What are the top game design programs in North Carolina for 2021?

Top North Carolina Game Design Schools - 2021 College Rankings
1North Carolina State University at RaleighRaleigh
2University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte

Our 2021 ranking of the top game design school programs in North Carolina. For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University at Raleigh

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.

2. University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

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.