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

Top Illinois Game Design Schools - 2022 College Rankings
1DePaul UniversityChicago
2Columbia College ChicagoChicago
3Bradley UniversityPeoria
4Southern Illinois University CarbondaleCarbondale

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

1. DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
DePaul University

The Game Design Program at DePaul University (DePaul) provides a number of options that allow students to study game design at all levels. Undergraduate pathways include BS degrees in Game Design, Game Programming, and Computer Science with a Game Systems Concentration. Graduate programs include an MFA in Game Design and an MS in Game Programming. The Game Design Program is housed in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM).

Game Design at DePaul University emphasizes collaboration and interdisciplinary learning. Design students will have opportunities to work with fine art, audio, programming, and writing students. The curriculum includes coursework that helps students navigate the game production process from inception to the testing phase. Course examples include Game Development, Practical Scripting for Games, Animation, Game Sound Design, and 3-D Design and Modeling.

Students in all programs have access to the Virtual and Augmented Design Lab, game studio known as DePaul Originals, and CDM facilities such as gameplay, playtest and usability, and game development and research labs. Other program benefits include participation in a variety of exhibitions, internship opportunities at local and national studios, and the biennial Japan Study Abroad Program. Students will leave the DePaul Game Design Program with a portfolio of their best work.

Some of the top careers for DePaul Game Design graduates include game development, software engineering, computer graphics, animation, commercial production, and project management. Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as Epic Games, Leo Burnett, iiRcade, Fast Radius, Speegs Media, and TCS.

DePaul University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The school serves 21,670 students, making it the largest Catholic university in the U.S. Founded in 1898, DePaul University offers more than 300 programs across two campuses and 10 academic colleges.

2. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Columbia College Chicago

The School of Media Arts at Columbia College Chicago (CCC) houses the Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department, which provides cross-disciplinary training in game development, animation, virtual reality (VR), programming, visual effects, user experience design, and app development. Students in all programs will work with traditional and emerging technologies to create games, animations, and immersive experiences.

IAM facilities include The Game Lab, Motion Capture Studio, Equipment Cave (assets: game consoles, equipment, digital cameras, and more), Sound Studio, Open Lab, and Animation Production Spaces.

Columbia College Chicago, School of Media Art IAM programs include BA degrees in Game Art and Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development and Game Sound Design, BA/BS degrees in Programming/Concentration Game Programming or Application Programming, and Minors in Game Art and Game Design.

Students in all programs will start developing games on the first day of class. The Games Studio Capstone provides opportunities for students to work in teams in an environment that mirrors a small, independent studio or a large studio. Final games are eligible to be presented at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, CA, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX, Industry Night at Columbia College Chicago, and the Chicago Toy and Game Fair.  

CCC School of Media Arts, IAM graduates are game designers, sound effects designers, quality assurance testers, game programmers and coders, simulation designers, and serious game designers. Program alumni have established careers at companies and studios such as Pixar, Sony, Weta Digital, Bungie, NetherRealm Studios, Iron Galaxy, Jellyvision, High Voltage Software, Incredible Technologies, John Deere, and Walmart.

Columbia College Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission () of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Founded in 1890, Columbia, is a private, non-profit college that serves 7,000 students enrolled in more than 150 majors, minors, and graduate programs. Academic pathways at Columbia College Chicago are offered in the creative and media arts, liberal arts, and business.

3. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
Bradley University

The Game Design Program at Bradley University offers BA/BS degrees in Game Design and Game Art, a Minor in Game Design, and a Game Design and Development MS. Programs are offered in the Department of Interactive Media, housed in Slane College of Communications & Fine Arts.

The 18-21 credit hour Minor is open to all students in the Departments of Interactive Media and Computer Science. Students in the BFA in Studio Art, offered in the Slane College Department of Art and Design, may also add the Game Design Minor.

The MS offers a Game Programming Concentration that includes courses such as Computer Information Systems Analysis, Design and Integration, Algorithms, Game Engine Programming, Software Project Management, and Game Production. Graduate Game Design and Development students work and learn in an environment that simulates an industry production studio. They will form their own corporation inside the Bradley University Interactive Media Department, where they will spend a year developing games.

Game Design and Game Art BA/BS students are mentored by faculty who have worked on the popular, team-based game League of Legends, Red Faction (developed by Volition), and Far Cry (published by Ubisoft). Students also benefit from hands-on learning with industry software, participation in game jams, internship experiences, and opportunities to show their work at the annual FUSE exhibit.

Course examples across programs include 2D for Game Art, Game Production, Critical Game Studies, Environment Art, and Survey of Games. The Game Capstone allows students in both programs to develop a polished game and portfolio.

Graduates of the Game Design Program at Bradley University have been hired at Warner Bros. Games, Blizzard Entertainment, Oculus VR, and NetherRealm Studios.

Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Founded Lydia Moss Bradley in 1897, the school serves approximately 4,600 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students. More than 215 programs are offered across eight colleges and schools.

4. Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

The Game Design and Development (GDD) Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIU Carbondale or SIU) is a joint effort between the College of Arts and Media (CAM) and the College of Business and Analytics-Information Technology (ITEC). This multidisciplinary program requires 15 credit hours leading to a Minor in GDD, which can be added to just about any CAM or ITEC major.

The GDD Minor has two focus areas: Game Studies and Production and Game Programming. Students may choose nine credit hours from either area. Course examples across focus areas include 2D Digital Character Animation, Game Narrative, Writing for Game Production, Programming II, Mobile Programming, and Software Engineering and Management.

Students in both areas will take Introduction to Media Production, Introduction to Programming, Special Projects, and Independent Study. After completing 12 credit hours, GDD students will choose between the ITEC Major Capstone and the Mass Communication and Media Arts (MCMA) RTD (Radio/TV, and Digital Media Major Capstone. The GDD project that will be displayed on the program website and showcase. 

Graduates of the SIU Carbondale GDD Program are positioned to pursue positions in the game design and development industry, multimedia, animation, and software programming, among others.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). Founded in 1869 as the state’s second teacher’s college, SIU Carbondale is the flagship campus of the Southern Illinois University System. Southern Illinois University serves close to 11,300 students enrolled in more than 300 programs in 12 colleges and schools.