Successful Student has compiled a list of the 10 Best Video Game Colleges Online. The Video Game industry is so popular and profitable that, in dollar terms, it rivals the movie industry and may possibly be the largest entertainment industry in the world. (See our interview with Jeremy Snead, director of the documentary film Video Games: The Movie). According to Statista, computer and console video game revenue was more than $46.5 billion dollars globally in 2014. This is taking a million dollars and multiplying it 46,500 times. With such high sales and global popularity with console games, mobile games, and online games, colleges are increasingly offering video game related degrees, such as Video Game Design and Video Game Art. See our article the 57 Best Video Game Colleges for a ranking of video game programs that include online and campus based colleges.
Ranking factors include academic reputation, online access to resources (learning labs, professors and staff, etc.), variety of courses, and relevance to the commercial video game industry. As always at Successful Student, this ranking is considered from the student’s point of view.
1. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, Georgia)
Founded during 1978 in the sunny state of Georgia, SCAD is a specialized school offering more Art and Design programs than any other institution of its kind. A private and nonprofit enterprise, the school strives towards two goals for its students: superior education in the arts and pragmatic career preparation. In addition to Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, SCAD offers international experience through a partnership with Hong Kong. The school seeks after diversity of ideas and people in order to enhance artistic perspectives. Not surprisingly, the faculty and student body represent all 50 American states and over 100 countries.
Interactive Design and Game Development at SCAD is offered both on campus and online. Earning accolades from the Princeton Review and the Animation Career Review, the program is advanced and professional in scope. This is part of the reason why SCAD has won the E3 College Game Competition in consecutive years. Students will develop a comprehensive portfolio of work throughout their classes that will kick-start their careers. Degrees offered include the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts. The Bachelor’s programs require 180 credit hours for completion. The MA requires an additional 45 credits hours and the MFA an additional 90. Drawing, Design, and Color Theory form the foundational classes for each program.
Founded on a passion for entertainment, Full Sail University has grown from a small, music-based curriculum to an all inclusive entertainment industry-focused institution. From film and design, to ethics and business, the expansion and comprehensiveness of the programs at Full Sail has led to a tremendous increase in student enrollment and career success. There are currently over 50,000 undergraduates and graduates enrolled within 78 engaging degree programs.
Full Sail has developed two unique and distinctive Bachelor of Art degrees, one specializing in Game Art and the other in Game Design. The BA in Game Art focuses on developing interactive graphics. Through 120 course credits, students will experiment with animation principles and visual effects. Courses include: the Psychology of Play, Environment Art, and Game Production. At the end of the degree students will have developed a comprehensive portfolio to display.
The BA in Game Design focuses more on Game Economics and Usability. Also requiring 120 course credit hours, students will study more in-depth theories of Game Mechanics, Systems Thinking, Prototyping, and Game Balancing. Upon graduation, students will be able to create gaming content for most electronic devices, from hand held cell phones and iPads, to home computers and laptops.
Full Sail graduates worked on the popular video game ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’. This was the best selling game of 2009, but more than that, at that time it was the largest entertainment release ever. Released in the U.S. and U.K. on November 10, 2009, it sold 4.7 million copies the first day, earning around $310 million.
Full Sail has partnered with Wargaming.net, a leading online video game developer, and together they have opened the 3000 square foot Full Sail User Experience Lab. This Lab helps video game developers research and analyze aspects behind player behavior, such as player motivations. The Full Sail User Experience Lab produces 100+ research projects annually for external companies from many industries, and also serves as a project-based learning lab. The Lab includes player test stations for PC and Xbox consoles, and a control center analyzing video observations. The Lab also has a physiology suite, complete with monitoring of electrical impulse activity in the heart, muscles and neurons of the test players.
3. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (Lakewood, Colorado)
Drawing inspiration from the idyllic location in the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains, RMCAD was founded in 1963 as a specialized institution for the Arts. Having both campus and online educational options has allowed RMCAD to reach a wide network of students who each bring unique backgrounds and artistic ideas. Popular majors include 3-D Animation, Art Education, Fashion Design, Game Art, and Illustration. Undergraduate and Master’s level studies are available.
RMCAD places a strong emphasis on the technical and artistic skills needed to produce quality Game Art. The 51 core credits of the degree will cover topics including Script Writing, 3-D Modeling, Level Design, Lighting and Texture, and Production. The rest of the degree, a total of 69 more credit hours, provides students with a well-rounded education through a liberal arts background and an analytic foundation. Standard production software is used as the basic educational tool, while professors encourage creativity and innovation.
4. University of Michigan–Dearborn (Dearborn, Michigan)
Founded in 1959, the University of Michigan in Dearborn was started with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and a $6.5 million donation from Ford Motor Company. Located two miles from Ford Motor Company, UM Dearborn is a public university offering 78 Bachelor’s, 33 Master’s, and 4 Doctoral/Specialist degrees, and is one of two satellite campuses of the University of Michigan.
UM’s Extended Learning & Outreach branch offers the Graduate Certificate in Game Design on campus and online. To be admitted in to the Certificate program students must have a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Computer Science, with an overall G.P.A. of 3.0 or higher. The Certificate in Game Design consists of 12 credit hours, and is designed to provide theory and real world instruction in programming computer games professionally. Core classes are taught from a software engineering point of view, and include game programming methods. Electives are designed to strengthen student’s software engineering abilities, and to learn advanced computer science relevant to game programming. In order to be admitted into the Certificate program, one must already be enrolled as a degree seeking student at the University of Michigan, or, if not enrolled at UM, a prospective student must apply to the Certificate program as a non-degree seeking student.
5. Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia)
Liberty University has emerged in the academic arena as a world leading institution for online education. Founded on Christian principles, Liberty’s online student enrollment has reached an impressive 95,000 students. The 24/7 online programs include 77 undergraduate, 147 graduate, 3 post Masters, and 20 Doctoral degrees, offering a variety of options for all students. The online student to teacher ratio is an effective 17:1, allowing for a more personalized experience compared to the residential ratio of 24:1.
Liberty’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology offers a concentration in Gaming Design. Over the course of 120 credit that run almost $200 less per hour than a standard education, students will gain valuable knowledge and hands on experience. This both prepares them for leadership roles in the work force without swamping them with debt. Classes are comprehensive with detailed instruction in C# Programming, Digital Imaging, Interactive Game Development, and 3-D Graphics. Professors have experience as Video Game designers, Graphics Directors, and Software Programmers. The flexibility of Liberty’s online scheduling makes this program easier for even the full time working adult to excel.
6. Southern New Hampshire University (Hooksett, New Hampshire)
With an innovative and progressive online format, Southern New Hampshire University is rapidly becoming a leader in distance learning education. Certificate through Master’s degrees are available to students in a variety of subjects. 60,000 students are currently enrolled and taking advantage of the flexible online opportunities. Founded in 1932, the rapid success and expansion of the school stands as a tribute to the stellar faculty and staff members’ dedication.
The Game Design and Development program is a popular track found in the Information Technology department. An intensive IT curriculum is combined with the creative process of game development and theory to create a comprehensive and engaging degree. Specific courses for the major include Web Site Design, Cyber Security, Interactive Animation, and Design of Virtual Game Environments. A total of 120 credits are required for completion. Professors bring personal field experience to the classroom and are excellent resources for networking.
7. The Art Institute Online (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
The Art Institute Online is the collaboration of 50 specialized art schools across the United States dedicated to providing current, practical experience for each student to take directly into the work field. From culinary studies to fashion and multimedia arts, students will find a wealth of knowledge presented by experienced professors.
A number of stellar programs are offered involving video game design. First is the Bachelor’s of Science in Game Art and Design. A plethora of material is covered by experienced instructors including Drawing and Anatomy, Digital Story Telling, Texture Mapping, and Game Production Pipeline. Students will develop portfolio’s appropriate for entry level positions in the work force. 180 quarter credits are required for graduation.
For students looking to advance their degrees or receive a basic introduction, the certificate program in 3-D Modeling for Games is an excellent option. An Associate’s degree is required and a total of only 39 credits must be completed for graduation. Classes will cover Image Manipulation, Game Modeling, Principles of 3-D Modeling, and Background Design and Layout.
The Certificate in Character Animation for Games is a similar program with a few additional classes. Over the 49 required credits students will engage with 3-D Character Animation and Rigging, Character Modeling, and Physics. The certificate programs can be carried over to the Bachelor’s degree if desired. An Associate’s degree is also required for admission into this program.
8. Academy of Art University (San Francisco, California)
Offering online education since 2002, the Academy of Art University holds a progressive outlook for the future. Students attending the University will find modern technology and cutting edge materials in all classes and throughout the 22 departments. From Architecture and Game Development to Industrial Design, Multimedia Communications, and Photography, the Academy of Art offers a wide variety of engaging educational opportunities to all students.
The School of Game Development provides a comprehensive hands-on experience from 3-D printing to the visual and audio aspects of gaming. The interactive curriculum presented by professors steeped in field experience will expose students to fundamental game art principles, texturing, animation, production environments, and more. Traditional drawing, painting, and storytelling skills are both expected and mastered before graduation. Collaborative projects that demonstrate solid team work and communication are strongly encouraged. Online students will submit work and receive feedback from both professors and peers using the centralized Learning Management System.
9. Post University (Waterbury, Connecticut)
Founded in 1890, Post University is a private institution that has on campus and online degrees. An early pioneer of online college, Post has been offering fully online degrees since 1996, the first of its kind in Connecticut and New England. Post currently offers 63 online degrees in undergraduate and graduate programs in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and Public Service.
The online undergraduate Certificate in Game Design and Animation consists of 24 credit hours, and is designed to teach key concepts and methods for designing 3D interactive games. There is no prerequisite to be admitted to this Certificate program. Students learn game-building strategies such as 3D graphics programming, artificial intelligence, design principles, character animation, and game engine architectures. Graduates qualify for positions as entry-level computer programmers, game developers, game designers and game technical support. Students enrolled at Post in another degree program may finish this Certificate in 15 hours. The Certificate in Game Design and Animation is especially suited to help students enter into graduate study programs in animation and game design.
10. DeVry University (Downers Grove, Illinois)
Founded in 1931 and headquartered in Downers Grove, Illinois, DeVry University is best known for its online programs. In 2014 there were 60,000 students enrolled both on campus and through distance learning. Degree programs are offered in 40 practical areas that apply directly to career fields. Year-round classes and full-time year-round enrollment allow students to efficiently complete their studies.
DeVry’s online video game curriculum strives to combine the technical aspects of things like game pacing and programming bugs, with the creative aspects of digital storytelling and multifaceted puzzle building. Through the College of Engineering and Information Sciences students have the option to study Game and Simulation Programming. Full time, this Bachelor’s degree can be completed in 8 semesters with 127 credit hours. The curriculum includes Math Programming for Games, Practical Game Design with Lab, Simulation Design and Programming, Artificial Intelligence for Games, and Physics Engine Development.