What are the top North Carolina game design programs for 2023?

Top North Carolina Game Design Schools - 2023 College Rankings
1North Carolina State UniversityRaleigh
2University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte
3William Peace UniversityRaleigh

Our 2023 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, Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina State University

North Carolina State University (NC State) is home to the College of Engineering, which houses the Department of Computer Science (CSC). Within the Department is the CSC BS Program with a Game Development Track, and an Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) degree in CSC. The ABM allows BS students to complete the CSC MS Program in within 12 months of completing their BS (non-thesis) or within 18 months for the thesis-based MS.

The CSC BS program begins with computing, mathematics, chemistry, physics, and humanities. Next, students will dive into coursework that explores programming languages, computer architectures, software engineering, data structures, and teaming and communication, among other areas.

Once core requirements are complete, students may advance to the Game Development Concentration, which consists of 21 credit hours of games-focused courses and electives. Examples include Foundations of Interactive Game Design, Computer Graphics, Game Engine Foundations, Computational Visual Narrative, Building Game AI, Game Studies, Special Topics in Film Styles and Genres, Computer Models of Interactive Narrative, and Fantasy.

All CSC BS students must complete a team project in Senior Design. Projects are supported by the Senior Design Center and industrial sponsors, so student teams will gain experience working industry representatives.

Students in all NC State CSC programs have access to The Digital Games Research center (DGRc). Launched in May 2007, The DGRc engages in education and research in games and games technologies. In a collaborative environment, students can work on projects with game developers and games studio teams that focus on everything from mobile games to artificial intelligence (AI). Thanks to partnerships and licensing agreements with engine providers and game studios, NC State graduates are often hired by local game companies.

Other DGRc highlights include access to the new Games and Visual Narrative Suite, the Visual Narrative Initiative (VNI)— a research cluster established in 2015, and participation in the Game Developers Conference and Games and Visual Narratives Showcase.

Graduates of the CSC Programs at North Carolina State University are prepares to pursue positions at high-tech companies, game design studios, and entertainment companies, among others. 

North Carolina State University employs more than 9,000 faculty and staff members serving 36,000+ students, making it the largest university in the University of North Carolina System. Established in 1887 as a land-grant institution focusing in agriculture and engineering, NC State offers more than 300 degree programs across 11 colleges, 68 departments, and The Graduate School. North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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

University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNC Charlotte) has several options for students seeking a computer science-based game design program. Programs are housed in the College of Computing and Informatics’ Department of Computer Science (CS) and include a Computer Science BS with an AI, Robotics, and Gaming Concentration, a Computer Science with an optional AI, Robotics, and Gaming Concentration, and Game Design and Development (GDD) Certificates at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Coursework for the certificate programs may be used towards the Computer Science BS or MS programs.

Course examples across programs include Game Engine Construction, Advanced Algorithms, Game Design and Development Studio, Advanced Game Design and Development, AI for Computer Games, Individual Study in AI, Robotics, and Gaming, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Applied Machine Learning, Computer Science, Audio Processing for Entertainment Computing, Real-Time Rendering Engines, and Computer Graphics.

The College of Arts and Architecture at UNC Charlotte has an additional option for designers seeking a digital media-based game design program. Housed in the College’s Department of Art and Art History, the Art BFA with a Digital Media Concentration requires advanced studio coursework, which allows students to craft a focus from electives such as Game Design and Graphics, Interactive Art and Design, Advanced 3D Modeling and Digital Fabrication, and 3D Modeling and Animation.

The Art BFA also requires successful completion of the Senior Experience. Totaling nine credit hours, the Experience includes Senior Seminar, Senior Thesis I: Creative Research, and Senior Thesis II: Advanced Creative Practice.

Graduates of the CS/Game Design Programs at University of North Carolina at Charlotte are prepared to pursue positions in fields such as games and entertainment, animation, computer science, art and design, programming, software development, multimedia, advertising, and education.

University of North Carolina at Charlotte is a public research university and the third largest school in the 16-campus University of North Carolina system. Founded in 1946, the school serves approximately 29,550 students enrolled in more than 200 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs across nine colleges. University of North Carolina at Charlotte is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

3. William Peace University, Raleigh, North Carolina
William Peace University

William Peace University (WPU) has three programs that provide the opportunity to study many different areas of games. Options include BA degrees in Simulation and Game Design (SGD), Interactive Design BA, and Esports & Gaming Administration (E&GA).

The SGD explores programming languages, computer science, audience analysis and development, aesthetics, and technical skills. Through coursework and projects, students in this program will develop advanced skills in 3D modeling and programming for video games and simulation training in military, healthcare, education, and industrial applications.

The Interactive Design BA at WPU explores UX/UI, web design, human-computer interaction (HCI), fine arts, and psychology. Students in this program will collaborate on projects with SGD and Esports & Gaming Administration students. The E&GA Program explores the business side and administrative side of esports. However, students in this program will also learn about bandwidth, server connectivity, IT integration, and more, while mastering the skills needed to manage and launch a large scale esports competition, conference, or convention.

Students in all three programs will take Introduction to Simulation and Game Design. Course examples across programs include Simulation and Game Technology, Digital Media Convergence, Computer Programming, Motion for Screen, 3D Modeling and Animation, Cognitive Psychology, Writing About Storytelling in Simulation, Collaborative Simulation and Game Design, Interactive & Social Media, Web Development, Art Appreciation, and Global Business Environment. Students in all WPU Games Programs will complete a Senior Project or Senior Capstone to graduate. 

Graduates of the Games Programs at William Peace University have been hired at a variety of companies, studios, and organizations in Raleigh’s Triangle Area and across the U.S.

Founded in 1857 as Peace Institute, William Peace University (WPU) serves more than 800 students enrolled in more than 30 BA, BFA, and BS programs, and dozens of minors and concentrations. WPU also provides several graduate programs in partnership with Campbell Law School and Meredith College.  

Programs at WPU are offered in the Arts, Business, Education, Social Sciences, and Sciences across a number of academic departments. William Peace University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award baccalaureate degrees. The school has been continuously accredited by the SACSCOC since 1947.