What is the top Tennessee game design program for 2024?

Top Tennessee Game Design Schools and Colleges - 2024 College Rankings
1East Tennessee State UniversityJohnson City

Our 2024 ranking of the top game design school programs in Tennessee. 

For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee
East Tennessee State University

East Tennessee State University (ETSU) is home to the College of Business and Technology. Within the college is the Digital Media Department, which houses a major and minor for students interested in studying games. At the graduate level, the department has a Digital Media MFA. 

Accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Digital Media Department at ETSU features immersive, hands-on studios; courses taught by industry professionals; and access to state-of-the-art labs, production facilities, and equipment. The department has around 300 students working together through four years of study to create games, productions, and other works.

Leading to a BS, the Digital Media major has concentrations in Digital Game Design, Asset Development, and Design. The Digital Media minor provides the opportunity to develop skills in all of these areas. All degree-seeking students will take courses such as Principles of Digital Game Design; Principles of Visual Effects and Motion Graphics; Technical Communications; Principles of Digital Animation; Art History; and Topics in Digital Media History. 

Students in the Digital Game Design concentration will take Game Play and Testing. Asset Development students will take courses such as 3D Model Design; High-Fidelity Modeling for Entertainment; Reality Capture for Modeling, and 3D Lighting and Rendering. Course examples for design students include Game Design; Technical Direction; Procedural Modeling and Effects Simulation; and  Interaction for Game Design. All students will also complete 20 credit hours of Game Design Guided Electives. 

The culminating experience for the BS program is the Portfolio Development for Digital Media course, consisting of group projects, lectures and labs, and portfolio development and refinement. 

The Digital Media MFA is a terminal degree program designed for students with bachelor’s degrees in Game Design, Visual Effects (VFX), Animation, and other related areas. The program dedicates 12 credit hours to the student’s chosen specialization; 12 credit hours towards team projects for external and internal clients; and six credit hours in experimenting with new and emerging technologies. Twelve credit hours are dedicated to the Culminating Experience, where students will work solo to further develop and finalize a professional body of work for peer and faculty review. 

Graduates of the Digital Media program at East Tennessee University are Game Developers, Game Level Designers, Entertainment Modelers, Visual Effects (VFX) Artists, Game Animators, Visualization Artists, Cinematographers. They work at places such as Red Storm Entertainment (a Ubisoft studio), Luma Pictures, Deep Silver Volition, CBS, Idol Minds, Vicious Cycle, and RTT Detroit. 

Digital Media Program alumni have also been credited on films and games such as Lord of the Rings, Halo 5, The Walking Dead, Avatar, Thor, World of Warcraft, The Last Jedi, Guitar Hero, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Kung Fu Panda 3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Peanuts Movie, The Avengers, and The Incredible Hulk. 

East Tennessee State University was established in 1911 as East Tennessee State Normal School. With campuses in Johnson City, and centers in Kingsport, Elizabethton, and Bristol, ETSU serves approximately 14,000 students enrolled in more than 160 programs across ten colleges and schools. East Tennessee State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).