16. Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is home to nearly 20,000 students enrolled in over 150 majors across seven colleges and schools. Programs for game designers are offered through the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD) and the College of Computer and Information Science (CCIS). CAMD has six programs for game designers including a BFA in Digital Art and Game Design, a BFA in Games, a BS in Computer Science and Game Development, an MS in Game Science and Design, a Graduate Certificate in Game Analytics, and a Minor in Game Design.
CCIS offers several programs for game designers including a BS in Computer Science and Design (formerly Computer Science and Interactive Media) and a BS in Computer Science and Game Development. These combined majors focus on “the specific skills needed to succeed in the highly competitive game industry.”
17. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia (top 15% of schools considered)
Founded in 1978, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is home to around 13,000 students from nearly 50 states and 115 countries. The school offers more than 40 majors and 70 minors and certificate programs across four campuses including Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France. SCAD’s School of Digital Media offers a number of programs for game designers.
Options include a BA, BFA, MA, and MFA degrees in Interactive Design and Game Development (IDGD). The BA is available at the Savannah, Atlanta, eLearning campuses. The BFA is offered in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong. SCAD’s MA and MFA in IDGD are available in Savannah, Hong Kong, and through eLearning. Minors in IDGD, Concept Art for Games, Design for 3-D Action Figures, and Illustration for Entertainment are available as well as a Graduate Certificate in Interactive Design.
18. University of California - Irvine, Irvine, California (top 15% of schools considered)
The University of California - Irvine (UC Irvine) was established in 1965. It is home to 30,600 students enrolled over 100 programs across more than a dozen schools. The Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences offers a BS in Computer Game Science (CGS). According to the School, throughout the major CGS students will “gain hands-on experience in creating a variety of digital games, for entertainment purposes, but also for education, training and engendering social change.” Working in teams, students “will employ a variety of different programming languages, game platforms and hardware.” Overall, the program “strongly emphasizes the technical aspects of creating games, as well as working in teams to design and implement them.”
19. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida (top 15% of schools considered)
Established in 1979 in Dayton, Ohio as audio recording workshop, Full Sail University now sits on a 210-acre campus in Winter Park Florida that consists of 880,000 square feet of media production facilities, 110+ studios and labs, and more than 60 classrooms. Located just a few miles from Orlando, Full Sail University is home to approximately 15,500 students from 50 states and 67 countries.
The school offers 78 degree programs in the areas of Entertainment, Media, and the Arts, leading to a certificate or a degree at all levels. The Game School at Full Sail offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include BS degrees in Game Art, Game Design, Game Development, Simulation & Visualization, and Mobile Development. Graduate degrees include an MS in Game Design or Mobile Gaming.
Fifty-three Full Sail graduates were credited on 21 nominated projects at The Game Awards 2015. Grads worked on nominated and winning projects in categories including Game of the Year, Best Narrative, Best Multiplayer, and Best Score/Soundtrack.
20. University of Texas - Austin, Austin, Texas (top 15% of schools considered)
The University of Texas - Austin (UT Austin) was founded in 1883. It is home to nearly 51,000 students enrolled in over 300 academic programs across 13 colleges and schools. A unique program for aspiring game designers is available through a collaboration between the College of Fine Arts (CoFA), the Computer Science Department (CS), the Radio-Television-Film Department (RTF), and the Center for Arts and Entertainment Technologies (CAET).
The interdisciplinary program is known as “Game and Mobile Media Applications” or “GAMMA.” The program allows students from a variety of different degree programs to “collaboratively develop 2D and 3D games for mobile, online, and social technology platforms in the program’s culminating experience: the Capstone Course.” GAMMA students also have the opportunity to work “alongside organizations such as UT’s EGaDS! and IGDA Austin,” and with local game and mobile studios, and industry professionals.
GAMMA students may earn one of the following Certificates:
- CS Game Development Certificate
- CS Mobile Computing Certificate
- CoFA Digital Art Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital Audio Composition & Production Certificate
- CoFA Digital World Designer Certificate
- RTF Visual Effects & Animation Certificate
Certificates are awarded in addition to the undergraduate degree in any given program outside of GAMMA.
