Common questions about game design degrees asked by our readers:
For the 2017-2018 academic year, dollar prices for undergraduate tuition and required fees were estimated at $8,309 (in-district), $8,336 (in-state) and $18,674 (out-of-state) at public institutions, $27,963 at private nonprofit institutions, and $16,200 at private for-profit institutions. Books and supplies were $1,284, $1,192, and $1,293 for public, private nonprofit, and private for profit institutions, respectively and on-campus room and board was $10,096, $10,391 and $10,550, respectively.
Aspiring game designers can earn an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in game design. Many of these programs lead to an AS or BS. However, some schools offer an AFA, AA, BA, or BFA at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level, MS (most common), MA, and MFA degrees are available. The different types of majors include video game design and development, game art and design, game software development, game design and development, game programming, and of course, game design. Many computer science programs offer a focus in these areas as well.
It takes four years to complete a typical game design program leading to a bachelor’s degree. Some schools offer programs that allow students to complete their degree in three years by limiting the number of required courses outside of the core game design curriculum. For an even shorter path to a game design degree, some four-year colleges and many community colleges offer two-year programs leading to a diploma or associate degree.
A number of schools offer a master’s degree in game design and other related areas. Examples include Full Sail University (MS Game Design), American University (MA Game Design), DePaul University (MS Game Programming), Rochester Institute of Technology (MS Game Design and Development), and Savannah College of Art and Design (MA, MFA Interactive Design and Game Development).
Game designers seeking an advanced degree can earn an MA, MFA or MS. Some schools offer PhD programs as well.
While most graduate game design programs lead to an MS, MA or MFA, some schools offer PhDs in games or games-related areas. Examples include the University of Washington’s PhD in Computer Science/Game Science, the PhD in Media and Information Studies at Michigan State University, and University of California Santa Cruz’s PhD in Computer Science with a Focus on Games.
Examples of PhD’s in game design include the PhD Computer Science with a Game Design Research Topic, Human Centered Design (games, human computer interaction, social computing, and learning sciences), Intelligent Games & Game Intelligence, Digital Media, Computer Science/Game Science, Media and Information Studies, Computer Science with a Focus on Games.
A game design degree prepares graduates for a variety of careers in entertainment, design, and many other areas. Jobs directly related to the degree include game designer, game animator, game artist, game developer, game programmer, VFX artist, 3D modeler, quality assurance, software engineer, and game writer.
In addition to having the skills needed to work on just about any area of video game design, graduates of game design programs qualify for positions such as computer programmer, software developer, web developer, systems manager, hardware engineer, network administrator, database administrator, and information researcher.
While game design curriculums will vary by school, courses common to this program include game design, game development, game production, history of games, programming, 3D modeling, level design, 3D modeling and texturing, and animation.
A typical four-year game design program consists of no less than 120 credit hours. However, some schools may require as many as 200 credit hours to graduate. For example, the BS in Game Design at DePaul University requires a minimum of 192 credit hours to graduate, while the BA in Game Design at University of Advancing Technology requires 120.
Although there are always exceptions, most employers prefer to hire game designers with a degree from an accredited school. This means, the school must be accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Common examples include the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, New England Commission of Higher Education, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
Many of today’s animation program offer the opportunity to specialize or minor in a related area such as game design or earn a certificate or take electives in a related area to enhance the degree. Students who are interested in both game design and animation have these options, as well as schools that offer the animation and game design major. Examples include Bradley University’s Animation and Game Design BFA, the BA in Game Art and Animation at University of Advancing Technology, and Utah Valley University’s BS in Animation and Game Development. An animation degree alone may not provide all of the courses and training needed to design games.
As far as educational background, Electronic Arts (EA) says game designers can study a range of subjects, from the sciences and humanities to art and design. The company says that there are also a growing number of games-related degree programs and courses available for study, and a degree in this type of program would be a plus. Prospective game designers should check the content of courses, particularly the balance between programming, game art, and game design.
In addition to a games-related degree, when looking for game designers, EA says that it values a thorough understanding of gameplay theory, excellent communication and presentation skills, storytelling and narrative development skills, and information design and user interface design skills. Applicants must be able to work both as part of a team and independently. Last but not least, they must display systematic and strategic thinking as well as imagination and creativity.