses from across the digital media curriculum. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level positions in a variety of industries or they will enjoy a “smooth transition” into any of the bachelor’s degree programs offered in the School of Digital Media.