21. University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (top 15% of schools considered)
The University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) was founded in 1919 as the Southern Branch of the University of California. It is home to 43,301 students from all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries. The UCLA College and 12 professional schools offer more than 5,000 courses in 124 undergraduate majors, 98 master’s programs, 109 doctoral and professional programs, and 91 minors.
The School of Arts and Architecture is home to the Department of Design Media Arts (DMA), which offers both BA and MA degrees in Design Media Arts. The DMA program highlights game design study, interactivity and games, video and animation, visual communication, and more. With support from the School of Theater, Film, and Television, DMA also houses the UCLA Game Lab.
The primary function of the Lab is as “a research and production space for collaborative teams to pursue focused work on gaming projects.” It supports exploration of Game Aesthetics, Game Context, and Game Genres, while emphasizing the “conceptual risk-taking and development of new modes of expression and form through gaming.” In addition to producing games and research, the lab “functions as a center that develops public programming around critical issues in gaming, including: public lectures, workshops, exhibitions, a visiting artist program, and an annual public festival at the Hammer Museum.”
22. Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California (top 15% of schools considered)
Laguna College of Art and Design (LCAD) was established in 1961 as the “Laguna Beach School of Art.” Home to an estimated 613 students, LCAD offers art and design programs leading to a BFA or MFA. Programs for aspiring game designers include a BFA with an Emphasis in Game Art, 3D Character, or 3D Environment, and an MFA in Art of Game Design. The “project-based and highly collaborative” BFA program features graduate and undergraduate partnerships, such as with USC’s graduate program, GamePipe.
The MFA program allows students to complete their first year by taking evening and weekend online classes, ending with a six-week intensive at the LCAD campus in Laguna Beach. The program takes two years to complete and graduates will have the skills needed to produce playable game prototypes, develop business planning and budgeting practices in keeping with current game industry practices, and create marketing and branding strategies specific to the gaming industry.
23. Parsons The New School for Design, New York, New York (top 15% of schools considered)
Parsons School of Design was founded in 1896. Graduate and undergraduate programs are offered through Parsons’ five schools including the School of Art and Design History and Theory, the School of Art, Media, and Technology, the School of Constructed Environments, the School of Design Strategies, and the School of Fashion. Home to nearly 5,000 students, Parsons offers game design programs that lead to a BFA or MFA.
Programs are available through the School of Art, Media, and Technology (AMT), an include BFA and MFA degrees in Design and Technology. BFA pathways include Game Design and Creative Technology. A related program, the BFA in Art, Media, and Technology, is offered at the Parsons Paris campus. The MFA program consists of major studios, collaborative studios, and the thesis studios. Students have many elective options to choose from and may create their own “coherent” study plan.
24. Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois (top 20% of schools considered)
Columbia College was founded in 1890 as the Columbia School of Oratory. By 1904, the school became known as Columbia College of Expression. Today, under the name Columbia College Chicago, the school offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to 8,000 students from the U.S. and around the world.
Programs for aspiring game designers are offered through Columbia’s School of Media Arts, Interactive Arts & Media (IAM) Department. Options include a BA in Game Design with Concentrations in Game Development or Game Sound Design, BA and BA degrees in Game Programming, a BA in Game Art, and a BA in Interaction Design. Minor options include Game Art, Game Design, and Programming.
25. Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Hollywood, California (top 20% of schools considered)
Gnomon School of Visual Effects was established in 1997. It is home to more than 100 students enrolled in a number of programs in the digital arts. Offerings include a four-year Digital Production BFA, a three-year Entertainment and Digital Production Certificate, and a two-year Digital Production for Entertainment Certificate. Gnomon also offers single courses such as Game Creation, Game Design, Anatomy of Games, Animation for Games, Character Creation for Games, Creature Design, Texturing and Shading for Games, Visual Effects for Games, and Props and Weapons for Games. Students can mix and match courses to meet their career goals.
26. University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) was established as a member of the University of Texas System in 1969. The school is home to 26,793 students enrolled in more than 130 academic programs across seven schools. The School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication (ATEC) was created in 2015. It merged two long-running programs at UT Dallas: the program in Arts and Technology and the program in Emerging Media and Communication. As a School, ATEC serves more than 1,500 students, including 100 MA and MFA students and 40 doctoral students.
