What are the top Illinois game design programs for 2023?

Top Illinois Game Design Schools in Illinois - 2023 College Rankings
1DePaul UniversityChicago
2Columbia College ChicagoChicago
3Bradley UniversityPeoria

Our 2023 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) is housed in the Jarvis College of Computing and Digital Media (CDM). Undergraduate pathways here include BS degrees in Game Design, Game Programming, and Computer Science (CS)/Game Systems. Graduate programs include a Game Design MFA and a Game Programming MS.

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, Game Sound Design, 3D Design and Modeling, and Animation.

Students in all programs have access to the Virtual and Augmented Design Lab, the game studio known as DePaul Originals, and CDM facilities such as the gameplay, playtest and usability, XR, 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 Design and Development, Animation, Computer Graphics, Software Engineering, Commercial Production, and Project Management. Program alumni have been hired at companies and studios such as Epic Games, Leo Burnett Worldwide, Fast Radius, iiRcade, and Speegs Media.

DePaul University provides exceptional academics and real-world experiences to prepare students for a changing world. With nearly 21,000 students across more than 300 academic programs, DePaul has two campus locations in Chicago. Students richly benefit from the city’s many opportunities. In turn, DePaul is one of the forces that shapes Chicago’s future. The university was founded in 1898 by the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), a Roman Catholic religious community dedicated to following the ideals of St. Vincent de Paul. DePaul is among the nation’s top universities for diversity because of its long tradition of providing a high-quality education to students from a broad range of backgrounds. DePaul is one of the largest private, nonprofit universities in the Midwest and one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation.

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

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

All CCC IAM students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and equipment such as The Game Lab, The Equipment Cave (assets: game consoles, equipment, digital cameras, and more), The Motion Capture Studio, The Sound Studio, The Open Lab, and Animation Production Spaces.

Specific IAM Programs for game designers include BA degrees in Game Art and Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development and Game Sound Design, BA/BS degrees in Programming with Concentrations in Game Programming and Application Programming, and Minors in Game Art and Game Design.

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. 

Graduates of the IAM Programs at Columbia College Chicago are Game Programmers and Coders, Serious Game Designers, Simulation Designers, Game Designers, Sound Effects Designers, and Quality Assurance Testers. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as Sony, Pixar, Bungie, Weta Digital, NetherRealm Studios, Iron Galaxy, Jellyvision, High Voltage Software, Incredible Technologies, Inc., Walmart, and John Deere.

Columbia College Chicago was established in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. The school serves nearly 6,700 students enrolled in more than 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. In addition to programs in creative areas such as communication and writing, media and digital, and music and sound, Columbia offers business management programs. Columbia College Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

3. Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
Bradley University

Bradley University has a production-focused Game Design Program that provides degrees at all levels. For undergraduates, the program has BA/BS degrees in Game Design and Game Art, and a Game Design Minor. At the graduate level, the program has a Game Design and Development MS. The 18-21 credit hour Minor is open to all students in the Department of Interactive Media and the Department of Computer Science.

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.

The Game Design and Development MS consists of 30 credit hours or 31 credit hours for students who would like to earn a Concentration in Game Programming. Course examples across both options include Game Production, Game Engine Programming, Game Prototyping, Computer Information Systems Analysis, Design and Integration, Game Seminar, and Game Post-Production. Elective examples include Advanced Mobile Programming, Algorithms, Advanced Topics in Computer Information Systems, Directed Individual Studies in Computer Information Systems, Software Project Management, and Computer Game Capstone Project.

Graduate Game Design and Development students at Bradley University work and learn in an environment that simulates an industry production studio. They will have the opportunity to form their own corporation inside the Bradley University Interactive Media Department, where they will spend a year developing games.

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

Bradley University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Founded by Lydia Moss Bradley in 1897, the school serves approximately 5,900 students from the U.S. and 49 other countries. Bradley University offers 185 programs across eight colleges and schools. Leading to degrees at all levels, programs are available in business, communications, education, engineering, fine arts, health sciences, liberal arts and sciences, and technology.