Undergraduate offerings include BA in Arts and Technology (BA ATEC), an MA in Arts and Technology (MA ATEC), an MFA in Arts and Technology (MFA ATEC), and a PhD in Arts and Technology (PhD ATEC). Undergraduates may choose between several pathways such as Game Design or Animation. BA ATEC students may also choose electives in more than one area. Examples include User Experience Design for Games, Game Design, Interaction Design, Level Design, Modeling and Texturing, Virtual Environments, Rigging, Game Production Lab, Game Pipeline Methodologies, Serious Games, Game Production Lab, Interactive Narrative, and Educational Games.
Research areas for all graduate students include Game Studies, Game Development, Interaction Design, Computer Animation, and more. The program is a good pathway whether students are interested in teaching arts- and technology-related courses in colleges and universities or working in a professional studio or design practice. Graduate students may choose to pursue additional research opportunities.
27. Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California (top 20% of schools considered)
Otis College of Art and Design (OTIS) was established in 1918 by founder and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, General Harrison Gray Otis. With a population of 1,070 full-time students from 38 states and 34 countries, OTIS offers more than a dozen interdisciplinary art and design programs from Animation and Motion Design to Sculpture and Toy Design. Offerings for aspiring game designers include a BA in Digital Media with a Game & Entertainment Design Major and a Minor in Digital Media.
Per the school, students in the Game & Entertainment Design Major “develop their skills in concept art and visual development, learning the principles and processes involved in creating the first visual representations of characters, environments, and props for films and games.” Students will also acquire the skills to “design the gameplay, environment, storyline, and characters of interactive games, apps, and websites. Using the most advanced CGI technologies, students acquire the techniques to create stunning visual effects for films, commercials, and videos.” All OTIS students have access to nine labs and shops from audio/video to the model shop.
28. Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas (top 20% of schools considered)
Texas A&M University is the state’s first public institution of higher learning. Established in 1876, the school is home to more than 64,000 students enrolled in nearly 400 programs across 16 colleges and schools. The College of Architecture founded the Visualization program in 1989. It features gaming-oriented study options in the MS and MFA degrees as well as enhanced game design curricula at the undergraduate level. Degree options include BS, MS, and MFA degrees in Visualization.
Visualization students have access to the Department of Visualization’s Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab. Established in 2014, the Lab “provides space for graduate and undergraduate students to create game prototypes while learning about game theory, the art and science of the visual image and game history. In the lab, through research and rigorous scientific process, students collaborate with specialists from visualization, educational psychology, computer science and engineering to create innovative, interactive software.”
29. Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts (top 20% of schools considered)
Established in 1865, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is home to around 6,383 students enrolled in 50 degree programs through several divisions and schools. The Division of Arts & Sciences offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Undergraduate offerings include a BS in Interactive Media & Game Development (BS IMGD) and a Minor in IMGD. Graduate offerings include an MS in IMGD.
One of the earliest gaming programs in the U.S., WPI’s IMGD program “blends the artistic and technical aspects of game development and interactive media.” Students will explore diverse topics such as Writing for Games, Game Audio, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Painting, Virtual Reality, and 3D Modeling. As such, graduates of the IMGD are prepared to work in the gaming industry, and apply their technical and creative skills in areas such as education, health care, art, and social sciences.
30. University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (top 20% of schools considered)
The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) was founded in 1740. The school is home to nearly 25,000 students enrolled in more than 400 programs across 16 schools. The School of Engineering and Applied Science offers several programs for aspiring game designers. Offerings include a BS in Engineering (BSE) with a Digital Media Design (DMD) Major, an MS in Computer Graphics and Game Technology (CGGT), and a PhD in Human Modeling and Simulation (HMS). A DMD Minor is also on the menu.
Created in 1998, the DMD program “was designed for students who have an interest in the computer programming, mathematics, and design behind computer graphics, animation, games, virtual reality environments, and interactive technologies.” This interdisciplinary major combines major coursework in computer graphics within the Computer & Information Science Department and Fine Arts courses from Penn's School of Design.